Embryo transfers deliver cheap high-yielding Friesians

The Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) has developed a livestock embryo transfer technology that is set to slash the cost of high yielding livestock to as little as one-sixth of today's prices, from up to Sh150,000 to as little as Sh25,000, in a move that will make high yielding breeds far more readily available to smallholders.

The embryo transfer technology involves implanting a developed embryo into a surrogate cow."In the traditionally known artificial insemination (AI) you have to inject the specific breed from which you have acquired the semen, but in embryonic implantation, you can use any breed as the surrogate," said Dr Andrew Tuimur, head of the technical division at ADC.

Currently, high yielding livestock breeds cost between Sh100,000 and Sh150,000, which the majority of farmers cannot afford, but with Sh25,000 to Sh30,000, farmers can acquire developed embryos of quality breeds like Friesian, Asher, Jersey and Guernsey, which can be implanted in any surrogate breed.

Farmers who acquire the embryos first need to prepare the surrogate animals for implantation. Preparation involves the synchronisation of the surrogate cow's hormonal cycles so that it can accept the new embryo.

"The calf will grow normally and the cow will nurse it like its own," said Dr Tuimur.

The recipient should be sexually mature or a regular good breeder free from infection in the genital tract. If the cow has given birth then an allowance of 90 days after the birth period is required. The cow should be recycling normally with good physical condition and should not be fat.

The transplants mean a cow can produce on average 3-4 calves per super-ovulation. “And it is actually possible with this technology to induce a cow to super-ovulate 4-5 times a year. 10 calves can be produced per cow per year,” said Dr Tuimur.

Written by Bob Koigi for African Laughter