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Highlights - Faits saillants - De especial interes

Animal Production and Health Division - Division de la production et de la santé animales - Dirección de Producción y Sanidad Animal

Round Table on the Establishment of an Interregional Cooperative Research Network on Buffaloes

A Round Table on the Establishment of an Interregional Cooperative Research Network on Buffaloes was held in Cairo, Egypt, 11 November 1992. It was attended by 38 participants from seven countries (Albania, Egypt, Greece, Iraq, Italy, the Syrian Arab Republic and Turkey). Participants from Azerbaijan, Bulgaria and Romania, who were unable to attend, had shown their interest and commented in writing. FAO was represented by the Animal Production and Health Division (AGAP) and the Regional Office for the Near East (RNEA). The International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM), the European Association for Animal Production (EAAP), the Egyptian Society of Animal Production (ESAP) and the International Office of Epizootics (OIE) were also represented.

The meeting unanimously decided to create a network and to call it the Interregional Cooperative Research Network on Buffaloes. It also decided the structure of the network, including a coordinating centre in Rome, Italy (Istituto Sperimentale per la Zootecnia), under the responsibility of Prof. Pilla, and three working groups on Reproduction and Biotechnology, Livestock Systems and Resources (including feeding) and Products, animated by Bulgaria, Egypt and Italy, respectively. The network's first event was a meeting of the Coordination Board, in May 1993 in Italy, at which the first activities of the three working groups, namely development of the use of artificial insemination, recording systems and milk quality, were launched.

The closing of FAO's Bull Semen Donation Scheme

The FAO Bull Semen Donation Scheme has closed. Much value and knowledge has been gained from the operation of this scheme and FAO is now moving to build on this. The scheme was established in 1971 with the objective of assisting developing countries to improve the performance of their cattle by the introduction of genes from cattle breeds selected in industrialized countries, using highly effective performance and progeny testing schemes. Semen was donated by institutions working in artificial insemination (AI) and breed improvement, while FAO supported the costs of shipment.

In 1987, the FAO Semen Bank was launched. It was located in Italy where, in collaboration with an Italian AI organization Consorzio per l'Incremento Zootecnico (CIZ) - semen storage facilities had been established close to Rome with a storage capacity of 500 000 doses. The aim was to provide interim storage of semen donated by various European countries for quick dispatch to recipient countries.

The semen offered for donation was from two kinds of bulls:

· Progeny-tested bulls having completed their testing with an index above the contemporary average but not high enough to compete with outstanding bulls of the same series.

· Top progeny-tested bulls in the process of being replaced by newly indexed bulls after two or three years of service.

In both cases pedigrees and indexes were made available to the recipient countries as requested.

By 1992, after 21 years, 1 200 000 doses had been donated to more than 60 countries that had requested to be part of the scheme. Some had received several donations. Seventy percent of the semen requested and donated was Holstein, followed by Brown Swiss and Jersey. Beef breeds were seldom requested but, when they were, requests were mostly for Simmental and Charolais semen.

The scheme offered countries opportunities to evaluate a number of genetic types developed under high-input/high-output production systems in their own, often much lower-input, production environments and as both straight-brads and cross-brads.

The scheme has helped build up a knowledge base concerning the suitability of these genetic types to developing country environments, the design and maintenance of breeding, feeding, management and marketing strategies involving these genetic types, and the development and maintenance of AI technologies in developing country environments. It has helped develop many cross-country relationships and has made additional technical expertise available to recipient countries. Other initiatives have grown as a result of the scheme's operation.

However, the scheme also highlighted the difficulties of large-scale and the ongoing use of AI technology in these environments, the essential need for long-term stable breeding policies for a country to develop livestock improvement effectively for its food and agriculture, the difficulties for donating organizations to establish and maintain bilateral relationships and to incorporate effective and continuing technical assistance into these relationships.

Most important, the scheme has helped many of these countries recognize the importance of developing and maintaining indigenous breed types. These are often much more resistant to many of the major diseases, pests and climatic stresses, they utilize scarce feed resources more effectively and efficiently and their reproductive and survival abilities are more persistent. They also often integrate themselves much better with small mixed farming systems, meeting the many needs for animal protein, traction, fertilizer and clothing goods.

Finally, it is now being suggested that these indigenous genetic types are more benign on the local environment, thus helping to sustain agriculture for a world requiring more than a doubling of food production within a generation.

However, FAO continues to follow progress made in the development of reproductive technologies and will initiate new activities, particularly in support of cross-breeding strategies, as soon as these become potentially usable.

Hence, FAO is now turning its efforts more to the conservation of genetic diversity of domestic species and the development of indigenous breeds. FAO will continue to assist developing countries in obtaining donations, however, without providing financial support. The Organization gratefully acknowledges the assistance provided by so many AI organizations and is confident that this support will continue.

Programme for the Control of African Animal Trypanosomiasis and Related Development

In accordance with recent recommendations that the FAO Programme for the Control of African Animal Trypanosomiasis and Related Development undertake an economic and environmental evaluation of the constraints caused by tsetse to sub-Saharan agricultural production, efforts have been directed to the development of a specific geographic information system (GIS).

Using data on disease incidence and prevalence, tsetse distribution and satellite-derived information on vegetation density linked with temperatures, human and livestock distribution and resource utilization, the initial results of a study carried out in two West African countries indicate the considerable adverse effects of trypanosomiasis on rural economies. In cooperation with other scientific and development agencies, this work is being pursued with the objective of quantifying the influence of trypanosomiasis in various ecozones. The results will be used to revise policies and strategies for control actions in support of agricultural production and resource conservation in priority areas as well as to inform governments and donors of the justification for strengthened financial and material support.

With the support of an FAO research contract, authorities in Cameroon have conclusively demonstrated the effectiveness of periodically treating cattle with a persistent insecticide to control tsetse and trypanosomiasis in the important livestock-rearing areas in the north of the country. The trial was undertaken in cooperation with local cattle owners and resulted in significantly reducing the prevalence of the disease to practical and economic levels of management. These results have convinced livestock owners in the area of the benefits of the technique to the extent that they are continuing the exercise on a self-help basis. The findings substantiate those of a similar contract awarded to the United Republic of Tanzania to evaluate the same technique under East African conditions.

Extract from IAEA Newsbriefs

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and FAO are jointly organizing a model project to eradicate the tsetse fly from the island of Zanzibar, using radiation sterilization techniques. Extrabudgetary funds in support of this project have already been offered by Belgium, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The tsetse fly is a major cause of livestock losses in Africa and also causes sleeping sickness in humans.

IAEA Newsbriefs, 8(2) March/April 1993

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