Up in Kwara State in the West of Nigeria, Irvine Reid showed us around his dairy farm at Shonga in February 2014.
He has imported a herd of pure bred Jersey cattle to milk and breed from. Pedigree Jersey
cows are internationally known for their high quality delicious rich milk. Jersey milk also makes great cheese and ice cream.
The cattle are thriving but there are always issues with importing an alien breed of any animal.
The local Fulani cattle carry disease to which they are immune but the non-indigenous Jersey stock in Nigeria will succumb to very rapidly. For this reason, Irvine has to keep his herd very tightly controlled so the Fulani and Jersey cattle don’t come into contact. They are also affected by parasites and infections that the Fulani cows aren’t bothered by. Shonga farm is in the Tsetse Fly belt. Tsetse flies carry a disease called trypanosomiasis or nagana. They are also responsible for sleeping sickness in humans. No animals are immune to this. However, some cattle become trypanotolerant and can survive and grow whilst infected with the disease. They will produce less milk if they are infected with trypanosomiasis as unhealthy animals always suffer from reduced productivity. One way of reducing the Tsetse fly is to remove their habitat. Tsetse flies live in trees and by removing trees, the fly habitat is diminished which gets rid of the breeding ground and discourages their presence. Another method of reducing contact with flies is to keep the herd indoors or under cover.
A natural progression of a project like this would be to create a super breed of cattle for Nigeria. In this case, a Fulani/Jersey cross that brings the best qualities of each breed to one animal that is perfect for the conditions in Nigeria and produces a good yield of quality milk.
Before cattle breeding went hi-tech, the bull used to be bought to service the cow. Nowadays, artificial insemination (AI) is more likely to be used. This is because AI gives more control to the farmer about the timing of the conception and the quality of the bull semen used.
No interbreeding between the Jersey cattle and the Fulani cattle has happened yet but when it starts, it will bring great benefit to the Nigeria dairy and beef industry.
Written by: Fiona Johnson