Methods of Livestock Research on Smallholder Farms

Another project in 2012-2014, supported by the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service FAS was to develop a manual for junior researchers in developing countries entitled “Methods of Livestock Research on Smallholder Farms.” Resources for on-station livestock research in many developing countries are limited, and it is common for researchers to have little direct interaction with smallholders. On-farm research offers considerable attributes, which include attention to most significant production constraints, opportunities for meaningful studies, and greater adoption by smallholders of advantageous technologies. However, few researchers perform on-farm livestock research, at least partially because of inadequate training and knowledge of the design and conduct of on-farm experiments, statistical analyses and interpretation of resultant data, and preparation of reports suitable for peer-reviewed journals. Thus, a publication has been developed as a resource for training in methods of applied livestock research, with special attention to treatments, design, implementation, analysis, interpretation, and peer-reviewed articles. The target audience is junior to mid-level professionals (e.g., MSc) and graduate students in developing countries. Major sections of the publication include: introduction; on-station vs. on-farm research; topic identification; protocols; experimental design; treatment considerations; experiment implementation; statistical analyses; dissemination with an emphasis on preparation, review, and revision of scientific manuscripts; and literature cited. Furthermore, a key component is the design and analysis of numerous example study scenarios, such as: farmer research groups – missing data, nature of the data; individual smallholder households – household animals on one treatment, household animals on each treatment, missing data and household animals on one vs. each treatment, households with subplots; group or village as fixed vs. random; studies in different seasons or years; year-round performance monitoring – continuous and categorical variables; and crossovers, switchbacks, and Latin squares. There are also comparisons of P values from different analyses (e.g., SAS® GLM and MIXED and GenStat®). Appendices contain the relevant statistical analysis statements and inputs, results, and simulated data sets. Workshops based on the publication were held during 2013 and 2014 in Kenya, Ethiopia, China (two sites), Jordan, Malawi, Mexico, and India (two sites) to create awareness of the resource, train junior researchers, and receive feedback for publication enhancement, with well over 200 attendees.

Methods of Livestock Research on Smallholder Farms

This is a publication entitled "Methods of Livestock Research on Smallholder Farms" that is the product of a project supported by the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service Scientific Cooperation Research Program, often referred to as USDA/FAS/SCRP. It provides practical information considered important to conduct on-farm livestock research. However, a significant portion of this publication also is pertinent to livestock research regardless of where it is conducted. The publication does not cover any specific topics in great detail, but rather is meant to serve as a ’bridge’ connecting different areas for the concerted effort required in effective livestock research. There is considerable attention directed to experimental design and statistical analysis.

Throughout the publication, activities of a recent project in Ethiopia in which Langston University participated are addressed. Though developing countries are all different, these references to conditions in Ethiopia will generally be applicable to many other areas of the world. At least a Bachelor of Science degree may be necessary to derive maximal benefit from this publication. In accordance, the target audience is junior- to mid-level researchers and extension personnel, but hopefully it can be of value in training graduate students as well. The publication and its parts may be reproduced with proper acknowledgement and citation. It is available free here.

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