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The determinants of the performance of dairy smallholders in Malawi
Milk production in Malawi is stagnating although neighbouring countries steadily increase outputs. In this paper, we explored the determinants of the performance of dairy smallholders. As indicators of on-farm performance we used annual milk yield, calving intervals, and annual dairy income. Regression models revealed that milk yield was negatively related with farmer’s age, female farmer, and household size, but positively influenced by farmers’ experience. Calving intervals were strongly associated with labour costs and breeding method. Income from dairying was only associated with farmers’ education but varied strongly with region. Regional effects existed for all performance indicators which may partly be rooted in land scarcity in the south and the efforts of development agencies to promote dairying in the northern and central regions. Results also revealed a tendency for pure breeds to produce higher outputs, but crossbreeds due to lower costs provided better income. Thus, we recommend that experienced farmers become involved in extension programs to provide comprehensive services that help farmers make more efficient use of their scarce assets, and thus realise more of the animals’ genetic potential with regard to the three observed performance indicators.