Middle East Regional Cooperation Project

The project entitled "Multinational Approaches to Enhance Goat Production in the Middle East," supported by the Middle East Regional Cooperation program of USAID, officially began in October, 2000. The program promotes collaborative research, training, and extension activities among Langston University, the Desert Research Center of Egypt, the Volcani Center in Israel, Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem working in the West Bank, and the Jordan University of Science and Technology. The project ends in the fall of 2008. The research being conducted and knowledge being transferred to goat farmers and users of goat milk products in the Middle East offer great potential to improve food security and economic conditions of people of the region.

There have been a number of recent project training functions involving participants from the different locations. In June, 2002 a 2-week training activity was held at the Institute on milk hygiene and processing, along with seminars and discussions by primary project personnel. Furthermore, in September, 2002, training on goat heath management was provided in Jordan over a 5-day period.

In September, 2004, a 1-week training activity was held at the Desert Research Center in Cairo, Egypt. The topic was use of a software package developed at the Animal Production Research Institute of Egypt. There were attendees from Jordan University of Science and Technology, Desert Research Center and Animal Production Research Institute of Egypt, and Al-Quds University of East Jerusalem for the Palestinian Authority.

Current project activities in Egypt include monitoring of production at 18 herds to characterize the three prevalent types of production systems, i.e., extensive, semi-intensive, and intensive. This was preceded by use of a questionnaire with a larger number of farms in part to identify those to be worked with throughout the project. There is a large number of advanced technology packages being transferred to farms in North Sinai. Seventeen farms located at Rafah, El-Sheikh, Zoyied, and Al-Arish are participating in an activity of concentrate feeding to fatten young goats while at the same time lessening the number of grazing animals. Four farms in Al-Arish are involved in an outreach activity of improving the quality of crop residues such as tomatoes, cantaloupe, and maize stock. Four farms in Al-Arish are also cooperating in the making of new feed blocks, which offer potential to decrease feed waste, preserve feed for long periods of time, and are easily transported. Damascus bucks are being distrubuted to 15 Bedouin farmers in areas near Rafah, Sheikh Zowaied, Arish, and Nekla. They are being used for crossbreeding with local goats. In addition, DNA techniques (e.g., RAPD) are being used to genetically define the goat populations in the Sinai region.

Recent work in Israel has involved the prevalence of intramammary infection and bacteriological status in goats on farms of intensive and semi-intensive production systems. A relatively large number of udder halves on study farms were found to be infected. This is of major importance, since quality of milk from infected mammary glands is low. Such milk tends to bacteriologically deteriorate rapidly, develop off-flavors due to enzymatic activity, and results in poor cheese because of a high number of somatic cells. Future research will address the possibility of identifying markers to serve as indicators for early detection of subclinical mastitic udders.

Recent activities in Jordan entail goat milk chemistry and microbiological status at many different farms are being characterized in different stages of lactation. For extension activities, 18 goat flocks are being subjected to veterinary monitoring. A household goat farmer questionnaire was developed to study and understand all aspects of goat production in the region. There have been numerous other technology transfer activities, such as a goat farmer field day, cheese making/milk processing workshops at Rajeb town, Ajloun city, Ein Jana town, Ebin, and Al Muager town and numerous meetings with local goat farmers. Cheese making workshops have included training in producing yogurt, Jameed (hard dry cheese made from whey), Keshk (boiled dry wheat grits and whey), Labaneh, fresh frozen butter, chocolate-flavored milk, ghee, and white brined and white boiled cheese from goat milk.

Activities in the West Bank of the Palestinian Authority are being conducted by Al-Quds University of East Jerusalem. There are two districts being addressed: Hebron and Jericho.

Localities studied in Hebron are: Hebron city, Tafooh, Beet Kahel, Halhool, Beet Ummar, Soreef Su'eer, Alshyookh, Tarqomya, Ethna, Beet Ola, Kharas, Noba, Yatta, Bany N'eem, Alsamoo', Saray'ah Hathaleen, Ka'abnah Zweeden, Althahreyah, Alramadeen-Zagharnah, and Alremadeen-Fregat. One thousand goats were selected from the total number 79, 857, owned by 333 farmers.

Areas studied in Jericho were: Jericho city, Aljeftlek, Alkhan, Alahmar, Aldyook, Alzbeedat, Alojah, Alnabimosa, Alnwe'mah, Aqbat jabber, Ein Alsultan, Fassayel, and Marj najah. Five hundred goats were selected from a total number of 66,217, for 167 farmers. A structured questionnaire was used to characterize production practices.

Three goats were selected from each farmer and tagged taking into consideration age and stage of lactation. Collected milk samples are being subjected to analyses such as: titratable pH, antibiotic tests, total aerobic count, yeast and mold, and fecal contamination. Milk fat, protein, total solids, solids-not-fat concentration, and freezing point are also recorded.