The Norman E Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture partnered with the America for Bulgaria Foundation to initiate the Bulgarian Scientific Program “Agriculture for the Future” in November of 2015. Both organizations saw the rapid development and modernization of the agriculture industry in Bulgaria, and recognized in order to continue this trend, leaders and innovators in the Bulgarian agriculture sector needed the best skills and techniques. With this idea the “Agriculture for the Future” program was created.
The two organizations developed a training exchange program that would capitalize on the American for Bulgaria Foundation’s leadership and resources and the Norman E Borlaug Institute’s expertise and experience in agricultural training. This unique cross-section of skills led to an adaptive 12 week program that places a young Bulgarian researcher under the mentorship of an expert in their field of study. The three months include classroom lectures, hands-on trainings, laboratory experiences, site visits, and field trips to provide relevant information regarding the field of study.
In order to be accepted into the program participants go through an open competition and personal interviews with a panel of local and international experts from the fields of agriculture and agribusiness. This is to insure the most passionate and capable individuals are selected to bring their training back to Bulgaria to teach and influence thousands.
Dr. Nikola Metodiev, PhD, VMD, was the first participant selected to join the “Agriculture for the Future” program. Dr. Metodiev is an Associate Professor in the Sheep Breeding Department at the Institute of Animal Science in Kostinbrod, Bulgaria. He arrived at Texas A&M University in June of 2016 and was paired with Dr. Carey Satterfield, an Associate Professor in the physiology of reproduction section of the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University, as a mentor and began his 3 month journey learning the skills and techniques behind trans-cervical insemination in sheep and goats.
Currently in Bulgaria, sheep and goat farmers practice deep-vaginal artificial insemination, which has a low success percentage rate. Due to the unsuccessfulness of this method, Nikola’s training has been focused on trans-cervical and laparoscopic insemination to help increase the success rate of breeding ewes so he can bring the techniques home to Bulgaria and further improve the growing sheep and goat industry.
Nikola’s training was thorough, starting from the basics of semen handling, then practicing on excised reproductive tracts in the lab, and finally beginning work in the field. This step by step training was to ensure that he mastered the entirety of trans-cervical insemination. Throughout the three months, he was closely mentored by Dr. Satterfield, who made sure Nikola succeeded in mastering the techniques and knowledge so he would be able to share with the people of Bulgaria. “I hope to take this knowledge to improve current genetics and gain efficiency in reproduction in dairy producing small ruminants,” says Nikola.
Nikola has returned to Bulgaria and is implementing trans-cervical artificial insemination in his home environment with the technology and resources that are currently offered. He also is sharing his knowledge with his institution, veterinarians, and farmers in hopes of improving the overall efficiency of the Bulgarian sheep breeding program. Nikola has maintained communication with his mentor, Dr. Satterfield, who will visit Bulgaria the summer of 2017 to address and help solve specific problems that are identified in the research following Nikola’s return to Bulgaria.