Nigerian Government to Improve Dairy Production for Economic Value

From Olubunmi Osoteku, Ibadan

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The Federal Government of Nigeria has disclosed readiness to work at improving dairy production in the country for economic development, in response to President Bola Tinubu’s declaration of emergency in the agriculture sector.

The Director General/Chief Executive Officer (DG/CEO), National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, disclosed this at a two-day Strategic Interest Research Group Meeting on Livestock Genetic Improvement (SIRGM 4.0).

The meeting, themed: Accelerating Genetic Improvement for Advances in Livestock Agriculture, was held at the Conference Center of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Oyo State.

Prof. Mustapha, who was Special Guest of Honour at the event, asserted that Nigeria did not need to import dairy products because the country had the number of cattle, the capacity to feed them and the scientists that could transform Nigerian cattle to produce more than what it was producing presently.

He stated: “At the moment the Nigerian cattle are producing less than 2 liters per cow, per day, which is not something that is supposed to be. We have to work hard to meet the commitment of the government. We are now aiming at producing around 10-15 liters per cow, per day.”

The DG explained that the meeting was to bring stakeholders together to enlighten them and brainstorm on the way forward, as NABDA had started working towards transforming the Nigerian cattle using the F1 ( first generation), a method of sequencing and inseminating the cattle breed to find out exactly what they had taken from their parents.

Mustapha noted: “We have commenced the insemination of Nigerian cattle where we took Bunaji and then we took the semen from Brazil, which is Girolando, and this semen that we used to artificially inseminate our cattle is with the aim of transforming these cattle into a productive one instead of the less than 2 liters of milk being produced.”

He observed that many countries across the globe had transformed their cattle and were producing more of the quantity and quality of milk needed at the same time, instead of low quantity and low quality milk, disclosing that the agency was working towards taking the lead in Nigeria and Africa by ensuring it produced something that Nigerians would appreciate.

Prof. Mustapha expressed the need for Nigeria to improve her dairy production to boost the immunity and nutritional value of children in the country, as he said the country, with a population of about 200 million, was not getting up to 10 percent of the quantity of milk needed; and also for economic value, asserting that Nigeria is a big market which extends to West Africa and many countries across Central Africa.

He stated: “So, if we get it right, for sure, we are going to get lots of market for the product and lots of income for the country and we are going to sell not less than $1.5b that is expended for the importation of dairy yearly by our country.”

Similarly, the Research Director, Genetics, Genomics and Bioinformatics, NABDA, Prof. Oyekanmi Nash, disclosed that Nigerians should look forward to new cows being born to replace old cows, which were expected to be sold off, saying the new varieties of cows would be making at least 5-10 liters of milk and would progress without losing the adaptation of the Nigerian species.

Nash revealed that the agency had 21 registered farms across Nigeria where more than 600 cows had been inseminated and carving had already started, as the first offspring (F1), as a result of the insemination from the crossation of Nigerian cattle with a variety of Brazilian cattle, were on the ground already.

He said: “We are already having F1s from the cultivation of Nigerian cattle, Bunaji and Gudali, with Girolando from Brazil. So, from now we are going to do Genomics analysis of the F1 to see what they have taken from the two parents so that we can predict the potentials of these cows for milk production.”

On his part, the Head, Dairy Development Operations, Friesland Campina WAMCO, John Adekunle, said the company was working with different partners like the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, NABDA, dairy farmers, pastoralists, young graduates, and research institutes, to improve dairy production by setting up milk collection centers and extension activities across different states in the country.