The project is composed of two integrated and parallel phases of technical scientific and socio-economic research. Both should lead, either to the potentiation of animal reproduction capability and a better understanding of the nutritional aspects or to improvements in the breeding system yield.
These objectives are developed, according to the proposal, through the following tasks :
- Socio-economic research
While scientifically evaluating the progressive application of new techniques it is important to gain some overview of the situation as a whole, especially from the socio-economic point of view and to analyse the behaviour and problems faced by breeders in areas of Northern Africa.
The main problem is to understand the socio-economic and structural impacts of the transition from a system of extensive production to a semi-intensive one. These impacts concern both breeding methods and ways of life. The problem may be addressed through a geographic analysis of breeding, a demographic and socio-economic analysis of breeder's families and an analysis of correlations between family undertakings and external environment factors.
- Registration of performance
The goals of this task are: the evaluation of reproduction and production parameters through the measurement and the collection of the phenotypic characteristics of the goat population in Morocco, Tunisia and Italy. The monitoring of productive and managerial conditions will use a common scheme in order to allow a comparison among hundreds of animals bred in different ecological conditions, the scheme will include; the study of possible correlations among body condition score, metabolic profiles and milk qualitative characteristics; the characterisation of forage essences from different areas of North-African regions and the phenotypic characterisation of different milks collected from several autochthonous breeds.
- Nutrition and milk quality
The objectives are: to evaluate the nutritional value of the forages used; to detect the relationship between nourishment and milk quality though blood and milk samples and to establish a phenotypic milk characterisation through electrophoretic methodology.
- Endocrinological studies
This will be carried out to try to improve the methodologies. In particular an attempt will be made to establish new immunoenzymatic methods for hormone detection to reduce the problems connected with the use and disposal of radioisotopes. Co-operation with maghrebian scientists will be enhanced to help upgrade local researchers and transfer to them knowledge of the most recent developments in the field.
- Andrology research
The aim is to accurately determine the number and the characteristics of spermatozoa in different autochthonous breeds of North Africa and Europe. In the past, and especially in developing countries, techniques of buck semen collection, macroscopic and microscopic evaluation as well as motility assessment were often not standardised.
- Reproduction technique
This will focus on Artificial Insemination (A.I.) and will be strongly supported by the Italian scientists. The aim of this task is to improve the knowledge of reproduction techniques with special reference to frozen semen. Frozen semen techniques for goat semen are not well developed.
- Appropriate innovations in goat production systems can undoubtedly contribute to the rural development and to the well being of the rural population but the degree of success is strictly dependent upon the capacity of integration within the socio-economic framework.
- Observations on body weight and BCS show correlations with the quality of available food.
- Data obtained during the analysis of milk production suggest that an increase in total production is possible, but the limitation appears to be food availability in all seasons. Local breed average milk production is lower (-30%) than Maltese or even more the Saanen and Alpine. The forages characterisation revealed a middle quality with a high level fibre content.
- In comparative trials (goats, sheep and cows) assessments of nutritional values of some forages confirm that it is not possible to apply forage degradability results obtained from experiments with sheep and bovine species to goats.
- The polymorphism of a S1 caseins locus confirms a higher frequency of dominant alleles in African goats, these alleles are associated with higher protein content and better yield in the cheese transformation process.
- The results obtained using the ELISA methodology confirmed the main objective of defining several physiological conditions (oestrus, ovulation, dioestrus and pregnancy) but, comparative trials with other show that this method is not quantitative. This is certainly due to the matrix effect of different plasmas that interfere with the assay and this interference may only be overcome by solvent extraction of hormones.
- Andrological studies permitted the characterisation of the seminal material of local breeds. Much effort was devoted to improving seminal washing methods to permit the successful freezing of semen. The availability of frozen semen opens many possibilities for the to genetic progress of local breeds.
- Acquisition of synchronisation and superovulation protocols for local breeds;
- Acquisition of cryoconservation methods for semen;
- Application of large scale AI with frozen semen and evaluation of transcervical methods for sheep;
- Data base on the Genotypic characteristics of indigenous breeds, for use by researchers and technicians;
- Design of selected programs on the basis of genetic quality and quantity production characteristics;
- Evaluation of a natural progestinic product;
- Elaboration of indigenous feeding strategies based on the identification of gap period nutrition;
- Knowledge of structure, organisation and management of livestock under smallholder farming conditions;
- Verification of the mechanisms of marketing and selling of products by the farmers;
- Simulated definition of possible socio-economic scenarios after productivity improvement.
- As part of the socio-economic research a geographic analysis of breeding distribution is being carried out together with a demographic and socio-economic evaluation of breeder's families and any correlations between family undertakings and the external environmental factors;
- Concerning the registration of performance reproductive and productive data, blood and milk collection and evaluation of body score have been carried out. The genetic standardisation of different milks collected from the various autochthonous breeds has been performed;
- The effective degradability of forages has been evaluated and in situ rumen ADF and NDF digestion kinetics of common forages have been determined;
- Haematological and plasma metabolites have been used to evaluate the physiological status, fulfilment of alimentary plans and to confirm health status;
- The Moroccan and the Italian scientists, have supported Tunisian researchers in detecting steroid hormones by RIA. Different plasma pools with high and low progesterone levels have been established to facilitate inter-assay and intra-assay evaluation among the Moroccan, Tunisian and Italian laboratories;
- The development and the application of an enzyme immunoassay for progesterone has been completed;
- The biochemical evaluation and the physical examination of semen in different autochthonous breeds has been performed;
- The Italian scientists have supported the other researchers in the artificial insemination techniques using frozen semen.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts