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Farm aid in Kazakhstan: Winrock Program assisting in dairy, poultry, sheep production.

MICHAEL HACKETT ANticipated his recent trip to Kazakhstan as a time of informing farmers in the former Soviet Union state about superior methods of dairy operations and milk production.

But Hackett, a livestock extension agent with Washington State University's extension service, discovered he also had something to learn from the Kazakhstani dairy farmers.

"They have a real good handle on artificial insemination of the dairy cow," Hackett says. "They get conception rates that are unbelievable.

"Within 24 days of the cows giving birth to a calf, 75 percent are pregnant again. In the states, we're lucky to get 70 percent of them pregnant within 40 days after birth. So they're doing something right."

Hackett says the success of artificial insemination is because so many laborers constantly watch the cows to determine when they are in heat. The dairy farmers have one artificial insemination technician "who practically lives with the cows 24 hours a day," he says.

Hackett was one of seven volunteers on a milk production team that Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development sent to Kazakhstan, a country of 13 million people south of Russia. The trip was part of the three-year Farmer-to-Farmer Program funded by the United States Agency for International Development.

Winrock, headquartered on Petit Jean Mountain near Morrilton, fielded three teams of volunteer experts to send to Kazakhstan, a country slightly less than a third the size of the United States. There was also a two-member team that provided training and advice in sheep production and a three-member poultry production team.

The poultry production team, which left May 16, consists of Kenneth Clatfelter of Campbell Soup Co.'s Farmington plant; Grover Harris Jr., a poultry production consultant from Fayetteville; and Ben Schlegel, a poultry health specialist with Eli Lilly & Co.'s Fayetteville facility. The poultry production team will return home in June.

Tom Bauer, Winrock's recruiter for the Farmer-to-Farmer Program, says about 60 volunteers have been sent to 30 countries.

"One of our big success stories is an onion production assignment in Nicaragua," Bauer says. "This started from the ground level, teaching them how to prepare the seed for onion production. It went through post-harvest and marketing. Nicaragua is now exporting onions to the United States."

U.S. Superior in Dairy Production

Except for the lessons on artificial insemination, Hackett found that the U.S. is far superior to Kazakhstan in dairy production.

They have milking machines, Hackett says, but the milk is pumped into 10-gallon cans, which the Kazakhstani farmers carry by hand to larger tanks. In the winter, milking is done in barns.

In the spring and summer, the cows are allowed to graze in the mountains. Twice a day, the cows are herded by expert cowboys into a corral. They are milked by machine out in the field, Hackett says.

"You can't believe how far out you are," Hackett says. "The people live in villages, so twice a day they have to pile into an old Army truck and head out to the remote stations and start milking cows. That takes about two hours, then they get back in the truck and head back to the village."

In the U.S., cows are milked by machines in milk parlors. Pipelines carry the milk to bulk milk tanks in another part of the dairy.

Hackett says future dairy experts who go to Kazakhstan must reinforce to the farmers to keep the milk clean at every stage.

Kazakhstani dairy farmers face a major problem: a stifling inflation rate running about 1,000 percent annually. At the beginning of Hackett's trip to Kazakhstan, the monetary exchange rate was 800 rubles for a dollar. By the time he returned to the U.S. three weeks later, the exchange rate had jumped to 1,000 rubles for a dollar.

"There needs to be more governmental policy regulation," Hackett says. "The real key is to give these people credits, or loans, to borrow money and pay it back at a reasonable rate. With inflation as it is, they can't buy machinery they need without some help."
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Title Annotation:Across Arkansas: Northwest; Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development
Author:Smith, David (American novelist)
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:May 31, 1993
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