The Ministry of Agriculture is hoping to inseminate artificially 100 heads of cattle by the end of 2015 in the course of its livestock development through artificial insemination initiative.
Cuban reproduction specialist Adael Bernal Sol gave the figure as he continues to work with the ministry’s veterinary department and cattle farmers across St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Bernal has conducted general assessments on cattle production in SVG and, in collaboration with veterinarian officer, Coleen Phillips, has visited various cattle farmers across the country including the Rabacca Livestock Station.
The assessment included examinations on the breed of animal, body condition, lactation cycle and the overall diagnosis.
An assessment on the Rabacca Livestock Station revealed that of the 14 animals examined, five were pregnant and close to giving birth. The two-member team will continue to monitor these animals until their gestation period is complete.
Phillips said the Ministry of Agriculture is steadfast in its plan to take the livestock industry in SVG to a new level, adding that following the exportation of cattle to Grenada over the last couple of years, the ministry realised that it needs to replenish the stock.
She added that three new breeds of cattle will be introduced in SVG soon to serve the dual purpose of meat and milk production.
Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar congratulated the team for assisting farmers in raising the bar in livestock production.
He outlined that SVG is being recognised across the region as the largest regional exporter of cattle.
The livestock Development through artificial Insemination and Breeding Programme is a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Cuban Ambassador in SVG, Luis Castillo Campos.
Frequently asked questions about Artificial Insemination (AI);
- What would happen to our indigenous or Criolle breeds?
- Ensure continuity because AI can be used to propagate the breed
- Not every animal will be exposed to AI
- Would the offsprings be weakened?
- Animals are genetically improved
- They are going to be 50% less resistant than our indigenous breed; hence the need for improved care would be required.
- Hybrid Vigor would be present.
- When we breed animals with Artificial Insemination (AI), would we have dystopia?
- Females destined for AI would be selected for size and experience, so the answer is birthing problems should be minimal, if any at all.
- Only Heifers may experience issues at birth, which in keeping with the norm.
- What are the changes of inbreed
AI requires good record keeping. With proper records the chances of accidental inbreeding would be nil. Good records would help you to know who is in gestation, when you have bred or is expected to breed the animal, and it would also allow you to know with which male you have bred the female.
- What are we going to do with our males?
- A male animal is generally expensive to keep; he has to be fed and maintained.
- He generally is responsible for indiscriminate pregnancies within the herd, losses because of fights to establish dominance, and damages to fences and other infrastructure, especially during mating season. He is also the prime target for the thief. IF YOU CAN guarantee that all your females are going to be bred when they cycle, via AI, then he really is not necessary on the farm.
- The males especially in meat production make up 80% of the fattening stock. They should be castrated and placed in feeding lots to be fattened and eaten.
- I have a three (3) breeds animal (An animal that gives 3 offsprings each time she breeds), would I get more if I use AI?
- You should continue to get your 3 offsprings (small ruminants) since we are not going to be using hormones to stimulate heat generally. It is always going to be better to use the animal’s natural hormonal cycle, wait until she is on heat and then inseminate.
- The use of hormones can affect the animal physiological and reproductively, it contaminates the meat and milk and it is expensive to maintain. It can cost as much as US$20 to inseminate a cow. While that does not seem like much if you have one cow, it is a far different story if you own 150 cows.
- Would we use hormones to stimulate?
Only in circumstances deemed necessary. Meaning, if the female has not been presenting heat normally, or where we are in need of ensuring efficient use of a consultant or specialist on ground.
- Can we artificially inseminate all animals?
No. we can inseminate pigs, birds, rabbits, horses, cows, goats and fish; with some efficient degree of success. However, in animals like goats, dogs and cats it is preferable to do Embrion Transfers. This is where you have a Donor female animal, generally a way superior breed, and a receptor female who can be of any genetic quality because she simply acts as a surrogate mother.
- Do the two (2) animals (donors and receptors) have to be in the same place?
No! One animal can be in Germany and the other in SVG or in Georgetown and the other in Kingstown, the embrions like the semen, can be transported to the required destination.
Important to remember:
- What is considered Our Criolle breed, is really an animal that has a good genetic background, since the ministry over the years has been injecting improved breeds into the breeding mix. In other words, our Criolle animal, if compared to those of Africa is a way superior stock in weight, reproductive performance and physical appearance. What categorizes them as Criolle is the characteristic that is referred to as “Hibrid Vigor”, also called heterosis, means an “Increased vigor or other superior qualities arising from the crossbreeding of genetically different plants or animals, it is the increased vigor or general health, resistance to disease, and other superior qualities that are often manifested or seen in cross breed (hybrid) organisms, especially plants and animals.
- We are aiming for a quality breed with improved weight in all phases of growth and one that reaches puberty earlier. This to ensure that livestock farms can produce more efficiently with regards to time and output. It would be necessary to pay attention to on-farm management. Alimentation, husbandry and reproductive practices would have to be improved or implemented if they are to exhibit their true genetic potential (quality).