Implementing a countrywide, systematic Artificial Insemination(AI) programme will drastically improve Zambia’s cattle population, says a livestock specialist.
He was speaking at a farmer information workshop held at Lusaka’s Czech Centre of Excellence, an integrated cattle farm.
AI is a process by which sperm is collected from a male. It is then processed, stored, and artificially introduced into the female reproductive tract for the purpose of conception. It is the first great biotechnology applied to improve reproduction and genetics of farm animals. Worldwide it has also had an enormous impact on many species, but particularly dairy cattle.
According to estimates by the Veterinary Department, Zambia’s livestock sector consists of 4 638 000 cattle, 4 800 000 goats, 500 000 sheep, 3 790 000 pigs and nearly 100 000 000 poultry. It is mostly concentrated in Eastern, Western and Southern Provinces. Low productivity is a major constraint to the development of the livestock sector – it is not expanding at a rate sufficient to meet the growing demand.
According to Janse Van Vuuren, AI pilots done in parts of Southern Province had increased conception rates by as much as 55% from low double digits.
“It has been evident that AI in these parts has been successful, with some farmers increasing the conception rates of their animals.
“One of the major advantages, is that AI is the most effective low-input, high-output livestock management practices that local small-scale farmers could easily adopt,” he said.
AI also allows local farmers to mix imported breeds with local cattle breeds to create superior breeds at minimal cost. It also reduces disease transmission.
In addition, AI increases the efficiency of bull usage, eliminating the physical stress during natural breeding and extends the animals’ reproductive lives.