AI in small ruminants project aims to increase offspring by 50%

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Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha and other officials look on as the technician preforms the procedure on one of the agency's animals
Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha and other officials look on as a technician preforms the procedure on one of the Agency’s animals

The Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA) recently relaunched its artificial insemination (AI) in small ruminants programme, which formed part of the organisation’s capital budget.

The project included the procurement of the laparoscopic equipment and training of staff after the Agency would have signed a contract with Mini Tube Germany to the tune of GY$15 million.

Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha said that aim of the programme was to modernise and strengthen small ruminant development in Guyana while addressing food and nutrition security challenges in the region.

“This programme comes at a time when Guyana’s agriculture sector is taking precedence on the world stage. While artificial insemination in Guyana started in the 90s for dairy and beef, it was in 2011 that we commenced the importation of proven sires for beef. As we continued to diversify, the swine artificial insemination programme followed in 2016. Today we are here to re-launch artificial insemination (AI) in sheep and goats with the aim to modernise and strengthen small ruminant development in Guyana so that the sector can better meet the challenges of addressing food and nutrition security,” Mustapha said.

Minister Mustapha also said that over the next 12 months, the GLDA will be tasked with refocusing its AI programme with a view of increasing its AI offspring production target by 45% to 50%.

Guyana has been producing meat from beef, mutton, and other meats for local consumption. Since taking office just over a year ago, the government has invested billions of dollars to improve Guyana’s livestock industry. Of the $806 million allocated to the GLDA, $407.2 million was expended by the first half of this year to spur production in the meat industry.

Furthermore, Minister Mustapha said that the world’s livestock food system has been facing several challenges.

“As we celebrate Agriculture Month with the theme: “Transforming our food systems: Achieving food and nutrition security”, I recognise the world’s livestock food system has been facing increasing challenges, first with increased frequency of diseases, such as bird flu, Africa swine fever, and recently COVID-19. The latter resulted in higher freight costs and production costs and ultimately higher market prices for livestock products. Even in the midst of those challenges, GLDA was able to invest in this technology and capacity to diversify its portfolio to keep us updated with modern production practices and techniques,” Minister Mustapha added.

Acting Chief Executive Officer of GLDA Dr. Dwight Waldron said that the programme is seen as a relaunch since farmers will now be given access to these high-class genetic materials.

“The re-launch of artificial insemination (AI) in small ruminants programme. We would have done some amount of laparoscopic AI about a decade ago but that was with a limited amount of animals with a specific purpose. It was not intended to be disseminated throughout the country. We imported some high-class genetic breeding animals for the programme. Those animals went through an extensive exercise because we would normally extract semen from them. Farmers now have a chance to be in a position to do business and market their product in such a way that they can make more money,” Dr. Waldron said.

The acting CEO further explained that the Agency has adopted a strategic approach so that in addition to having access to high-class genetic material, farmers are also given guidance on how to improve their production techniques and productivity levels.

“The approach being utilised by GLDA is strategic meaning that it encompasses the procurement of high-class genetic breeding animals. We would then extract semen from those animals and process it in our genetic laboratory. There is also a component that includes the production aspect where we work with farmers to improve their production techniques and productivity levels. It’s not just a one-off where we give farmers access to the genetics and then the environment isn’t right for the genetics to express themselves,” he noted.