x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

UAE experts advise on livestock funds

Experts say the Executive Council's plan to invest in the animal welfare sector in Abu Dhabi can only benefit the emirate if operated properly.

Livestock farmers who do not receive government subsidies for fodder will be helped by services to be funded by the Executive Council. But experts say education must play a part. Andrew Henderson / The National
Livestock farmers who do not receive government subsidies for fodder will be helped by services to be funded by the Executive Council. But experts say education must play a part. Andrew Henderson / The National

ABU DHABI // Experts say the Executive Council's planned investment in animal farming will only benefit the emirate if operated properly.

Last week, the Executive Council said it would invest Dh330 billion in the economy over the next five years to develop a number of projects including new homes, schools, roads and other vital infrastructure schemes in Abu Dhabi.

One project was establishing complexes to help animal breeders who do not benefit from the government fodder subsidy programme.

They will provide veterinary services, quarantine centres and markets for animal products, while improving those products and increasing trade.

The council will also create an Abu Dhabi Department for Food Monitoring to co-ordinate with government and semi-government authorities to encourage the marketing of local produce.

"It's a good idea and really the only idea that they can do here to support animal husbandry," said Dr Mohammad Reza, a veterinarian at Al Saqer Group in Abu Dhabi.

"It's the best way and the only solution, but only giving feed or hay is not sufficient. They have to properly teach people how to use it and not waste it."

Dr Reza said one of many factors to determine the project's success, was experienced staff.

"There are a lot of problems because of lack of knowledge," he said. "They need to have experienced people to advise them because people don't know the real value of feed, they just waste it."

Dr Reza said malnutrition among livestock was common.

"The quality and quantity of feed should be advised and how to form a complete nutritional feed for the animal," he said.

Veterinary services and quarantines centres were also a must.

"Veterinary services are lacking in Abu Dhabi," Dr Reza said. "The prevention of diseases and treatment is very important, while quarantines are vital to avoid diseases brought into the UAE."

Others agreed.

"This kind of service is needed in Abu Dhabi," said Dr Naimuddin Syed, a veterinarian at the National Veterinary Hospital in Abu Dhabi.

"I think people want these services if animals become sick. There's no government clinic so I like the idea. It's good and there are a lot of people that take interest in this."

But farmers were more sceptical.

"It could be a good project but what they will provide is key," said Abdullah Al Amimi, a farmer in Liwa. "It's going to be good as long as it eases the financial cost that we are paying now."

Mr Al Amimi, who does not receive government subsidies, spends about Dh4,000 a month on the upkeep of his 300 sheep and 10 camels.

"Breeders have to be treated equally," he said. "I can sell a sheep for Dh700 but not lower because I don't have any subsidies or support."

Mr Al Amimi said he would like the Government to help him get his hands on alfalfa.

"They should provide this to us farmers," he said. "I don't mind paying a small fee if they take care of everything."

Naoufal Mohammad, a farmer in Al Ain with seven camels and a small number of sheep and goats, said the promised services were vital.

"The implementation should be studied well and made properly," Mr Mohammad said. "It all depends how they do it."

Some of the major issues facing farmers included costs for animal vaccinations and feed.

"I don't have too many issues for that because I grow my own feed," Mr Mohammad said. "But it will definitely help the ones that don't have subsidies from the government."

cmalek@thenational.ae