Phenotypic characterization of animal genetic resources (AnGR) involves identification of distinct breed populations, describing their external and production characteristics in a given environment and management, and taking into account the social and economic factors that affect them. A survey involving 346 livestock farmers was conducted in the 15 counties of Liberia to collect data on production practices and phenotypic characteristics of beef cattle. A pre-tested structured questionnaire, focus group discussions, and in-depth interviews were utilized in data collection. Phenotypic descriptors were measured using a measuring tape and weighing scale. The purpose for keeping beef cattle, preferred cattle traits, and challenges of beef cattle farmers were also assessed. Liberia's beef cattle are predominantly of Ndama (50%), Muturu (38%), and Zebu (11%) breeds. Beef cattle are mainly kept on free range with little investment in housing, feeding, and veterinary care. Beef cattle are raised mainly for income generation, with high cost and low availability of feed (32%), insufficient housing (25%), diseases (21%), and high costs of veterinary medicines (12%) being the main challenges faced by the farmers. Liberian beef cattle were characterized as being docile (53%) or moderate (33%) in temperament, with solid/uniform coat color pattern (61%), black coat color (26%), and non-pigmented skin (84%). The animals had mainly erect or lateral ears, straight back lines, and are sloped rumps. Disease (54%) and drought tolerance (30%) were the main adaptive traits reported. The body weight of beef cattle sampled ranged from 213 to 226 kg, the body length from 119 to 122 cm, and the heart girth from 134 to 140 cm. The government of Liberia should improve policies on local AnGR management and support stakeholder institutions to ensure their sustainable use and conservation.
Keywords: AnGR; Beef cattle; Phenotypic characterization; Production system.