Scientists are sounding the alarm over rising cases of infertility in cows currently standing at 15 out of every 100 cows in what they describe as avoidable causes like servicing the cows with infected bulls. While there has been traditional causes of infertility which are beyond the control of farmers like blocked fallopian tubes that prevents successful passage of the egg to the sperm, or the fertilized egg to the uterus emerging cases of infertility that farmers can reduce like use of infected bulls have risen by upto 40 percent in recent past.
There is the Infertility caused by genetic defects such as the heifer having both sexual organs, heifers having a uterus that is not developed or inability of the ovaries to produce viable eggs. These ones are pretty much beyond farmers' control,” said Augustine Nderu a veterinary surgeon. However it is the limited knowledge by farmers that have seen them engage in all possible ways to get their cows to conceive as most infertile heifers look healthy.
“There are those infertile cows with defects they got at birth or before birth, we call them 'free martins, and the only way out for farmers is to sell them for meat,”said Nderu.However it is the age old tradition of servicing the cows using bulls that is now the breeding ground for infertility and is happening at a shocking rate.
With the number of bulls in the country is limited, most small holder farmers move their cows around for servicing. A study by Livestock Health Initiative found that in Keigamere village of Kisii one bull serviced over 20 cows.The risk with such a practice is unimaginably high according to Livestock Health Initiative. Bulls suffer from infectious diseases,some that are sexually transmitted. For example, a bull that has brucellosis can pass the disease to a healthy heifer or even a milking cow if it used to serve the animals.
The diseases transmitted this way cause abortions in infected animals. The study also revealed that four out of any ten bulls that serviced cows were infected by a sexually transmittable disease elaborating the higher risk levels. The risk is further aggravated by the fact that when farmers notice that their cows cannot conceive after some time, they sell them to other unsuspecting farmers “This is why it is advisable to use Artificial Insemination services at all times since its a 100 percent safe and the possibility of your heifer delivering are equally high,”added Nderu.
Farmers prefer bulls to artificial insemination due to affordability. While AI services go for Sh1,000 using a bull only fetches Sh300. “I will never change to those alien methods. I have serviced my cows using the bull for the last five years and I have never seen a problem,”said Wahito Kaara a one cow farmer in Kieni Dsitrict.
Scientists are now pitching for use of veterinary surgeons by farmers. The surgeons check important reproductive aspects of the animal such as the diametre of its pelvis and its positioning, the shape of the udder, the birth canal or if the cervix or fallopian tubes are blocked to determine the fertility of lack of it in cows.
They also advise on other management practices such as deworming to ensure the heifers remain healthy during conception.
“I know we have hit huge brick walls with bull owners who say we are stealing business from them. But think about the farmer who has only one cow as his source of income and he gets it infected due to lack of information on his part. Is it fair?,” asked Nderu.