County counts on reduced AI costs to bolster milk production

A IMurang’a County is counting on reduced artificial insemination costs to bolster milk yields from its 200,000 dairy cows and turn the county into the largest producer of milk at a time when exorbitant AI costs are blamed for farmers’ purchase of poor quality semen.

As an incentive to the farmer, the county government is subsidizing the cost of artificial insemination(AI) service and also ensuring that superior semen is available and administered by the county veterinary officers. The dairy farmers have expressed relief with the reduction of the service by Sh1000 from Sh1500 to Sh500 per service.  The county veterinary officers are providing the service at the farmers’ compounds.

All a farmer needs to do is SMS their details to 22050 free of charge and a veterinary officer is immediately sent to the farmer’s doorstep. Murang’a county governor Mwangi wa Iria is credited with the success of the service and is quoted expressing his commitment to making Murang’a county one of the key suppliers of milk and milk products. To make the project a success, the county has so far spent Ssh48 million in setting the infrastructure and is to purchase 100 motorbikes to be used by veterinary officers for their work and other veterinary services.

“Majority of farmers have been unable to access the service because of the high price. The county government target to have 35 milk cooling stations from the current five,” said Mwangi wa Iria during the launch of the project. This he says will help farmers to avoid losses when getting their produce in large quantities. Farmers will be required to be in cooperatives to ensure the success of the project.

Youth will also be required to form groups of 15 members and will be provided with already inseminated dairy cows  with 77 high grade dairy cows having been purchased to this end. Already the county government has employed 100 veterinary officers who will be providing A.I services to the farmers. Each officer has already been given a motorbike to assist in making the service accessible to farmers.

The cost of semen procured from government laboratories has increased in the past few months to Sh250 per unit from Sh180. Private practitioners who serve the small scale farmers have also raised the prices to between Sh2,000 and Sh4,000 depending on location and category of the semen. 

“This has seen the farmers resort to serving their cows using poor quality bulls in their villages,” Mwangi wa Iria said. Murang’a county has about 200,000 dairy cows which produce an average of 600,000 litres of milk daily. “This is very low performance since it amounts to like 3 litres per cow a day,” said the governor.

Artificial insemination in Kenya started with the establishment of the Central Artificial Insemination Station  (CAIS) in 1946 for the production of semen. Countrywide delivery of AI services since 1966 through the Kenya National Artifical Insemination Services (KNAIS) has been a major contributor to the growth of dairy farming  in Kenya.

Some years ago, the semen distribution was reorganized and privatized. CAIS now distribute semen to through private agents. KNAIS has become a supervisory agent to oversee private inseminators and works closely with the District Veterinary Offices. But the emergence of quacks into the AI sub sector has also compromised conception rates due to poor insemination skills.

Currently the University of Nairobi’s College of Veterinary Services, AHITI Kabete, AHITI Ndoba and the American Breeders Service are among the few institutions accredited by the government to offer training on artificial insemination.