Centre to improve cattle breeds

Precious Manomano

Herald Reporter

THE Government intends to construct a bull and semen centre in Matopos to spearhead artificial insemination programme and capacitate farmers as part of the country’s concerted to build national herd.

Once the centre has been set up, it will enable the nation to cross breed indigenous and exotic brands.

Currently the functional bull centres and semen processing laboratories is found at Mazowe Veterinary Field Research Stations and Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) conducts training to capacitate farmers to also inseminate their cattle.

Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Permanent Secretary Dr John Basera said recycling of bulls in communities resulted in inbreeding recessiveness whereby small cows are produced.

He said they are working with other private players to upscale and improve the national herd genetics.

Dr Basera also promised to construct more bull and semen centres in future.

“Livestock genetics and improvement is the best area we have also worked on. We have realised that our beast size is getting smaller and smaller because of inbreeding. We need to reverse that negative. We now have a laboratory that is the bull and semen centre at Mazowe and we need to set another one in Matopo so that we cater for that part of the country.

Last year Veterinary department started to roll out artificial insemination programme whereby they acquire semen from the best bulls and then inject it in heifers in rural areas as a way to improve the national herd genetics.

The advantage of adopting modern technologies is that farmers could produce cattle breeds of their own choice.

The process should be done correctly with a person who has technical knowhow and only a strong and fit animal should be done.

Zimbabwe National Farmers’’ Union vice president Mr Edward Dune said the programme is a welcome development which is aiming to increase the national herd after the country lost thousands of cattle due to tick borne diseases.

“We are grateful for this programme. You choose from the breed you want. National herd has depleted due to tick borne disease, this strategy will enable farmers to increase their cattle,” he said.

Mr Dune added that the programme also provides a room for skills transfer and expertise that will uplift the livestock and husbandry sector.

Mrs Wendy Muriwo, a farmer from Mashonaland West in Makonde, hailed the programme saying it will come to sustain beef industry.

“We have no doubt that the initiative will culminate in high beef production for both domestic and export markets, she said.

Another farmer from Banket, Ms Spiwe Mazunza, said the Government has come to resuscitate the livestock sector.

“The advantage of this new technology is that we can produce cattle breeds of our choice which suite different climatic conditions and natural regions,” she said.

She also said the new bull semen harvesting technology would significantly give growth to the entire beef industry.

Artificial insemination involves the collection of sperm cells from a bull and manually deposit them into the reproductive tract of a cow.

The initiative came following realisation that the country had a shortage of bulls, at a time the Government is working on restocking following a sharp decline of the national herd since 2000.

Previously, Zimbabwe was spending huge sums of money to import the semen.

After production, the cattle semen can be stored for 40 years in nitrogen tanks.

Artificial insemination comes along with huge benefits such as increased efficiency of bull usage.

During natural breeding, a male will deposit much more semen than is theoretically needed to produce a pregnancy.

In addition, natural breeding is physically stressful. Both of these factors limit the number of natural matings a male can make.

Collected semen can be diluted and extended to create hundreds of doses from a single ejaculate.

In addition, semen can be easily transported, allowing multiple females in different geographical locations to be inseminated simultaneously, and semen can be stored for long periods of time, meaning that males can produce offspring long after their natural reproductive lives end.

Because artificial insemination allows males to produce more offspring, fewer males are needed.

Therefore, one can choose only the few best males for use as parents, increasing the selection intensity.

Furthermore, because males can have more offspring, their offspring can be used in a progeny test program to more accurately evaluate the genetic value of the male.

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