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Borlaug Institute to provide technical assistance to Ecuador


Texas AgriLife Extension Service has signed an agreement to provide technical assistance for cattle production and dairy product quality improvement to Ecuador, according to project coordinators.

Activities will be carried out in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agriculture Service and Ecuador's Ministry of Agriculture. Technical assistance will be provided through the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture, part of the Texas A&M System.

"The primary areas of interest to the ministry included disease prevention and treatment, production and management systems, meat and dairy product quality, and possible export of Ecuadorean agricultural products," said Stephanie Curs, assistant director of foreign operations with the Borlaug Institute.

Curs met with Ecuador's agriculture vice minister and ministry and USDA Foreign Agriculture Service representatives during a trip to Quito in November to discuss technical assistance priorities.

According to Curs, project activities will include introducing Ecuadorean cattle producers to U.S. cattle production and management systems; providing technical training on livestock and dairy production and management; establishing connections between the agriculture ministry and public and private cattle producers; and identifying and addressing "broken links" in the livestock value chain.

"Through these technical assistance activities we hope to help increase the income of Ecuador's cattle producers--first through local markets and then through national and international markets," Curs said. An extensive and comprehensive training program has been developed for the project, said Dr. Mike McWhorter, international training coordinator for the Borlaug Institute. Training will take place in both the U.S. and Ecuador.

"The main thrust of this training will be toward improving the quality and quantity of the food base for Ecuador's beef cattle and dairy producers," he said. "We will introduce producers and other agricultural experts to new technology, management practices and international quality standards so they can see how these might be adapted to their current production systems. The idea is to give them a vision of what is possible."

The first phase of project activities will begin with bringing a delegation of Ecuadorean producers and agriculture ministry representatives to Texas in early August.

"This will serve two purposes," Curs said. "Delegation members will participate in the technical training offered by AgriLife Extension during its renowned three-day Beef Cattle Short Course. It also will give them the opportunity to meet with cattle producers from Texas and other states."

Curs said delegation members will also visit McGregor Research Center of Texas AgriLife Research to learn about animal genetics and breeding and view advanced livestock projects. They also will travel to King Ranch and the La Copita AgriLife Research facility, visiting area cattle production operations en route, as well as participate in rangeland and livestock production trainings and meet with Texas A&M-Kingsville agricultural faculty.

The second phase of the project will involve providing in-depth beef and dairy cattle production technical assistance in Ecuador.

"Training will be provided by personnel from Texas A&M's department of ecosystem science and management and department of animal science, and will be coordinated through the Borlaug Institute," said Johanna Roman, Latin American programs director for the institute.

Roman said a five-day training, currently slated for the fall, will be given to about 30 beef and dairy cattle producers and agriculture ministry representatives.

"The goal will be to increase local production capacity for beef and dairy products and to improve the export potential for high-value cuts of beef," she said.

Roman said Texas A&M experts will address animal health and care, animal disease, range management, livestock production systems, animal slaughter and other topics.

"Our experts will also meet with cattle producers in the Quito area to discuss current obstacles to cattle production in Ecuador," she said. "Once they have a chance to identify and assess these obstacles, they will make recommendations on how to address them."

The third part of the project will involve providing technical assistance toward quality improvement for milk and other dairy products, Roman said.

"The agriculture ministry has expressed an interest in increasing the export potential of Ecuador's dairy products, so we hope to help them increase their product quality and find how to make their products more marketable in other countries," she said.

Roman said a three- to five-day training for about 30 dairy cattle producers, dairy product manufacturers and agriculture ministry representatives will be offered this fall or early next spring.

Further technical assistance might be requested, depending on project developments, she added.

"Ecuador has a rich agricultural heritage, and we're glad to be providing our expertise to help them enhance and further build on that heritage," Curs said.

For more information on the Borlaug Institute, go to http://borlaug.tamu.edu.

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