The Government will spend Sh.1.4 billion to boost livestock breeding as part of enhancing dairy and beef production to feed the growing population.
The Kenya Animal Genetic Resource Centre (KAGRC) Chairman, Dr. Geoffrey Kamau said National Treasury allocated the institution the funds to establish a sexed semen production technology as a way of improving livestock breeding.
Dr. Kamau said KAGRC is mandated to produce, preserve, and conserve animal genetic material (semen embryo, tissues and live animals) and rear breeding bulls for provision of high quality disease free semen to meet the national demand and for export.
Speaking when he presided over a renewal of the contract for the agency’s managing director Dr. David Kios, the chairman said under the new technology farmers will enjoy subsidised Artificial Insemination (AI) semens that have a female probability of between 80-99 per cent.
Dr. Kamau said the introduction of sexed semens will help to improve the quality of livestock breeds in the country and ensure farmers reap maximum benefit by producing quality meat, milk and other animal products.
Currently, farmers import high quality heifers, mostly from South Africa at between Sh.200, 000 and Sh.400, 000 per baby cow. The new technology Kamau said is expected to contribute to price reduction to below Sh100, 000 per heifer.
The insemination available in the country has a 50 to 50 chance of conceiving either male or female calve but the sexed semen has an average of up to 99 per cent meaning out of 100 calves 99 will be female and one will be male.
Kamau explained that the new technology will facilitate production of high quality heifers for dairy farmers and thus contribute to high milk production.
“At the moment sexed semen is imported from other parts of the world and normally reaches the farmers at between Sh.4, 000 and Sh.10, 000 per straw and depending on the location. This has made it out of reach to majority of smallholder dairy farmers,” said Dr. Kamau.
He said that with KAGRC doing sexed semen the cost is expected to come down to Sh.2, 000 maximum.
“Once the new sexed semen machine is installed in the country we expect the prices will decreased to between Sh.1, 500 and Sh2, 000 which is about 30 percent of the current market prices and this will save the farmer costs and boost dairy animal productivity in the country,” he explained.
Kamau explained the project, is expected to attract youth and women interested in embracing agriculture.
The chairman confirmed that the sexed semen production technology is part of other major projects KAGRC is undertaking to enhance breeding. The other projects, include pig multiplication, poultry project, embryo transfer and establishment of the dairy goat AI services centre in Kirinyaga County.
Under the embryo transfer programme he added farmers will enjoy reduced breeding time that is required to have high quality cattle.
“The country has a shortage of milk and beef and as an agriculture stakeholder our role is to offer and fast track friendly solutions that are technology based. Production of high quality heifers will help in production more milk and thus shield the country against imports from the region,” said Kamau.
He added, “The pig multiplication project will soon be established and our intention is to source for breeds that can mature at five months as compared to current breeds in the country which take a minimum of eight months to mature and thus farmers will spend less to procure commercial feeds,” explained Kamau.
Kamau added that the breeding programme in the country is distributing bull semen through their 52 agents across the country. KAGRC he added has partnered with 30 county governments to ease distribution of bull semen at subsidised rates.
“In 2018, KAGRC issued free 1, 200 AI kits to the inseminators and consequently contributed to employment creation mainly in the rural areas,” said the chairman.
In the current year, 550 kits will be issued to beneficiaries who will be selected by county governments.
To enhance breeding system and ease access of semens by farmers in the country Kamau disclosed that new substations will be established in Nyahururu and in counties of Kakamega and Taita Taveta. Other operational sub-stations, include Sotik, Kirinyaga and Eldoret.
“Currently we have very good quality dairy animals like the Freisian which is popular with the Kenyan farmers. We also have Ayrshire, Guernsey and Jersey and also the beef breeds which are Sahiwal and Boran,” explained Dr. Kamau.
To suit the changing farming pattern, Kamau disclosed that the government has allocated Sh.400 million for the establishment of a dairy goat A.I. centre in Kirinyaga County.
“The dairy goat AI station will be the first in the country and so far it is 40 percent complete, we expect it will be fully operational by mid-2020 and hence will start producing high quality goat semen,” he explained.
The goat project he said suits well with young people interested in livestock farming. “We believe the project will create job opportunities to youth, for example, production and sale of dairy goat milk,” he added.
On his part Dr. Kios said that the cost of a bull semen straw at KAGRC currently stands at Sh.200 and Sh.250 at agent level. The agents after factoring other costs like transportation and storage sells at Sh.750 per straw to the small scale farmers.
But AI service providers charge farmers between Sh.1, 000 and Sh.1, 500 per dose and owing to conceiving probability of 50 percent, farmers end up incurring huge costs if it fails.
Recently, Government procured four mobile liquid tankers from Italy and France at Sh.40 million to enhance quality of the semens and time taken to reach farmers. The machines are expected in the country in the next one month.
Each tank has a delivery capacity of 2,000 litres and thus will boost the current delivery capacity of 5,000 litres.
By Joseph Ng’ang’a