Dairy for Development Overview

The RJAHS has a long history of developing dairy industries around the world, with export of pure-bred Jersey cattle beginning in the 18th century and expanding rapidly in the 19th and 20th centuries. Jersey cattle are now the second most popular breed of dairy cow globally, found in over 100 countries worldwide. The desirable traits offered by the Jersey cow relative to other breeds, which include earlier reproductive age and ease of calving, greater milk quality, and greater milk production relative to size and feed intake, are well known internationally. Jerseys are also more heat tolerant and disease resistant than many other pure dairy breeds. These traits make Jersey cattle, or more often a Jersey crossbreed, ideal for many smallholder farmers in resource-poor contexts. Supporting developing dairy industries by providing Jersey Island genetics, mainly through export of frozen bull semen, remains part of what we do, but in recent years the Society’s international work has expanded significantly into a range of ‘Dairy for Development’ initiatives around the world.

Why Dairy?

Dairy has the potential to be transformational in economies reliant on small-scale agriculture. Keeping dairy cows can generate high margins by area of land and provide a more stable cash flow in comparison with many food crops, making dairy farming attractive for farmers vulnerable to external shocks and with limited access to land. Cattle can be fed on non-competitive (with humans) feed, and dairying is also labour intensive, not least in twice daily milking, so it suits densely populated rural areas where labour is relatively abundant compared to land. Demand for milk and ‘value added’ products such as cheese also tends to grow in proportion to income as countries advance from low to middle income status, and as populations urbanise. Increasing need to transport and process milk can create additional jobs in the local economy. There are also health benefits as well as economic - increasing dairy consumption can improve diets for populations reliant on grain and tuber staples, providing essential nutrients including protein, fat and various micro-nutrients.

Our Global Work

The Society now works in a range of countries with partners including charities, private companies, universities and farmer associations, strengthening dairying from farm level to national level, to improve the incomes and food security of vulnerable people. Support ranges from technical advice in cattle fertility, health and genetics, to strengthening livestock information services and extension worker capacity, to providing training and improving access to inputs and finance for farmers at the base of the dairy value chain. We currently lead three focused Dairy for Development projects - in Rwanda, Malawi and Ethiopia - generously funded by Jersey Overseas Aid. We also work with international and national stakeholders to support cutting-edge dairy cattle research and policy dialogue. See Country Projects and Our Global Work pages for more information.

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