Dairy and beef semen supplier Dove Genetics, Teagasc, and Irish NGO Vita are supporting a cattle improvement programme, sponsoring the supply of AI straws to the National AI Centre in Eritrea.
Some 2,000 AI straws from bulls on Dovea Genetics international catalogue were sent to the East African state last year and these are now being used as part of a crossbreeding programme with plans to send out more AI straws.
Eritrea will cross the local breeds with breeds favoured in Ireland.
The aim is to produce an animal adapted to suit available forage rather than animals dependent on costly concentrates.
“I am convinced that the sires available at Dovea Genetics are suitable for the Eritrean environment,” said Conor Ryan, Dovea Genetics export manager.
“The bulls are selected for forage-based production. The cost of concentrates is very high and supply is unreliable in Eritrea.
"Livestock production is most resilient in an integrated crop/livestock system where forages are the main feed sources available.”
This latest initiative follows on from a visit to Eritrea last year by a senior Irish delegation of agricultural specialists led by Vita, Teagasc, and Grote-SHA.
The focus of the visit was to build on the partnership between these agencies and the Eritrean government.
James O’Loughlin, Teagasc Moorepark, said: “In the dairy pilot project in Eritrea, we are recommending a breeding programme based on cross breeding.
"The local Barka breed is crossed with Friesian or Jersey. The feed resource available is not able to support the nutrient requirement of animals bred for high milk output.”
Another key component of the dairy project supported by Teagasc and Vita is in relation to capacity building of research and extension staff and farmers.
Vita has 27 years’ experience of working in East Africa; its vision is to forge long-term international partnerships which empower rural communities to sustain their livelihoods.
James O’Loughlin and his colleagues Pat Boyle and Seamus Crosse visit Eritrea regularly to work with research and extension staff on the key technologies associated with forage based milk projection systems.
“I am optimistic about the Irish partnership with the Eritrean government — I feel that working together will have great impact on Eritrean farm families,” said Prof Gerry Boyle, director of Teagasc.
“The Irish agriculture experience is rich in lessons learnt and successes won, and has evolved to meet so many challenges.
“Teagasc has considerable experience in cattle breeding and has worked closely with industry in developing Economic Breeding Indices (EBI) for traits of importance.
"This knowledge has direct relevance in Eritrea and can help the animal breeding team as they develop breeding schemes appropriate to the Eritrean environment.”