A Professor of Quantitative and Statistical Genetics, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics, College of Animal Science and Livestock Production (COLANIM), Professor Michael Ozoje, has noted that the general belief that the average performance of most livestock in humid Africa is poor, has channelled his research interest towards developing and improving the performance of Nigerian livestock to be more productive and adaptive in any zone of the country.
According to him, “it has been established that the average livestock in humid Africa, have poor performance in growth, meat and milk production.” This, according to him, does not mean that they do not have their own advantages, which lies in their genes and which makes them to survive in the humid zones, unlike their imported counterpart which has adaptability and survivability problems, when imported into the country.
To this end, he said such African livestock carry some good genes that are actually useful for livestock development. Although low in productivity, they have high survivability and adaptability, which had led his research to focus on “Productive Adaptability”, that is, producing livestock with good adaptive performance and at same time productive. Professor Ozoje listed different ways to improve production to include selection, cross-breeding, gene complementarity and combining ability. Based on these principles, he suggested that developing livestock should be based on tropical adaptive livestock. He noted that in developing a good livestock, progressed over the years maternal effect plays a big role, where the breed that forms the sire (father) and Dam (mother) also determines the survival rate of the offspring.
The Don also noted that research had made animal breeders realise that colour is also important in animal adaptability. He said that there are colours that made animals comfortable and uncomfortable, taking the goat performance as an example; as he related the scenario to where the goats, with coat colour that reflects light (white and light brown), grows slower, but mature bigger at the end.
In addition to the above, Professor Ozoje said he proceeded to modeling the growth performance of the animals, which involved modeling survival after crossbreeding through the Weibull model, a survival function, where he advised that, in order to increase growth performance and survival rate and of local breeds, at least about 25 per cent of exotic blood should be used. However, the exotic livestock used should be sub-tropic breeds so that the adaptive potentials of the offsprings will not be adversely affected. He described research in Animal Breeding and Genetics as continuous, which had also made him and his research team to dovetail Into the applications of molecular genetics techniques, with the basic advantage of accelerating the selection process. He said “We are building our research daily, with the task that require developing breeds that their performance will be sustainable and acceptable in different zones of the country, considering Nigeria’s diverse nature.”
Professor Ozoje described Animal Breeding and Genetics (ABG), as a dynamic discipline that is growing every day and enables students to learn new things. “Animal Breeding deals with the applications of basic molecular genetics principles, in addition to the classical breeding techniques. Those that come into this field find it interesting, because it affords them the opportunity to learn new things every day and they embrace it whole-heartedly”, he added. He further described the discipline as age-long and akin to Jacob’s practice in the Holy Bible, which he said had also been researched into by researchers and proven to have genetic basis.
He described researches in ABG as capital intensive, while foreign countries and donors hardly come to their aid in terms of donation and research funding. Rather, they would develop their breed and sell to the countries that need it. They would rather fund researches in field of diseases and other related fields, he said.
While attributing the nation’s government attitude towards research as not being patient, Professor Ozoje advised that government should rather be patient, whenever they put in money for researches, Drawing examples from ABG, he said researches in the discipline have genetic progress, whose result takes time and the outcome lasts for a lifetime. Therefore, he tasked policy makers in the country to fund researches that would “go generations”, while he stated that most of the funding they get for researches in the country were mainly from outside donors and sponsors from other countries. According to him, the essence of research is to be sustainable. He frowned at the attitude of some multinationals funding researches outside the country instead of focusing on funding researches internally for the improvement of the country, as he called for the need to make researches “environmentally-dependent”.