-Dr G. Oyedele Oyediji
All over the world, various livestock species are mainly reared for profit. In some cases, as Nigeria, they are used as a means of local Savings and Loans where after crop harvest and sales, surplus cash is used to purchase livestock (Savings), and some or all are sold off when cash is urgently needed (Withdrawal).
In commercial operations, advanced technologies have enabled yield from livestock to increase in manifold proportions over the traditional system.The bedrock of this lies in Animal Breeding and Genetics. Genes cannot be created as they exist as God or nature has constituted them in various ecological zones. In Animal Breeding and Genetics, selection method, either natural/selection index or genomics selection is used where genes of economic merit are aggregated in individuals selected which are used to produce offspring from generation to generation that conserve the economic genes. Thus, a huge dollar capital is established and sustained through the genes. Commercial farmers simply buy animal stock from these conserved genes which have become the kernel of business along various value chains.
For any country to have a vibrant livestock industry, there must be a viable Animal Breeding strategy through a good policy and institutional framework. The farmer needs constant and reliable supply of good quality rearing stock from the Breeder companies. A typical example is the poultry industry in Nigeria. Farmers can place standing orders for the supply of stock, which enables the Breeders to plan ahead and meet supply timelines. But the other sectors suffer from lack of Breeder companies in Nigeria. There is yet to be any Breeder Company that can take standing orders to supply iso-genetic feeder calves, lambs or kids for fattening or for dairy. The Nigerian poultry sector is today fully private sector driven, having being kick-started by State Governments especially the defunct Western Region Government of Nigeria. The Government then had a research division for crops and livestock which facilitated the commercialization of the poultry sector. The policy and focus of that government was poultry as it considered it as the commodity where it had comparative advantage.
Today, State Governments in Nigeria have no research divisions of the past. Neither the Federal Government, save the National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI) and the Federal Universities of Agriculture who all complain of paucity of funds for competent Teaching and Research. It is gratifying that Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta has developed a breed of chickens for Nigeria (Funaab Alpha), as the Shika brown chicken developed by NAPRI is on the verge of total disappearance.
Coming to Beef and Dairy, there is still nowhere a farmer can place a long order for the supply of isogenetic fattening stock or dairy heifers on a consistent program. Why then are there no beef and dairy cattle Breeder farms in Nigeria like it exists in poultry?.The reason is that Government has not really kick started it for the private sector to be brought in through the type of incentives that were used in those days. No bank will lend any investor money for research. Payback period cannot be guaranteed. The defunct Western Nigerian Government invested all the money for poultry breeding. There was Poultry Breeding Centre (PBC), Oko Oba Agege in Lagos, Iwo Oloba Breeding and Hatchery at Iwo (now Osun state) and of course Fashola farm Settlement (in present Oyo state). Private investors took over and the poultry industry in Nigeria today is the most advanced of all our livestock.
There are no progeny performance testing stations, yet Artificial insemination programs are comically being awarded in contracts almost every year. This is a blatant result of the magnitude of institutional deficiency where non-Animal Scientists have been in charge of animal husbandry in Nigeria. There are still many states in Nigeria that merge Veterinary Services with Animal Husbandry, whereas the two are distinctly different. Animal Husbandry is not Veterinary Medicine. Farms are not established primarily for diseases issues. Many purely Animal husbandry issues are assigned to Veterinary Surgeons. For as long as Animal husbandry is being led by non-professionals in Nigeria, the comedy that we are in is on course, and our pipe dreams continue.
The bulk of milk produced by our vast pastoralists remains wasted as transport and other infrastructural challenges such as power supply, rural access and water supply continue unabated. In Kano State, a processing company can only collect effectively 4000 litres of milk daily from 4 Local Government Council Areas, but there are 40 Local Government Councils in the State all with numerous pastoralists. There is no need to mention many other States across Nigeria with high pastoralists populations. What happens to their milk? Yet, Nigeria imports milk running into billion dollars annually.
The road for Animal Breeding and Genetics to be in a position to constantly supply farmers with adequate stock is long but short through genomics. The right policy, budget and infrastructural development must be combined with the right Institutional framework to get this moving. Otherwise, the comedy continues.
GODWIN OYEDELE OYEDIJI. Ph.d, FASAN, FNIAS, FNSAP, FGSAP, FCASN
Former President, Animal Science Association of Nigeria