Posted: Monday, July 5, 2021. 7:41 pm CST.
By Rubén Morales Iglesias: “The market is now demanding a higher quality beef. For that to happen we need to diversify our genetics,” said the Minister of Agriculture, Food Security, and Enterprise, Jose Abelardo Mai.
“The Guatemalans are happy with what we have right now. The Mexicans are happy with what we have. But they are also saying that if we have Brangus the farmer will get a better price,” Mai said.
A Brangus is a 5/8 mix of Brahman and Angus cattle.
To that end the Livestock Department is embarking in an embryo transplant program to breed Brangus cattle with the objective of improving both the quality and quantity of cattle that Belize produces both for the local and export markets.
Mai said that the Livestock Department is going the way of embryo transplant because the conventional way takes too long.
“Embryo transplant will speed up the population of Brangus we want to have in the country. We have the conventional breeding which is the bull to 25 animals and then there is embryo transplant. You can choose the gender. You can have sex fertilization,” he said.
“It’s better for the farmer because, one, the animal will increase the rate of weight gain, average daily gain, they will produce marble at an earlier age and it has a higher per cent of dress weight,” Minister Mai said.
Mai added that Belize is exporting Nelore and Brahman cattle to Guatemala and Mexico at present, but Brangus would give the livestock producers better returns.
“Our beef that went to Mexico in the last shipment gained 4 pounds per day for four months, which is above what they expected. So, it means to us that we have quality genetics, and they are satisfied with it. They believe that if we can do Brangus, we can do much better.”
“It means that if we put them in feed lots here in Belize, we’d do good too. But we can do better if we do Brangus animals.”
Mai said moving up to Brangus should also satisfy the tourism sector.
“The tourism sector complains many times that we don’t have quality beef. We have to improve that. And if we do that, if we do feedlots and if we change genetics, if we start crossing animals with Brangus, then that quality improves. Any mix that you have that has Brangus in it will improve what we have today.”
Mai said that the Livestock Department is practically ready to kick-start the embryo transplant program.
“We are going to do embryo transplant in about 30 animals in Central Farm. Those animals, I’m proposing, and I may be wrong because I’m not the expert, that we do male embryo transplant and the bulls we can send to the districts so that the small farmers they can rent these bulls, put them in their pasture, have their cows cross with them and then have their off-springs which would then be the Brangus.”
Principal Agriculture Officer and Livestock Director Belarmino Esquivel said they already have 20 Brangus cattle ready to start the program.
Mai said the timing is right and they are starting this month.
“Once there is a market for a product, the product grows. Everything that we do is market-led. It sells itself. Once there is a market and the price is good, it will grow,” Mai said confidently.
“Farmers go to DFC, they want to expand, they want to grow pasture, they want to put a corral, they want to put a feedlot. All these initiatives [are] because there is a market for the product,” he concluded.
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