Republic of Cuba
Agriculture University of la Habana, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
5 years and 2 months from May 2000 to June 2005
Until 1990, the animal production strategy in the Republic of Cuba was oriented towards the improvement of the diary and milk production through intensive systems and highly specialized genotypes (as the Holstein). Following the disappearance in the 1990s of the socialist governments in Eastern Europe, the Government experienced difficulties in purchasing fuel, fertilizers and other inputs necessary to implement these intensive production systems. In order to overcome input constraints, the Cuban animal production turned to alternative systems of animal nutrition based on sustainable low production models. Although this reorientation is starting to give positive results, the production of milk, meat and honey is still insufficient to meet the needs of the growing population.
The Havana University of Agriculture possesses a farm of 600 ha and it intends to use its scientific, technical and productive potential in a development programme directed at the improvement of the production of milk, meat and honey based on sustainable models. There is a strong need to assist the Havana University in setting up sustainable and more productive models of animal production, and in strengthening linkages among research, production and education.
The project which is implemented by FAO and financed by the Italian Government, began on May 2000 with an initial period of three years. The third Tripartite Review (TPR) meeting commended the progress and results yielded by the project, especially the enhancement of activities in bromatology laboratories and of the improved feeding centres. The delay of about two years in terms of its execution, compared to the initial workplan, was caused by the emergency situations created by three hurricanes that devastated Cuba in 2001 and 2002, and that hit the area of the project. Because of this, the project has been extended to June 2005.
The general development objective of the project is to establish sustainable systems for animal production. More specifically, to increase the production and quality of milk, honey and meat, as well as to improve the infrastructure of the university and provide better services both to the community and the students.
The first immediate objective of the project is thus to improve the meat production systems and to obtain better quality products at a lower cost. The second immediate objective is to increase milk production both in quantitative and qualitative terms, within sustainable agro ecosystem in tropical conditions. Finally, the project also aims to improve the quality of apiculture products through the selection of highly productive and resistant bees.
With regard to the improvement of infrastructure for meat production, deeping tanks for cows and sheep were built, fields and pastures for cows and sheep fenced, and the construction of some large sheds for sheep and pigs was completed. A slaughterhouse has been constructed and a windmill and weighing machine have been installed. The construction of a meat transformation plant is being completed, the necessary equipment acquired and legal procedures are being undertaken to make it operational.
In addition, the improved technology for lamb meat production and steer fattening activities resulted in a substantial increase in daily weight gain and in an important decrease in mortality rates of the animals. The pasture was increased to cover 30 percent of animal feeding needs, and pasture quality was improved by sowing leguminous plants and by fertilizing with additional urea level.
Activities aimed at increasing pig meat production were also conducted. Food concentrate for animal feeding was purchased, long containers for feeding were built and a regular quality control of the feeding was undertaken by the bromatology laboratory. To assess the intake in daily weight, pigs were periodically weighed and biometric measurements were undertaken to evaluate qualitative and quantitative animal growth.
The study on improved technologies for lamb meat production has led to the finalization of a manual on Pelibuey Sheep breeding, which is being finalized by FAOís technical divisions. The herdsí high mortality rate (over 28 percent) due to lack of antiparasitic drugs in the country, has been decreased, and the cause of mortality definitively eliminated in July 2004.
In November 2004, the project presented a study on Participatory Rural Appraisal applied to the Cuban Animal Farm at the International Workshop on Agro ecological Animal Production and in December 2004, it participated in the Ibero-American Workshop on Sustainable Nutrition of Sheep and Goats and in the Forum for Science and Technique, (organized by the Scientific Veterinary Counsel of the Havana Province).
The diversification and transformation of meat products began, with the support of a course on meat technology held by an FAO specialist. Recommendations raised during the course are currently being implemented.
As for milk production, the dairy plant has been renewed and agricultural and mechanic equipment acquired. A major endeavour has been the improvement of milk production under agro ecological conditions. These initiatives include the creation of an agro-sylvo-pastoral area, which implies the reforestation with different fruit- and shade tree species and the use of low-cost technologies to improve soil fertility, i.e. earthworm cast and compost production.
In relation to apiculture, a genetic laboratory was constructed and bees selected. The bee selection has resulted in the elimination of treatment against varroa in about 50 percent of the beehives for two consecutive years, which can be considered a positive result towards the achievement of sustainable beekeeping. To improve the quality of apiculture products, germoplasm of relevant botanic species has been identified and collected. Moreover, the beekeeping unit has been enhanced and a honey laboratory has also been set up.
Students from the Havana University are working on most of the projectís activities and specific classes have been organized in relation to its major initiatives. For example, a course on beekeeping has taken place since the projectís inception, with the active participation of 5th year University students each year. Publication of a large amount of scientific material, including a Master of Arts and a PhD thesis, was derived from project activities and presented at various conferences and events throughout the country, demonstrating the involvement of both the Havana University and various Cuban Research Centres in the project. Recently, some of the publications have been posted on major Cuban Veterinary websites.