Cattle Breeding Programme for Eritrea
Dovea Genetics, Ireland’s leading dairy and beef semen supplier, has teamed up with Teagasc and Irish NGO Vita to support a cattle improvement programme in Eritrea by sponsoring the supply of AI straws to the National AI Centre in Eritrea. Two thousand AI straws from bulls on Dovea Genetics International Catalogue were sent to Eritrea last year and these are now being used as part of a crossbreeding programme with plans to send out more AI straws later in 2016.
This initiative follows on from a visit to Eritrea last year by a senior Irish delegation of agricultural specialists led by Vita and including Teagasc and Grote-SHA. The focus of the visit was to build on the partnership between these agencies and the Eritrean Government.
Vita is an Irish international development agency with 27 years’ experience of working in East Africa and whose vision is to forge long-term international partnerships which empower rural communities to sustain their livelihoods. John Weakliam, Vita CEO, said: “This dairy project is about technology transfer and capacity building and not about traditional aid. It enables farmers to own their own destiny, by building their skills and knowledge. Dovea Genetics support is very much appreciated by the Ministry of Agriculture in Eritrea as it allows them an excellent opportunity to improve the productivity of livestock in the country. An improved dairy industry will lead to reduced poverty, improved nutrition and health as well as opportunities for farmers to develop sustainable livelihoods and eliminate dependency on aid, so the importance of Dovea Genetics’ involvement cannot be underestimated.”
Dr Ger Ryan, General Manager of Dovea Genetics welcomed the opportunity for Dovea Genetics to help support the cattle breeding programme in Eritrea. The aim of Dovea Genetics is to facilitate the improvement of the genetic merit of the Irish cattle herd (dairy and beef) by providing the best available genetics. The resultant progeny will result in increased efficiencies and ultimately delivering healthier, better production and more profitable livestock to the farmer. Dovea Genetics bull stud has 90 bulls standing at stud producing semen in a controlled environment. The breeding programme at Dovea Genetics is supported by “state-of-the-art” stable and laboratory facilities.
“I am convinced that the Sires we have available at Dovea Genetics are suitable for the Eritrean environment,” said Conor Ryan, Export Manager with Dovea Genetics. “The bulls have been selected for a forage based system of production. The cost of concentrates is very high and supply is unreliable in Eritrea. Livestock production is most resilient in an integrated crop/livestock system where forages are the main feed sources available”. Conor and his colleagues at Dovea have already developed a significant International market for AI straws listed in the Dovea Genetics International Catalogue.
“I am very optimistic about the Irish partnership with the Eritrean Government – I feel that working together will have great impact on Eritrean farm families,” said Professor Gerry Boyle, Director of Teagasc. “The Irish agriculture experience is rich in lessons learnt and successes won, and has evolved to meet so many challenges. Teagasc has considerable experience in cattle breeding and has worked closely with industry in developing Economic Breeding Indices (EBI) for traits of importance in an Irish context. This knowledge and experience has direct relevance in Eritrea and can help the animal breeding team in Eritrea as they develop breeding schemes appropriate to the Eritrean environment”.
James O’Loughlin, Teagasc Moorepark also understands the importance of an integrated approach to livestock production. “In the dairy pilot project in Eritrea, we are recommending a breeding programme based on cross breeding. The local breed (Barka) is crossed with Friesian or Jersey. The feed resource available is not able to support the nutrient requirement of animals bred for high milk output,” said James. Another key component of the dairy project supported by Teagasc and Vita is in relation to capacity building of research and extension staff and farmers. James O’Loughlin and his colleagues Pat Boyle and Seamus Crosse visit Eritrea regularly to work in partnership with research and extension staff on the key technologies associated with forage based milk projection systems.