Experts Advocate Improved Livestock Farming in Nigeria
By Olubunmi Osoteku, Ibadan
Experts in livestock farming have urged researchers and government to work on improving the Nigerian local cattle and add more genetics for the production of more milk and meat for employment and consumption by citizens.
This was the resolve reached, on Wednesday, at the opening ceremony of a two-day “Strategic Interest Research Group Meeting on Livestock Genetic Improvement (SIRGM – III)”, organised by the Genetics, Genomics and Bioinformatics Department, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA)/FMST and Center for Genomics Research and Innovation (CGRI).
The meeting was held at the Conference Hall of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Oyo State.
At the meeting, Prof Nash Oyekanmi, Director of Genomics and Bioinformatics Department in NABDA, disclosed that the conference, the third of its kind, brought together both local and global partners to work around the Dairy Development Center, approved by the Federal Government, at Iwo Town, Osun State.
Nash noted that NABDA, in collaboration with researchers, would follow up on the Iwo Dairy Center project to the end such that in the next four or five years Nigeria would have new dairy products for export and local consumption, thereby reducing import and at the same time growing employment opportunities in the dairy sector.
He stated, “In NABDA Abuja, we have some infastruture on the ground. But we are expanding the frontier at the Iwo Center to look for Nigerian farmers to be able to do the work, we have the resources and manpower to take off and expand.”
“We have been incrementally adding value to our project. During our first meeting, we looked at the research that we had done while we charted out what was the next and we decided that we would go into dairy improvement during the second meeting,” Nash explained.
Speaking at the event, Professor Victor Olori, a Geneticist, harped on the need to increase sustainable meat production, even though the resources to do so are dwindling despite the high population of cattle in sub-saharan Africa, asserting that cross breeding is a creative process of genetics intervention, a key innovation to secure the future of Nigerian livestock production in a globalising world.
Olori noted, that “In sub-Saharan Africa, we have millions of cows, yet our beef production from those millions upon millions of cows is very small. Even though we have 21 percent of the total grazing land in the world, only eight percent of the world output is the beef output that comes out of sub-saharan Africa. That is 0.38 per cent of efficiency output ratio and is very poor; compared to United Kingdom where the output ratio is 5.5 percent. From two percent of the world grazing land available, UK was able to produce well over 21 percent of world output.”
The geneticist affirmed the need to increase the efficiency of cattle production, saying the Dairy Development Center, in Iwo, would accommodate all processes that would enhance the genetics improvement of indigenous cattle and facilitate the ability to collect data from all animals that are performing.
He said, “That is what will allow us to know the variance – the variance means how different the different animals are performing. The average milk from Nigerian cows is about one liter per cow, if you look at all the cows some may be doing five liters some two litres or more, so we need to be able collect data and analyse it. For such data to be collected and analysed, we need a center like the center that is being proposed in Iwo Town, where we will have personnel and resources that would be able to coordinate the efforts, to record data from all the animals, analyse the data and supply the information back to farmers.”
Olori called on the Federal Government to ensure that the center is equiped with the needed resources and personnel that would be able to do the job, while also advocating a Unique Animal Identification System, which means every cow in the country would carry a tag for traceability and identification, thereby solving the problem of cow rustling.
In their separate contributions, Mr Solomon Bamidele, former Director-General of NABDA and John Adekunle, GM, Dairy Development, FrieslandCampina WAMCO, called for concerted efforts on the improvement of indigenous cows, saying the economic impact of the dairy industry was enormous raging from employment opportunities to increasing the nation’s GDP.