AI programme to stimulate national herd growth Veterinary Technical Services acting director, Dr Chenai Majuru recently emphasised the importance of introducing artificial insemination, as a means to fortifying the national livestock population, while taking all the necessary steps to prevent further livestock losses.

Tariro Stacey Gatsi

AS efforts to rebuild the national herd intensify, the Department of Veterinary Technical Services has teamed up with the livestock research unit to initiate a nationwide cattle artificial insemination (AI) programme targeting 6 000 cows this breeding season.

AI is the collection of sperm cells from a bull, which are deposited manually into the reproductive tract of a cow when it is on heat.

This collaborative effort comes in the wake of rampant cattle deaths amounting close to a million between the years 2017 and 2022, primarily due to January diseases and bovine dermatophilosis, which left a lot of farmers without cattle.

Veterinary Technical Services acting director, Dr Chenai Majuru recently emphasised the importance of introducing artificial insemination, as a means to fortifying the national livestock population, while taking all the necessary steps to prevent further livestock losses.

“By implementing AI techniques, we can significantly improve our national herd and work towards reducing the occurrence of diseases and inbreeding.

“AI allows for the careful selection of superior-quality breeding stock, thereby improving the genetic traits of the offspring. Moreover, the synchronisation of reproductive cycles enables efficient management of breeding programmes, ensuring higher success rates and more controlled breeding practices,” added Dr Majuru.

Furthermore, AI comes along with huge benefits such as increased efficiency of bull usage.

A similar programme was introduced in 2022 with livestock specialists being trained as inseminators. The programme is meant to improve the national herd through cross-breeding with semen from selected quality bulls. 

Approximately 2 000 cows and heifers and 1 600 sows were inseminated across the country, then.  

Government is targeting to take the programme to all of the country’s provinces with a view of meeting a target of inseminating 800 000 cows nationwide. 

The period November to March is the best time to carry out artificial insemination, as heifers and cows will be in good body condition for conception. The process should, however, be done correctly by a person who has the technical know-how. 

It is expected that the AI programme will significantly help boost food security and improve the economic situation of many communal households when it achieves its intended goal of boosting beef and milk production.

The 2023/24 final crop, livestock and fisheries assessment report (Pre-harvest) CLAFA 1 shows there was a 13,4 percent growth of the national dairy herd from 53 250 to 60 398 while the milking herd grew to 39 811 cows in 2023 from 35 100 in 2022.

“The national beef cattle herd recorded a growth of one percent in 2023, increasing from 5 642 400 in 2022 to 5 714 543 in 2023,” read the report.

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