Boasting approximately 5 million heads of cattle between 130,000 cattlemen, livestock production is a significant part of Nicaragua’s agriculture and livestock sector. While the sector continues to grow, many smallholder cattlemen could benefit from technical assistance to improve their livestock management practices.
Fabio Lima, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois, traveled to Nicaragua last month as a Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer. While in Nicaragua, Lima visited farms and met with a variety of stakeholders in the livestock sector. He focused on cattle production, specifically the use of artificial insemination to increase productivity.
Often times in Nicaragua, only the more advanced large-scale cattlemen use artificial insemination to improve their herd. Of the nearly 120 smallholder cattlemen Lima interacted with, only one was currently using the practice. This presents a great opportunity to boost livestock productivity and while change does not happen overnight, people like Lima remain very excited about the potential.
“Nicaragua is in its infancy regarding efficient livestock production, which is a situation that offers a tremendous opportunity to improve productivity in an impactful way,” Lima wrote in his trip report. “Small changes in how cattle are managed can lead to enormous differences. The biggest problems lie in the lack of information and strategies to manage the reproduction.”
During his visit, Lima held a week-long workshop on artificial insemination for veterinarians, extension agents, and advanced farmers.
“The group of participants was energetic and thirsty for knowledge, but some of them were not very familiarized with most of the concepts,” he said. “Progress was made, with participants improving considerably their initial perspective of what it takes to have a successful reproductive program.”
He also shared the information with a broader audience through interviews with the local news and was featured on the radio program “Radio Corporación Managua” in a segment called “La Hora del Ganadero.”
Based on his experience in Nicaragua, Lima made a number of recommendations to help improve livestock practices and efficiency in the value chain. He wants Nicaraguan farmers to understand how livestock reproduction can dictate a farm’s entire production cycle. He suggested that the National Cattleman's Association in Nicaragua (CONAGAN) design a five-year strategic plan to improve cattle productivity.
One component of the strategic plan could include an awareness campaign so that farmers understand all of the necessary steps in cattle reproduction. He also suggested a national program for the evaluation of bulls’ reproductive soundness as well as more training courses teaching about reproduction, livestock examinations, and the use of artificial insemination to improve cattle genetics.
“I believe that the support offered by the program Partners of the America will be crucial to carry on this mission of increas[ing] the efficiency of milk and beef production in Nicaragua,” Lima said.