Did you know that eastern Nigeria had a very big cattle industry till the civil war wiped it out? As a matter of fact the Hausa/fulani cow could not survive down in the east or southern states due to tse tse fly. It was only because it was eventually cross bred with the west African short horn cow (ehi igbo) which was only found in eastern and south west Nigeria did the northern Nigerians start bringing cows to the south.
Did you know that the Obudu cattle ranch was specifically set up by the Micheal Okpara government to cross breed the northern cow with the eastern region short horn “Muturu” cow?
The Head of Department of Animal Science, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Professor Arinze G. Ezekwe, has decried the rapid decline in the production and productivity of the Igbo cattle otherwise known as muturu cows in the South-east zone.
Prof. Ezekwe said if nothing is done to check the decline of the animals in the zone, the future generation might not set eyes on them because the animals would have been extinct by then.
Addressing participants during a workshop on conservation of muturu cattle breed in the South-east zone, in Enugu, he said it was regrettable that the Biafra-Nigeria civil war was one of the major factors that affected the Igbo cattle when soldiers on both sides of the war sacked communities and killed the cattle which they used as food.
The workshop was organised by the federal government in collaboration with the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) in the south rain forest of Nigeria comprising mainly some parts of the South East and the South South geo-political zones of the country.
Prof. Ezekwe explained that: “The relevance or the significance of this workshop is borne out of the fact that the muturu cattle which is synonymous with Igbo cattle appears to be going into extinction because the number is drastically going down.”
He added that “the government is keen on reversing the trend now,” hence the workshop was to sensitise the people again to see what could be done to “reverse the trend in the declining of the population of the animal.”
He further explained: “The Hausa/fulani people call it muturu because muturu means small – but the English name is West African short-horn, and our people call it Igbo cattle (efi or ehi). In many communities in Igbo land, the cattle is revered, used in so many traditional and cultural activities. And with declining population, the fear is that if nothing is done to reverse the trend, then future generations may come to see that there is no more Igbo cattle again.”
Prof. Ezekwe recalled that in 1992, during the last census conducted by government on livestock in Nigeria, by Resource Inventory Management Limited, the population given for muturu cattle then was 115,000 all over Nigeria.
“By now it must be lower than that number. So that is the problem; it is not even up to 200,000,” he lamented.
Ezekwe said it was unfortunate that presently in some Igbo communities where muturu cows are found, the animal was being kept by older people insisting that the younger generation must show interest in sustaining the animals otherwise they would go into extinction when the older generation passed on.
Also speaking at the workshop, the Director, Animal Production and Husbandry Services in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Ademola Raji said, “I would like to reiterate that the federal government is very determined and fully committed to ensure that the nation is self-sufficient in food production in general and beef meat from muturu cattle breed in particular.”
Raji assured that with the cooperation of the farmers and other stakeholders alongside the three tiers of government, the task was an accomplishable one.
He said the workshop was significant because it marked a milestone in Nigeria’s drive to transform livestock production as a business.
“The current policy direction is to ensure that Nigeria’s agricultural production met the needs of countries within the sub-region through export as the country is highly endowed with natural livestock resources,” Raji also said.
To achieve this, he said the potentials for livestock production and productivity will have to be unlocked and a conducive environment put in place for the private sector to actively participate in the industry and practice agriculture as a business and not a development programme.
One thought on “The decline of the Eastern Nigerian Muturu cattle breed industry.”
I enjoyed the beef from Obudu Cattle Ranch when I lived in Amaogwugwu in 1964. We bought the meat from Paul Onwuzurike’s cold store in Umuahia. I was an American Peace Corps teacher at Dr. Okpara’s proprietary school, Ohuhu Community Grammar School. I wish success to the preservation efforts for the breed of cattle.