The National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI) of the Ahmadu Bello University, Shika, Zaria, was established on July 1, 1976 as a major dedicated livestock research institute in Nigeria.
While the institute has successfully developed and registered a chicken breed, known as the ShikaBrown®, it has not done so for other ruminants and cows.
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Daily Trust spoke with one of the researchers in the institute on goats and other small ruminants, Dr Sadiku Musa Otaru, and asked why the institute has not been able to also register a breed in goat, sheep and cow.
Unlike the success recorded in the ShikaBrown chicken breed, the researchers gave reasons why the research institute is yet to come up with a breed of either goat, sheep or cow.
He first described the status of goat breeding as “not too good and half hazard,” adding that there is no control. He alleged that people who have money usually go outside the country and bring foreign breed of goats to cross-breed with the local ones in an unregulated manner, which should not be the case.
“If you really want to improve breeds, you have to breed the best of our locals with the best of the foreign breed you are bringing. How do you get the best of your locals? You have to do selection. And you do selection within the population of the best local breed of goats. Then you know that this is the best of the goats, either in terms of growth rate or milk production. You can now say okay, this one is the best, so we now choose it to mate with the foreign breed to get what you are looking for.
“But here, people will just say ‘this is good Boer or Kalahari goat. They will just bring them to start cross-breeding with the local ones without actually finding out whether those local ones are the best,” he said.
At the institute level, the researcher said government had not been supporting the breeding exercise in research institutes because, according to him, to do breeding is extremely expensive because you have to spend money to get large base population of animals from which the researcher does selection overtime to get the best
“All these animals you see, including the Boer and Kalahari goats, were developed over a long period of time and brought here. But in this case, if they give you funds to do research, before you know it, midway they will suspend it. And you need money to do this, even the modern techniques of genomics trying to use DNA sequences to know the best, and what have you. How many laboratories can do analysis in Nigeria?
“These are the problems that we are having, including funding the research. If this research is funded consistently by government at all levels, I think we can achieve it. But at the moment, there’s nothing like that,” the researcher said.
Asked if the research institute has developed any breed of goats like the ShikaBrown, he said, “To be frank, the NAPRI cannot tell you that this is the breed of goats we have developed. Thirty years ago, there were attempts to crossbreed them to see the best, but midway, because of fund, it was suspended. So we have not developed a particular breed of goats, either for milk or meat production.”
He said the institute had, however, worked on the Sokoto red breed, waiting for “just how to manage them to produce enough milk. But to go into genetic selection overtime, I can tell you that it is now that we are making attempt.”
Otaru hinted that another researcher was working on developing a dual-purpose goat at the moment, 30 years after the project was abandoned. He said it would take time before the country would wake up to another breed of goats, sheep or cow like the ShikaBrown chicken breed.