Plan to up Blackbelly numbers
Barbados Blackbelly rams are fit and healthy enough to produce the necessary semen for a countrywide artificial insemination (AI) programme that will rapidly multiply the number of Blackbelly sheep on the island.
This is according to experts Dr Raymundo Rangel-Santos and Dr Jose Garcia-Muniz from Universidad Autonoma Chapingo of Mexico, who along with other specialists from the Inter-American Institute For Co-operation On Agriculture (IICA) toured a number of island farms this morning to get a preliminary look at sheep stock before going into talks with the Government of Barbados.
“Once you have identified high quality animals like the ones you have here in Barbados you can get high genetic females and males, and you can apply some of these reproductive technologies that we already know to be able to multiply those numbers. For instance, bring a ram, collect the semen sample, and with one sample we could AI or process the semen to be able to AI between 50 and 100 ewes. And if you consider that, you could collect from a ram twice a day, so you could AI between 100 and 200 ewes in a single day,” Rangel-Santos said.
He explained that this move could have a great impact for Barbados’ shipping industry once the sheep produced lambs and that other Caribbean countries should seek to get into AI also.
“It is something that is not impossible to do and the process will take two to three months without any problems; and instead of waiting for somebody else from another country to do it, we should take advantage of it.”
According to Rangel-Santos, such an undertaking would cost US$250 per embryo transfer procedure and US$10 to US$12 for each AI. He said around eight to ten good quality embryos could produce four to five lambs.
The doctors’ visit to Barbados was arranged after their meeting with Barbadians Greg Welch and Dr Jamekal Andwele, who took part in an agricultural programme launched by IICA and the Ministry of Agriculture. The two Barbadians were attending a three-week training course on sheep production at Universidad Autonoma Chapingo in Mexico to enhance the capacity of approximately 200 Caribbean farmers and technicians.
Both Welch and Andwele told Barbados TODAY it was a gainful experience in which they learned quite a lot and that they would be looking to test their knowledge once they had engaged the Barbados Government in talks with the idea.
At present the idea is in developmental stage, but they intend to focus their attention on record keeping because that is one of the main problems sheep farmers face on island, they said. Tomorrow the group is hoping to engage Government in discussion.
Farm manager at Greenland Livestock Research Station, John Vaughan, said the Blackbelly sheep was the only indigenous animal that Barbados had and therefore needed to be preserved.
“What happens is that in case of a natural disaster like hurricane, earthquake and the island is devastated and the animals are all eliminated and you don’t have embryos or semen stored, then the breed will become extinct. And as you know Barbados Blackbelly sheep is the only indigenous animal we have. We have to do all that we can to preserve them.”