Artificial insemination of cattle boosts milk and meat production in Bangladesh
Cattle is an integrated part of the agricultural farming in Bangladesh. Though cattle sectors are huge in number, they are one of the poorest in the world in per animal output. One of the major causes is lack of science and techniques of genetic evaluation in the national breeding programme. The Joint FAO/IAEA Centre, in support of national academia and research institutions and working with through a farmers’ organization with 800 members, provided technical support in increasing the success rates of artificial insemination. The country has seen a 4-fold increase in milk production and 7-fold increase in meat production. The project has been adopted by the entire country.
Bangladesh has more than 25 million cattle, and 9 million of them – 35 percent – are crossbred. In most cases, decisions for crossbreeding was done by individual farmers without much thought to the science and techniques of genetic evaluation in the nationwide breeding programme. The Joint FAO/IAEA Centre has been working with the Bangladesh Agricultural University and Bangladesh Department of Livestock Services since 1995, with a goal of helping small dairy farmers make better breeding decisions, especially through improving the artificial insemination scheme and reproductive management especially during the postpartum period, and facilitating milk collection, to increase milk and meat production and consequently ensure food and nutrition status in the country.
To provide its 165 million population with sufficient, safe and nutritious food, the government of Bangladesh has deployed great efforts in reforming the whole livestock sector, of which dairy and beef sub-sectors have been given particular emphasis. However, the bottlenecks existing in cattle rearing and the entire downstream value chain largely constrain rural households to climb out of poverty. The support from the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre greatly increased the production of milk and meat at the country level, making contribution to the achievement of SDGs, in particular SDGs 1, 2, and 3.
The Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU) was initially supported through an IAEA Coordinated Research Project (CRP) implemented from 1995 to 1999, aiming to identify constraints in the artificial insemination (AI) scheme by determining progesterone levels associated to the day of service through the use of the radioimmunoassay technique. Results showed deficiencies in heat detection allowing cows been inseminated when conception cannot occur. AI technicians were retrained, and farmers were informed about heat signs. Later on, the IAEA awarded a technical cooperation project (TCP) to the university, which started working together with the Bangladesh Department of Livestock Services (BDLS). Besides, the team took part in two IAEA Regional TCPs. Based on the results, a participatory programme was introduced on smallholder dairy farms called the Field Fertility Clinic, which was guided by forms and a database application locally developed through a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant and a second Research Contract under the CRP entitled ‘Integrated Approach for Improving Small Scale Market Oriented Dairy Systems’, implemented from 2001 to 2007. During the implementation and delivery of the service, researchers had the opportunity to work closely with the farmers, thus developing strong relationships and partnerships. This improved the farmers’ trust in their technical recommendations and suggested changes in management and care of animals, and encouraged the farmers to seek support for improving AI service and treatment for cows with reproductive disorders. Now Bangladesh performs as many as 6 million inseminations in cattle every year with coverage of 44% of the national breeding cattle herd.
Support from the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre, through cooperation with national university and other development organizations, provided continuing education programmes in artificial insemination of cattle and has trained 95 practicing veterinarians, over 1,000 insemination technicians and 625 community veterinary health workers. At the same time, the Community-Based Dairy Veterinary Foundation with a membership of 800 smallholder farmers was created, who, in turn, have trained 2,900 smallholder dairy farmers and 50 field workers. The technology has been gradually adopted by the entire country and it has paid off with new generations of cattle offspring that have much higher production of milk and meat, a 4-fold increase in milk production and 7-fold increase in meat production. Nearly 6 million cows were artificially inseminated in the country during 2017 alone. The project greatly contributed to increasing smallholders’ income and improving food insecurity and malnutrition in Bangladesh.
Cooperation and support from national authorities and universities are paramount. Education programmes to enhance capacity of veterinarians is key. Partnerships with other stakeholders are of great very help. For instance, farmer organizations helped train farmers, and development organizations and NGOs provided funding to the education programmes. The characteristics of small producers, the difficulties of purchasing power of the producers to invest in the farms and obtaining better genetic quality of animals were the major limitations. In addition, gaining trust of the producers to accept the technical recommendations is important.
Close partnerships with governmental authorities, universities to enhance their awareness and capacity in using new technologies are vital to the sustainability of the project. Funding supports from development organizations and NGOs to support attendance of veterinarians in the education programmes is fundamental for the achievement of the success. The innovation of setting up mobile clinics to disseminate technologies is of great help in duplication of the success from local to national level. In addition, involvement of famer organizations is key to train more farmers through training of trainers (ToT).
The projects have been closed before the COVID-19. However, it’s assumed that the continuity and upscaling of implementing the technologies might be affected by the pandemic.
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The projects also cover other 6 countries in Asia and 7 countries in Latin America.