This article was originally written by Partners of the Americas.
Guatemala has one of the highest rates of chronic malnutrition in the Americas. However, the situation is most severe in the northern region of the Western Highlands. The Departments of Quiché and Huehuetenango have the highest prevalence of malnutrition in the country, where almost two of every three children suffer from chronic malnutrition. In response to the prevailing problem of child malnutrition in this region, goat milk has represented an important tool to combat malnutrition. In Quiché, Save the Children and the Agros Foundation founded the Center for Goat Production in the Altiplano of Guatemala (CEPROCAL-Altiplano), a goat reproduction center that trains technicians and farmers in the management and production of dairy goats, goat milk, and other goat products.
In July 2014, Partners of the Americas’ Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer Bill Knox visited CEPROCAL-Altiplano to provide the first-ever training on artificial goat insemination in Guatemala. Months of hard work went into preparing for this assignment. Several months before his assignment, Bill conducted research on the Guatemalan import protocols to ensure he would be able to successfully import frozen goat semen. He also sent photos and instructions to CEPROCAL to construct a simple breeding stand made of local materials that would be used to restrain the goats during insemination. His assignment was also timed so that he would arrive when the goats were in heat. Bill trained almost 100 producers, technicians, and veterinary students in two methods for artificial goat insemination. He also provided training on synchronizing female goats to be in heat at the same time to facilitate easier artificial goat insemination and to complete internal parasite assessments.
However, importing goat semen from the United States is costly and not a sustainable method to continue goat reproduction. Therefore, in October 2015, Bill returned to Guatemala to train CEPROCAL-Altiplano staff in the collection of goat semen from bucks, and proper storage and handling of the product. Bill trained CEPROCAL-Altiplano staff on collecting semen from the bucks and diluting it using careful calculations. He then trained them in the cooling process and packaging in 0.5 mL straw labels with the buck’s information and date. He also assisted the center in developing a multi-year breeding plan.
During his visit, Bill had the opportunity to see the offspring of the artificial insemination work he did during his first assignment. A total of 84 of 125 does were pregnant (a 67 percent success rate), all of whom had been artificially inseminated by Guatemalans. “During this tour I was thrilled to hear of the successful implementation of the training I had done in July of 2014. Sergio Tello showed us some of the offspring of the artificial insemination work he and staff had done, 100% by Guatemalans.” Additionally, the offspring of the bucks that were artificially inseminated had superior genetics because of the strain used. Bill reports, “The resultant offspring are clearly superior in phenotype and are growing at a faster rate.”
As a result of Bill’s F2F assignments, CEPROCAL-Altiplano is now at the forefront of goat reproduction in Guatemala. Bill’s technical assistance will help improve goat production in the country, thereby helping increase access to and availability of highly nutritious goat milk for families in the Western Highlands. Additionally, the core herd of dairy goats at CEPROCAL-Altiplano can serve as a regional resource, as the improved genetics of the goat species may help to improve dairy goat milk production.
For their work in Guatemala, the University of San Carlos awarded Bill Knox and Rodrigo Arias of Save the Children-Guatemala the Grado de Botón Dorado (Golden Pin Award) for contributions to agricultural technology and best practices. Bill says, “This was unexpected, but I think indicates the great value that Guatemalans place on exchanges like this.”