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Friday, March 25, 2016

Nigerian Minister of Agriculture explains why govt is importing grass for livestock #HNNVet

The barrage of comments, criticisms, questions and name-calling on the social media that have trailed the announcement of an intention to import grass to improve the business of production of cattle, sheep and goats in Nigeria is rather incredible. Too many of such comments smacked of hasty, hollow and inappropriate responses that betrayed a lack of understanding of the subject, the enormity of the problem, the benefits embedded in the planned intervention and the urgency of the need to adopt that measure. I want to put some facts in public domain and in the right perspective for the public to know.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has repeatedly announced that he was changing the system of ruminants (cattle, sheep and goats) husbandry in Nigeria, replacing the time-worn method of nomadism and roaming of animals with intensive and better organised system of keeping animals in paddocks and feedlot. I am aware it will take some knowledge of what is wrong in the livestock industry to understand and appreciate what the minister is talking about. He has said the constantly moving animals don’t grow as they should. He has spoken of availability of grasses of low nutritive values. It is not enough for the animals to eat grass. They need to eat grasses of high level of nutrients. This is the crux of the matter.
Animal rearing in Nigeria is far behind the age we live in, and the system warrants an urgent change. If livestock production is to be truly treated as a business, then sound science must be the bedrock, with improvement of the quality of the existing varieties of grass and of the growing conditions. Those will entail the introduction of better varieties and a deliberate enrichment of the soil so the grasses would meet the nutritional needs of the animals for optimum growth and performance. They make production more profitable, increasing the quantity of meat and milk available to the growing populace.

On the social media, everyone appears to be an expert on all subjects. Serious issues are trivialised, and trivial issues inordinately exalted. Even the least informed commentator proffers solutions to problems on the cyberspace having no bearing with reality. Here, however, is one sensible response among a flurry of criticisms and comments from Vanguard newspaper social media site, in response to the write-up that asked that “must we import grass?” The writer noted that: “As an agronomist and soil science expert there is nothing bad in importing grass if they can be cross bred with local breeds to produce better cultivars for local use. What matters is the cost- benefit to the value chain in livestock production.”

With files from Vanguard

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