Wednesday, January 18, 2012

University of Wisconsin Extension Agents Continue their Commitment to Nicaragua

UWEX Agents working with Nicaraguan farmers on silage bags that will used during the dry season
 University of Wisconsin Extension (UWEX) Agriculture Agents, Otto Wiegand and Vance Haugen and John Cockrell, retired UWEX Ag Agent, volunteered to work as a team in Nicaragua from November 27 to December 11, 2011 on a dairy project for Partners of the Americas' Farmer to Farmer (FtF) program.

Wiegand focused on farm financials and forages, Haugen on silage-making and biogas production, and Cockrell on mineral supplementation and also on silage-making. On their farm visits, the team also covered farm and pasture management. The team worked with staff and producers of the San Francisco de Asis and Masiguito Cooperatives in Camoapa, the Lacteos Cooperative in Rivas, and visited farmer members of cooperatives based in Boaco and San Jose de los Remates.

Vance Haugen and John Cockrell had previously volunteered in Nicaragua with Partners of the America's Farmer to Farmer program. Otto Wiegand is a veteran Farmer to Farmer volunteer having participated in five assignments with both Partners of the Americas and other Farmer to Farmer implementing organizations. He has participated for the past three consecutive years with FTF Nicaragua. In a recent interview by his local newspaper "The Spooneradvocate", Wiegand shared "I like Nicaragua. I am getting familiar with the country, and I understand the culture fairly well, and I speak Spanish" (3A).

The team made 11 farm visits on nine mixed dairy and beef farms. They gave technical advice at all of the farms and developed recommendations. Feed intake and availability is a major constraint for dairy cattle in most parts of Nicaragua during the dry season that extends from December to May. Silage and hay can be used to provide forages during this period. The team made five silage bags (about 1 ton each) on four farms and examined three anaerobic digesters. Silage bags were provided to a number of neighboring farmers who came to observe and help make silage. Farmer to Farmer, Field Officer, Daniel Ingram has constructed a half-dozen digesters on farms from designs and materials left by Haugen. Bio-gas produced with manure from simple bio-digesters can harvest un-utilized energy that can be used for cooking and heating water for cleaning that provides extremely valuable in these remote areas of the country.

University of Wisconsin Extension agents have volunteered in Nicaragua on a number of assignments focusing on milk quality, tree forages, biogas, silage and pasture management. The team noted the extent of progress in several areas since they first visited on Farmer to Farmer projects in 2001-02 and 2009-10. Some of those improvements are more bag silos or bio-digesters used by farmers.  There has been an increase in varieties and quality of forages used for cut-and-carry. More farmers are using small forage grinders to make daily green chop from cut-and-carry. Road conditions have also improved substantially. Export and internal markets for dairy and beef are steadily improving and continue to exceed supply, noting that there is a great opportunity to sell increased production.

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