In the Central Dry Zone (CDZ) of Burma poor rural households could benefit greatly from improvements to animal productivity. This project will focus on enhancing management, nutrition and health of small ruminants, indigenous cattle and village poultry. The project is one component of ACIAR’s new program in Burma, with AusAID funding, aimed at capturing the benefits of earlier projects and launching a new integrated approach to agricultural research. The project outcomes will include vital information on the country’s current livestock management, animal productivity and disease status. It will also contribute to a larger CDZ program on crops, livestock and water use.
ACIAR project AH/2011/054 held a project inception meeting in Yezin in August 2013. At this meeting, teams within the project were established to take responsibility for cattle, small ruminants, village poultry and forage research. Work plans were developed for each for the following year. A name was chosen for the project - “Dahat Pan,” which is a flower native to the central dry zone of Burma.
Three village sites were selected for Dahat Pan research activities. Township data on households, land and livestock ownership was used in a cluster analysis to identify 3 villages as project sites: Kyauk Aoe in Meikhtila township (cattle, small ruminants and village poultry); and Ya Thar (cattle and small ruminants only) and Hpet Yin (village poultry only) in Myingyan township. These sites will be used for monitoring animal health and production, testing interventions, and conducting capacity building. Informal local steering committees have been established for each of these sites. Stakeholders include the Township Supporting Committee (TSC), the Township Administration, the Myanmar Livestock Federation and any other local interest groups.
A project research officer, Dr Jenny Hanks, has been employed and is based in Burma. Having Dr Hanks based in Burma has been crucial to progress within the project to date. Dr Hanks manages the project, supervises research activities, liaises with local project leaders, advocates for the project, interacts with the Burmese bureaucracy, organises visits by Australian project staff, builds relationships with other NGOs in Burma, and mentors local project staff.
Two junior scientists have been employed by the project, and are based in Ya Thar and Kyaut Aoe. So far, these researchers are responsible for collecting data on animal production and health. Their roles will be expanded later as village poultry and forage interventions are added.
Monitoring of animal health and production commenced in February 2014. A total of 157 cattle and 223 sheep and goats have been enrolled at Kyauk Aoe. At Ya Tha, 194 cattle and 185 goats have been enrolled. Animal health and body condition score is being monitored monthly, and livestock are weighed every second month. A questionnaire for village chicken production has been pilot tested, and material has been prepared for the village chicken intervention study (production of creep feeders and bamboo coops, selection of chick starter to be used).
The Dahat Pan project uses a participatory research approach (PRA) to explore management of livestock and to identify constrains to livestock health and production. An initial survey of each site reported data on household, land-holding and livestock ownership distribution at the village sites. Village meetings have been held in order to build relationships with village farmers, and gain an understanding of what production and health problems farmers experience. These meetings have included as many people as possible from the village sites. At the meetings, farmers created a map of their village, a seasonal calendar of agricultural activities in their village and listed the problems they experience in livestock production. A report of PRA assessments will be forwarded to ACIAR by 30 June. Farmer interest groups have been established for cattle and small ruminants (village chickens to follow) at each village.
Project staff at LBVD, UVS, the project junior scientists, township office veterinary staff and community animal health workers have received training in data collection and management, body condition scoring, animal handling, forage evaluation research and Microsoft Excel. Scientists from Indonesia and Thailand have visited to conduct some of this training.
The project’s first John Allwright Fellow, Tu Tu Zaw Win will commence study for a PhD in the School of Veterinary Science at the University of Queensland in June 2014.
ACIAR project AH/2011/054, also known as Dahat Pan, started operations in August 2013. The project is a collaboration between the Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department (LBVD) and the University of Veterinary Science (UVS) in Myanmar and the University of Queensland (UQ) and University of Melbourne (UoM) in Australia. Three village sites were selected for Dahat Pan research activities within the Central Dry Zone (CDZ), Kyauk Aoe village in Meikhtila township (cattle, small ruminants and village poultry); Ya Thar village (cattle and small ruminants only) and Hpet Yin village (village poultry only) in Myingyan township. These sites have been used for monitoring animal health and production, testing interventions, and conducting capacity building.
There have been some significant findings from the research in 2015-16:
With chickens, coop design and feeding, as well as Newcastle disease vaccination have improved survival. The Myanmar Livestock Federation has been involved in semi-commercial coop and feed production and distribution.
With forages, a number of grasses and tree legumes have been identified as the best options for farmers to use. Grass yields are earlier after the first rain and last longer than traditional forage sorghum. Some farmers are growing forage grass to distribute. A seed production capacity is being undertaken at UVS and semi-commercially.
With small ruminants, supplementary feeding and better pen design and husbandry has improved survival and growth of kids. Strategic drenching for worms associated with records of faecal egg counts have also improved the situation.
With cattle, supplementary feeding markedly improved the growth of calves. Body condition score of cows was low and so was reproductive rate which would be improved by weaning and better feeding. These are now being trialled.
The interventions trialled have been based on the findings of low production and reproduction where young animals are at greatest risk of health problems and dying. These baseline data provide an important reference point for evaluating current and future livestock work in the CDZ.
Capacity is being developed through postgraduate training and short-term training. The UVS Master’s project scholarships provides recipients with personal skills and experience and contributes to the overall knowledge of forage, ruminant and village chicken production potential in Myanmar. Research projects have been completed by one Masters student in 2015 and eight Masters students in 2016. A further eight Masters commenced projects in 2016. Four Master students presented their results at international conferences in 2015 and one student received an international award. Nan Kham Hlaing won a project scholarship to undertake a Master’s degree at UVS and was the first to graduate from this program in 2015. Nan has is now employed as a demonstrator by the university with management responsibility for the village-based forage field research program.
There are 2 PhD students; one researching livestock market chains in the CDZ and one researching the feeding of forages to ruminants. Tu Tu Zaw Win, who has a John Allwright Fellowship (JAF) to study at the University of Queensland has completed her PhD confirmation. Dezin Soe Lwin has received a JAF scholarship to commence her study at the University of Queensland and is expected to commence her study this coming year. Professor Aung Aung received a John Dillon Fellowship to visit Australia and undertake leadership training which he has applied to the project and his department at UVS.
The Regional Livestock Alliance organised in collaboration with the Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT) has engaged LBVD and UVS in broader outreach with other main players in the livestock field in the CDZ. Workshops and field visits have continued to bring together non-government organisations, funding bodies, universities and departments this year.