COVID-19 has had a substantial impact on many sectors at global, regional and national levels, including the livestock sector . It is important to recognize the impacts of COVID 19 crisis on the contributions livestock towards household nutrition, global food security and economic growth. In the present study, survey was conducted in four selected districts of East Wollega zone (Sibu Sire, Guto Gida, Leka Dulecha and Jima Arjo) with the objectives of assessing major challenges in animal farming practices, marketing chains, animal health care practices and consumer perception during the COVID 19 pandemic.
In the study area, animal production has been considered as the main component of agricultural development. About 270/400 (67.5%) of the respondents were keeping livestock with different purposes such as traction power, dairy and poultry products and manure. Chickens were the main source of income in the study site, followed by dairy, meat selling and beef fattening while few are government employee. According to this survey small scale livestock owners and regular livestock product sellers such as butchers, dairy and poultry products sellers were one of the major distributors of livestock and livestock products to local consumers, restaurants, hotels and markets.
In the present study, livestock owners, animal farms owners, managers, farm workers, dairy shops, butchers, abattoirs, hotels and local consumers were interviewed to assess the major impacts of COVID 19 pandemic on livestock farming practices, marketing channel, animal health care practices and consumer perceptions. According to this survey the pandemic's has created impact on livestock production and value chain that are critical to deliver economic, social, and nutritional gains in the study areas. Disruptions in the business as a result of the COVID-19 crisis are creating challenges for the distribution of livestock products. The constraints during the COVID-19 outbreak were from the production process to marketing and consumption of animal products. Based on the survey and observational study, the small scale farmers, hotels, livestock private sector enterprises engaged in the production, processing, and distribution of livestock products such as meat sellers, dairy vendors and other animal product sellers were critically affected following the pandemic. Observational study indicated that that
dairy shops, meat shops, and local abattoirs which are the major livestock product distributors were totally closed especially during the first 6 months of the pandemic. There were also closure of hotels and restaurants in the study areas during the study period.
The survey with local consumer and distributors shows that the consumption of livestock products such as meat, dairy and poultry products in the study area was not as usual since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Regarding the income, daily income from livestock products was declining with the prices slightly lowered in retail and local markets since the start of the COVID 19 outbreak. The primary constraints were the measures taken by the government such as lockdown, shortage of man power and decline of income. Inability to purchase veterinary inputs due to economic decline, low number of laborers, veterinarian and other farm workers due to calls to stay at home and social distance has affected the routine farm activities in the study areas. The lockdown to tackle the pandemic have meant that closure of local markets, hotels, abattoirs and other animal oriented business that were very important in distribution of animal/products to consumers, local hotels and markets. The small scale producers and distributors who rely on animal production for their livelihoods are faced difficulties in selling live animal and products.
With regard to consumer perception 164 (41%) of the total respondents in the survey were avoiding the consumption of animal-sourced foods due to the perceived COVID-19 risk. This low demand for livestock products might be linked to Ethiopian media reports at the beginning of the outbreak suggesting that consumption of livestock products such as meat, dairy and poultry products can result in greater chances of infection. The Ministry of Health has warned the public to avoid consumption of raw foods because of the potential risk of contamination through droplets coming from food handlers. Thus the perception of risk from livestock products remains particularly, meat and dairy products. Similar survey in Addis Ababa indicated a significant drop in the demand for livestock products such as meat and milk due to consumers fear for the disease risk.
Different studies indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic's has had negative impact on livestock production and supply chain. Many livestock producers and traders have lost their global or local market opportunities, and thus their incomes [14, 20]. Some studies in Ethiopia also indicated COVID-19 has a wide range of impact on livestock production, consumption of food of animal origin and value chains [20, 15]. A qualitative appraisal survey conducted between April 15 and May 10, in Addis Ababa on the dairy value chain supplying shows commercial and small dairy farmers in urban and rural areas, dairy processors, traders, development agents, urban retailers, and consumers were affected . Previous abattoir survey in Ethiopia indicates that the export abattoirs were faced difficulties to export meat to Middle East .
In the present study, the indirect impacts of COVID-19 on the animal health care practices have been also studied. Both veterinary professionals and clients were included in the survey. Accordingly, about 89.75% (365/400) respondents agreed as COVID 19 has indirect impact on the health of animals. Based on the survey, the most important animal health constraints during this pandemic were unusual preventive practices such as vaccination and deworming, scarcity of drugs at veterinary clinic, low number of veterinarians, unable to cover cost of drugs and personnel. The other reasons mentioned were measurements taken such as partial lockdown and physical distancing to combat the pandemic. About 276 (69) respondents were faced difficulties in treating sick animals; while about 255 (63.75) did not vaccinate or deworm their animals during the pandemic. It is suggested that the restriction on human activities affect veterinary services, and therefore, affect animal health. This is due to in fact that the COVID-19 outbreak negatively disrupted regular activities. This led to restrictions on the activities of veterinary professionals and insufficient applications of daily routine veterinary practices. Such a situation limits a close monitoring of animal requirements and health status and thus impedes the intervention to tackle animal health problems.