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Goat and sheep herders hear bells of growth
27 | 10 | 2007
Agricultural experts have proposed professionalizing the breeding of goats and sheep as a way for farmers to acquire a sustainable income, especially those living in mountainous and remote areas.

Experts said the country’s goat and sheep herds would jump from nearly 1.5 million head in 2006 to 2.48 million in 2010 and 4.17 million in 2015, posting annual growth rates of 10.8 and 8.2 per cent, respectively.

The country’s goat and sheep meat production would grow from 11,000 tonnes in 2006 to 21,000 tonnes in 2010 and 31,000 tonnes in 2015. Fresh milk production would increase from 389 tonnes in 2006 to 1,026 tonnes in 2010 and 1,551 tonnes in 2015, they said.

Ho Mong Hai, an expert from the Viet Nam Animal Husbandry Department (VNAHD), said that raising goats and sheep is a feasible trade for farmers, even the poor, since it requires modest capital and results in quick investment returns.

"It would be an effective measure to reduce poverty in rural areas, and therefore partly stabilise the society," Hai said.

Dr. Doan Duc Vu, an official with the South Viet Nam Agricultural Science Institute (SVASI), believes that farming goats and sheep has more advantages than raising other animals since they require less food and can easily live in difficult natural conditions such as drought and heat.

"Goat and sheep meat and milk products are now popularly known as nutritious food so they are more favoured by consumers," Vu said.

Too good to be true?

Viet Nam has about 1.6 million goats and sheep which account for 3.49 per cent of the domestic husbandry sector. Goat breeding is concentrated in the country’s northeast and north central regions, while farmers in the south, particularly in Ninh Thuan Province, top those in the sheep herding industry.

Most goat and sheep herders have overbred, rendering ineffective advanced breeding techniques and resulting in low production and high chances of disease outbreaks.

Additionally, many farmers entered the business upon seeing others make a profit from it without knowledge of the rules of supply and demand, causing a serious drop in the price for sheep and goats.

In recent years many goat and sheep herders have suffered from bottom floor prices for their flocks, and have been unable to develop alternative channels through which to sell their goods for a profit.

The market prices for goats and sheep dropped from VND2-3 million in 2003 to VND400,000 and 500,000 by early 2006, and have remained at that level since, said Luu Khoan, deputy director of the Ninh Thuan Agriculture and Rural Development Service.

The situation was similar for the price of goat and sheep meat. One kilo of goat meat now sells for between VND19,000 and 22,000, compared to VND28,000 and 30,000 in 2005, Khoan said.

He attributes the price drop to many factors, including unplanned development, bad breeding practices and insufficient consumption networks.

Dau Van Hai of SVASI said farmers generally breed goats and sheep without concrete development plans and herd them wherever they can find vegetation for the animals to feed on. Consequently, local authorities have difficulties regulating the sector.

Local agencies also tend not to have experienced technical workers who can advice farmers on how to breed and protect their herds from disease epidemics.

Systematic training

VNAHD’s Hai said that to ensure sustainable development, the husbandry department will conduct a thorough study of current breeding practices as well as consumers’ demands nationwide.

"Based on the study’s results, the agency will build up central goat and sheep breeding areas at potential localities to ensure supply of high quality commercial products for both overseas and domestic markets," he said.

VNAHD plans to consolidate current breeding areas to ensure good stocks and stable prices. Under the scheme, Hai said, existing high quality goat and sheep stocks would be multiplied. Localities that have high quality stocks would be given the opportunity to use advanced techniques to develop and manage good hybrids.

Agencies and institutes in the husbandry sector will be called upon to promote breeding practices that yield high quality meat and take advantage of the locally available natural resources.

Hai said goat and sheep breeders will have the support of the government in building large-scale farms and buying insurance for their herds.

The government will call on local officials to promote training in breeding techniques and establish professional distribution systems created by partnerships between farmers and companies.

Source: VNS
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