Breeding livestock to nurture livelihoods

Size makes a difference: Left to right: two- to three-year-old hybrid bulls
(Siena Perry/FAO)

Despite being a predominantly agrarian country, the Lao PDR (Laos) has insufficient livestock to meet the increasing demand of its wealthier neighbours - Thailand, China and Vietnam - for live animals and meat, according to a recent study.*



To help remedy this, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Thai and Lao government agencies are launching projects to help nurture the livestock population.



A pilot project in the southern province of Champassak provides the rural poor with improved livestock, training and technology as part of a larger regional project - Enhancing agricultural competitiveness of rural households in the Greater Mekong sub-region.



Though initially a small project to boost the local market, agricultural specialists hope it will lay the foundation for expansion into regional exports as communities become better equipped to meet international market demands for livestock and meat.



Animal bank



The project has adopted the well-tested "animal bank" concept. Cattle are provided to a community, which determines who among the villagers should be "lent" cows. When a "borrowed" cow reproduces, the villager keeps the calf, returning the cow to the bank for further distribution to other needy villagers.



"For the Lao to be able to compete in the regional market, they need to have larger herds and improved stock," said Orawan Ananvoranich, the FAO Southeast Asian regional project coordinator and expert on technical cooperation for developing countries.



"The Sakon Nakhon Provincial Livestock Office in Thailand assisted this project in finding mixed-breed [Brahmin-Thai] cattle for the cattle bank," Orawan told IRIN. "The mixed-breed cattle are well adjusted to the local conditions in Thailand, which are quite similar to those of Laos. We hope that the cattle bank can help improve the local stock.



"The villagers will still need time to build up the size of their herds to meet regional demand, and will concentrate on the local market for the first two to three years while herd numbers increase. There is high demand for this hybrid breed, even in Laos," according to Orawan, adding that once the herd numbers are up, the villagers could look to export to other countries in the region.



Expanding markets will be crucial if the project is to have a significant effect on the livelihoods of the communities; however, "the international market is more difficult to break into because of quarantine rules and other issues," said Orawan.













Veterinarian Wisut Auekingpetch from the Thai Department of Livestock Development demonstrates proper castration technique to villagers

Veterinarian Wisut Auekingpetch from the Thai Department of Livestock Development demonstrates proper castration technique to villagers
Siena Perry/FAO
Veterinarian Wisut Auekingpetch from the Thai Department of Livestock Development demonstrates proper castration technique to villagers
http://www.fao.org/
Friday, November 14, 2008
Breeding livestock to nurture livelihoods
Veterinarian Wisut Auekingpetch from the Thai Department of Livestock Development demonstrates proper castration technique to villagers


Photo: Siena Perry/FAO
Veterinarian Wisut Auekingpetch from the Thai Department of Livestock Development demonstrates proper castration technique to villagers

Health training



In November, Orawan travelled with representatives from Thai and Lao agricultural authorities to deliver cattle, including one stud bull, to the village of Ban Nalane in Champassak Province, southern Laos.



Veterinarian Wisut Auekingpetch, from the Thai Department of Livestock Development, helped to train the villagers in animal healthcare.



"When villagers do not know how to look after their animals properly it affects the animals' health and size and thus their market price," Wisut said. "We provide them with training in animal health and management – how to avoid diseases, identifying and treating illnesses, appropriate feeding practices and breeding."



Wisut told IRIN he also demonstrated the proper use of a castration tool, to ensure that only the new stud bull – the strongest and largest bull in the herd - breeds, thus producing the largest and most profitable offspring.



Orawan said Ban Nalane village was chosen to host the pilot project mainly because of the enthusiasm women of all ages showed for the project. Lampay Phuthone, district head of the women's union, Bounhuang, said: "Women play an important role in promoting this project and getting everyone to take part . . . we ensure that men take care of the animals properly."



* Livestock development and poverty alleviation: revolution or evolution for upland livelihoods in Lao PDR?, J. Millar and V. Photakoun, International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 6 (1) 2008, pp89–102.



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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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