April 21, 2015
Artificial insemination training set to boost small ruminant sector

The small ruminant sector is set to receive a major boost through the assistance of the Taiwanese government — with the intent to increase the quantity and quality of goat and sheep that are being reared locally.

The livestock extension programme, which was first proposed{{more}} in 2010, is being coordinated through the Technical Mission of the Republic of China (Taiwan), and saw three veterinary officers recently returning from three weeks of artificial insemination training in Taiwan.

Speaking with members of the media on Friday, April 17, at a lunch at Grenadine House, chief of the Technical Mission Chin Yu-Lee asserted that annual production of small ruminants in the country has “huge potential”.

“Through our evaluation, small ruminant is a very good sector to develop in the country,” he explained. “We hope [that] soon St Vincent is the main small ruminant exporter in the region!”

Dr Natalie Toney, one of the veterinary officers who attended training in Taiwan, said that it is hoped that this programme will make farmers start to think about rearing goat and sheep as a productive business, and not just a hobby or small source of income.

“Within a six-month period… everyone in the Animal Health and Production Division should be efficient enough to carry out the service to the farmers,” said Toney.

Chief veterinary officer Dr Kathian Herbert-Hackshaw said that this latest initiative (training in Taiwan) is part of the overarching programme to boost the local production of chickens, pigs and small ruminants, in an attempt to lower the food import bill.

Herbert-Hackshaw said that artifical insemination is a more viable, sustainable and time saving option for farmers, because it ensures the quantity and quality of offspring being produced. She also said that with a pilot programme having already been completed, the paid service will be offered to farmers in general by May.

Dr Amelia Jack, who also attended the three-week training in Taiwan, also said that the artifical insemination service will prove to be cheaper than taking the sire around to farms. She explained that maintaining sires is a very costly venture; and because they are “troublesome” in nature, there are often extra costs incurred for damages the sires may cause.

“From just one ejaculate from a male, we can inseminate up to 25 or 30 females.”

The sheep reared locally are a mixture of various breeds from around the region and West Africa, with a recent importation of Kathadin, Boer and Dorper breeds to improve the gene pool of sires at the two livestock stations already established in St Vincent.

The programme not only aims to have an economic impact, but also a social one. In a release from the Animal Health and Production Division (in the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Transformation, Industry, Forestry and Fisheries) it stated:

“With the increase of single mothers in the households, rearing of sheep and goat is one way of increasing household income. There is an opportunity to take many hundreds, including youths, out of poverty by training and providing funding for a small animal enterprise… to improve livelihoods.”

The release also pointed out that the programme also has the potential to increase foreign exchange earnings though export, as there is a readily available market for high quality sheep and goat in the OECS states — especially St Kitts, Grenada and St Lucia.

Chief at the Technical Mission Chin Yu-Lee also pointed out that other farmers can also benefit from growing the types of grasses that goat and sheep feed on — especially farmers who used to grow bananas, but have since ceased production.

Also present at the media briefing were chief agricultural officer Ashley Caine and Philip CC Shih, first secretary at the Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan).