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Livestock boost plan on track.

BAHRAIN is turning to artificial insemination (AI) to boost the numbers of domestic livestock.

The Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry has signed a co-operation agreement with the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) with an eye on reducing reliance on animal imports.

UN experts will train Bahraini vets in latest artificial insemination techniques and educate livestock breeders on advances in genetics that can help improve the quality of locally farmed meat.

"The FAO is a house of experience that can provide us with the technical counselling we need to develop this project," said ministry deputy assistant under-secretary for Agricultural Affairs Dr Salman Abdulnabi.

"It will follow up on the project until it is completed and provide technical support for vets.

"We already had a pilot project in Hamala's in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) laboratory called the Animal Production Project, but the facility needs to be revamped and outfitted with the latest equipment.

"Now that we are working on the IA step, all this will be achieved.

"It won't cost much because all we need is equipment, training and livestock in good physical condition."

He explained that scientific advances in animal breeding meant that farmers could not only increase the size of their flock, but also improve the quality of meat being produced.

"Some sheep breeds are not of high quality in terms of productivity or taste, therefore artificial insemination can create good quality offspring," he said.

"The process, in co-operation with the FAO, will guarantee that offspring are conceived at around the same time - which is better when it comes to managing them.

"It also means we will have animals of the same age all the time.

"It is not a new thing in Bahrain as cattle already undergo AI, but the step now will be to include sheep and goats."

Dr Abdulnabi said it would also reduce the risk of disease, since sperm used in artificial insemination is collected only from the best and healthiest male stock.

"In normal conditions the male fertilises only six or seven females out of 10 when they are left together," he said.

"However, when we collect the sperm from a male with good genes and body conditions and insert it into the females, we will have a high probability that all 10 females will be fertilised.

"This also means that the risk of meat containing diseases is reduced because we will only choose the best flock for the process."

Bahrain is seeking to promote the country's agriculture sector and Tamkeen allocated around BD6 million to a scheme designed to support 600 farmers.

However, the country currently relies heavily on livestock imports from Australia.

shahlaa@gdn.com.bh

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Geographic Code:7BAHR
Date:Nov 4, 2014
Words:460
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