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Better Sheep and Goats in Belize thanks to Taiwan Print E-mail
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Friday, 17 May 2019 00:00

By Alfonso Noble

In December 2015, the Government of Belize, through the Ministry of Agriculture and the Government of the Republic of China on Taiwan- ICDF, entered into a four-year program to Genetically improve Sheep and Goat stocks in Belize. Costing some 4.6 million dollars, the program is comprehensively looking at having an increased and improved stock of the small ruminants. The objective of the Ministry of Agriculture is to diversify the availability of meat to include mutton. At latest count in 2017, there were only about 14,000 heads of sheep and goats in Belize. These numbers reflect the need for increased production. But more than just an increase in numbers, the survey showed that the genetic stock of the two animals were of inferior quality. This was caused largely by inbreeding creating animals that are low producers of meat.

As for the numbers, if those were to be compared to the ½ million heads of pigs, it shows the great disparity between the production of mutton and pork in Belize.

The Guardian got the opportunity to sit with Donald Wang, who is the project manager and specialist, Zac Hsu to get an idea of the impact that the project has had so far in the production of sheep and goat meat. They were quick to admit that because of the nature of the project, which is dealing with livestock, the impact will not be felt immediately. Hsu explains that the current state of sheep production is where it is at because farmers were inbreeding their animals. This leads to a significant deterioration of meat quality and quantity. He says that farmers were simply not investing in breeding. Wang interjected that there was also a problem with the management of the animals. Often the animals were not being properly fed and were not being treated for improved nutrients and for parasites.

Having had a general idea of what was taking place on the ground, the project moved to its first phase which concentrated on two areas, building of infrastructure and training farmers on animal husbandry. So far the project has been able to establish sheep and goat barns at Central Farm to accommodate as many as 300 sheep at a time. From there the project moved to the importation of superior genetic stocks and there is now a concentration on breeding of the two animals. A breeding facility has been established in Central Farm and the stocks are now being made available to farmers at affordable prices.

Donald Wang tells us that the breeding center ensures that when farmers get the animals that there is a register to ensure pedigree. Additionally, farmers are being trained to improve management and reduce in-breeding. He says that whenever there are these types of trainings there are some 120 farmers who attend or express interest. For the time being however the program is concentrating on 12 ‘core farmers’ who will benefit from the entirety of the program.

The first phase of the program will be completed by December of this year and there is hope and expectation that finances will be made available for the second phase which includes marketing and the strengthening of cooperatives and associations of sheep and goat production. For now, however, the ground work is almost nearing completion, scheduled for the end of this year.

Last Updated on Friday, 17 May 2019 11:25