Will Hehemann | School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences
Dr. David Fernandez, Extension livestock specialist and interim dean of graduate studies and continuing education at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, recently served as a volunteer for the U.S. Agency for International Development Farmer-to-Farmer program in southwestern Nepal. There, he helped local goat farmers optimize their production practices.
“Goat farming is an important source of income in many communities in the Surkhet District of Nepal, especially among women,” Dr. Fernandez said. “The popularity of the business has led small goat farmers to produce more goats.”
Despite increases in production, the farmers haven’t always been able to earn more money, he said. Many of them did not know how to breed goats appropriately for hardiness (health).
“Random breeding in the goat herd meant that many goats that went to market were of inferior quality,” Dr. Fernandez said. “The farmers also lacked an efficient parasite management plan to further ensure the overall health of the herd.”
Over the course of the program, Dr. Fernandez emphasized the importance of developing a good record-keeping system and implementing a rotational breeding system. These measures will help reduce inbreeding and ensure larger, healthier offspring for sale.
“I encouraged the farmers to pool their funds to purchase superior breeding bucks that will help guarantee more valuable kids,” he said. “They will be able to reduce feed needs by selecting moderate-sized replacement females that can be crossed with larger bucks to produce larger offspring for sale.”
Dr. Fernandez said goats in Nepal are susceptible to many of the same parasites found in Arkansas. He recommended the farmers use the FAMACHA method to detect internal parasites such as barber pole worms for more effective treatment and to select goats that are resistant to these parasites.
Because barber pole worms are increasingly resistant to dewormers, he also recommended that the farmers plant Sericea lespedeza – a flowering plant native to Nepal – in their pastures. The plant will repair the highly eroded ground on the farms and provide a nutritious feed that can help reduce the prevalence of barber pole worm.
“Despite the low literacy rate in southwestern Nepal, the farmers quickly grasped the importance of keeping records and using them in the selection of breeding animals,” Dr. Fernandez said. “The farmers are doing a good job raising goats and it’s clear they have put practices in place, which they learned during previous trainings.”
According to its website, the Farmer-to-Farmer Program promotes sustainable economic growth, food security and agricultural development worldwide. Volunteer technical assistance from U.S. farmers, agribusinesses, cooperatives and universities helps developing countries improve productivity, access new markets, build local capacity, combat climate change and conserve environmental and natural resources.
Program volunteers work with farmers, producer groups, rural businesses and service providers to develop local capacity necessary to increase food production and rural incomes, expand economic growth, and address environmental and natural resource management challenges.