Friday, February 10, 2017

Boosting Livestock Productivity in Nicaragua

You know that feeling when you just want to jump on an opportunity? Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer Dr. Fabio Lima, an assistant professor from University of Illinois, must have felt like after his recent trip to Nicaragua, where he saw the tremendous potential for the Livestock and Dairy program in the country. As Fabio explains:

“Nicaragua is a lovely country with a great potential. Considering its strategic location in Central America, its tradition to raise cattle, and vast farmland, an increase of efficiency could offer them competitiveness necessary to take a significant position in the global market.”

Livestock production is a big part of the Nicaraguan agriculture sector. There are 130,000 Nicaraguan farmers who manage 5 million heads of cattle. But many farmers could benefit from technical assistance to improve their livestock management practices. Dr. Lima traveled to Nicaragua to help address on of the challenges in the livestock sector and improve productivity and profitability through breeding program. The primary purpose of his trip was to provide training on artificial insemination in cattle. During his trip he:

  • Worked with representatives of the National Cattleman's Association in Nicaragua (CONAGAN) 
  • Met with representatives of several cooperatives, including Nicacentro, San Francisco
  • Visited a number of farms in San Ramon, Matagalpa, Matiguas
Dr. Lima collected information during these visits and meetings and used this data as part of two seminars titled:
  • Advances in bio-technologies that support the use of artificial insemination and genetic improvement
  •  Importance of reproductive management to support the cattle industry sustainability and improve the efficiency of milk and beef production
He also taught a week-long workshop in artificial insemination to students and had the opportunity to share information with a broader audience via interviews with the local news. He was also featured on a radio program - “Radio Coorporación Managua” called “La Hora del Ganadero.” 

Dr. Lima made a number of recommendations to help improve livestock practices and efficiency in the value chain. Currently, only very progressive farmers use artificial insemination but there is a lot of potential for other to adopt this practice. Of nearly 120 people Dr. Lima interacted with, only one farmer was currently using artificial insemination. There is great potential, and although change will not come fast, but there are people like Dr. Lima who are very excited about it.

Some of the specific recommendations that Dr. Lima shared were about raising awareness of artificial insemination, including:

  • CONAGAN should launch an awareness campaign about reproductive parameters for cattle which includes vital metrics on calving date, heat detection date, coverage by the bull or artificial insemination date, and pregnancy diagnosis results in cattle that are necessary
  • Raise awareness about the pivotal role of determining bulls’ fertility in a cattle operation and implement a national program for evaluation of bull’s reproductive soundness
  • Increase the number of training courses to disseminate knowledge of reproduction, how to perform breeding soundness exam, how to use artificial insemination strategic to improve cattle genetics. 
  • Design a 5-year strategic plan to improve cattle productivity in Nicaragua. 
Dr. Lima is convinced of a critical need to raise awareness of how reproductive performance can dictate the entire productive cycle in a farm. This includes how important it is to collect information that can then be used to make well-calculated decisions about management. And hopefully through the help by USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer program and CONAGAN, this potential will be realized.

Interested in livestock? Read NPR's latest article about how just changing the grass the livestock grazes on could have a monumental impact on gas emissions:

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