Information gap is locking thousands of smallholder dairy farmers in the country from multiplying their cows using a unique artificial insemination method that gives a farmer 90 percent chance to acquire a heifer from a bull of their preferred choice.Dubbed sexed semen the method is used to produce offspring of the desired sex from a particular breed in order to take advantage of difference in the value of males and daughters for specific marketing purposes. This method of breeding was introduced in the mid-2000s and is taking shape in the country.
As opposed to the popular conventional artificial insemination which gives a farmer a 50-50 chance of acquiring a heifer, sexed semen artificial insemination method has not been well publicized. “Many smallholder farmers in the country lack the knowledge about its’ existence save for the large scale commercial dairy farmers,” noted Patricia Kurui of Dairy Biogenetics Indicus East Africa one of the local firms specialized in cattle breeding and reproduction. Although this information gap is being addressed through farmer training workshops and other agro-based forums its’ existence has deprived the farmers the opportunity to capture the massive economic benefits that comes with this technology.
One of the factors which may be inhibiting its adoption in the country may be the pricing. According to Kurui, the market price for sexed semen is about Sh6000 as opposed to the conventional artificial insemination which is priced at about Sh1000. However, every semen supply company in the country retail at various prices depending on the type of bull one chooses. Dairy Biogenetics Indicus East Africa throughout it’s outlets in the country greatly slashed their AI products prices and currently offers the service at 3500-4500 depending on ones’ choice.
The technology has largely been driven by demand from the dairy industry, where a strong heifer calf bias has huge commercial attraction, and bull calves have little significant value. Therefore, the high price value for the service may be absorbed by the long term benefits that the method offers. “Any farmer would always go for a heifer because of the milk production benefits as well as the opportunity to calve and thereby multiplying the flock. This is opposed to the bull which is predominantly for beef production and attracts less value even in the market compared to a heifer,” noted Kurui.
“The use of sexed-semen increases the farmer’s efficiency in developing the herd in four years. Each year’s offspring will produce more milk before reaching high breed status in the fourth year. High breed cows are able to produce more than 20 litres of milk,” said Kurui
The technology also allows the farmer to correctly choose a breed that can withstand the climatic conditions of the area. “Farmers have a chance to be advised on which kind of breed will withstand the climatic conditions and thrive well in that locality for instance, the type of breed that can thrive in Central part of Kenya is not similar to the one that can do well in Western because the weather condition aren’t similar,” explained Kurui.
Despite the scarce knowledge about the method, there is evidence of steady rise in the method’s demand among those in the loop. “The uptake of the technology is steadily rising and in a month we receive over 100 clients. This is in addition to over 22 coolers that are spread across the country and each cooler boast of over 2000 farmers subscribed to it many of whom receive the service monthly,” narrated Kurui.
Interested farmers can access the services from Dairy Biogenetics Indicus East Africa by contacting Patricia Kurui on 0723576296 or 0707332033
Written by Julius Omondi for African Laughter