The wide genetic diversity of IL allows for the expression of advantageous traits which offer the opportunity for choosing the appropriate breed for a particular production environment.
Among the traits possessed by IL, adaptability to harsh environments and disease tolerance/resistance are the most valuable which are not present in the exotic livestock.
Examples of some of these local breeds include the trypanotolerant N’dama cattle of West Africa and the Red Maasai sheep of East Africa, which shows
high levels of resistance to gastrointestinal worms.
However, IL are underutilized in conventional breeding programmes, due to misconceptions over their value in terms of low productivity and failure to identify breeds and animals carrying advantageous traits.
For utilization of IL to remain economically viable, it is essential to incorporate genetic improvement strategies. This can be achieved through crossbreeding of the local animals with the exotic animals to combine high productivity and reproductive efficiency of exotic livestock with hardiness, disease resistance, and adaptability of IL resulting in breeds of improved performance under the tropic conditions.
However, crossbreeding as a breeding strategy should be carried out at restricted levels to prevent genetic erosion of the indigenous breeds available since they forms an important repository of genetic diversity. It is worth noting that crossbred animals are only useful to farms that can afford provision of improved feeding and management conditions which are not present in smallholder farms and nomadic/transhumant herds.
Pure breeding within the IL is also a viable strategy that can be carried out since it contributes to the conservation of these animals and also applicable to areas with low input, and adverse climatic and nutritional conditions.