Importance of improving livestock breeds in Guyana

Dear Editor,
The livestock industry has great potential for development, and has many spin-off industries. It can provide a cheap protein food source for the population, provide employment, and earn foreign exchange. To realize this potential, efforts are being made through the MOA to improve the local breeds and to be able to increase productivity efficiently and economically.
The sheep and goat industry is important in Bartica and the Rupununi. Sheep are also reared on the coastland. The animals are generally of the improved breeds which were imported in the 1940s and 50s. Crossbreeding has led to some improvement in the quality of animals. Pigs are found all across the country, especially in Amerindian and rural areas. Poultry is the most common animal in the backyard farming system. Horses are kept by some farmers as draft animals and for transportation.
The most common livestock animal is cattle, which range from the improved breeds to the creole animals. Improved breeds such as the zebu and taurines were imported to Guyana in the 1900s and after. These cattle were brought to improve the beef and/or dairy industry in many tropical countries. Programs such as the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA) still import genetic material to improve the local breeds.
The improved breeds are found mainly on the coastland and in some parts of the interior.
With the sugar industry on the rise again, many small and large-scale farmers are also keen on expanding their livestock-rearing, and the MOA has been ensuring assistance in all forms is given in that regard. A small percentage of the improved breeds is found in the Rupununi, where there are attempts by Brazilian farmers to improve the local breeds with genetic material from Brazil.
The creole animals, which are found right across the country, have adapted to the different ecological and environmental conditions. These animals are considered tough and hardy, but have a slow growth rate and poor carcass quality.
Livestock farming plays a major role in the agriculture sector in Guyana. It is a significant contributor to the way of life of many rural farmers. Livestock contributes to the livelihood of approximately 2000 low-income farmers, contributing to about 3.1% of the agriculture GDP. These farmers rear cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, donkeys, and poultry. Livestock is considered an asset, is often regarded as insurance against hard times, and is an important means of converting crop by-products into human food. Animals also provide manual labour, power for transportation, and a source of rural employment.
With the Guyana-Brazil partnership, the enhancement of livestock production and farming is bound to set standards that the rest of the Caribbean are likely to follow.
Sean Daniels