Martin Kadzere Senior Business Reporter
Zimbabwe has potential to earn more than US$140 million annually from exporting cattle semen following the recent launch of a production facility in Chinhoyi. Built by the Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT), the state-of-the-art facility has an integrated system that produces and stores at least seven million semen straws per year, Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira said in an interview yesterday.
Currently, the country requires 1,5 million straws for artificial insemination, leaving the remainder for the export markets.
CUT is already working on the modalities to export.
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.
Zimbabwe has an estimated national herd of 5,58 million, of which 45 percent are males, according to Second Crop and Livestock Assessment Report for 2017/18 season.
Previously, Zimbabwe was spending huge sums of money to import the semen.
“We successfully launched the facility on March 22 and it is being run by CUT innovation hub,” said Prof Murirwa.
“The technology has capacity of producing and storing seven million semen straws per year and this provides a very lucrative export opportunity for the institution and the country,” said Prof Murirwa.
In a separate interview, one of the project coordinators Dr Calvin Gomo said the university was now looking at building an industrial hub that will see the establishment of cattle related industries.
On Monday, the Government released $3 million to kick start the projects.
“We are looking at expanding the project so that it involves components associated with the project such as animal production and production of vaccines,” he said.
The project has potential to generate thousands of jobs once fully implemented.
Dr Gomo said the university was working with the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement to roll out artificial insemination in the country.
“We are working with the Ministry of Agriculture and other various stakeholders to create awareness to our local farmers on this innovative initiative,” said Dr Gomo.
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.
Finally, individual farmers can use artificial insemination to increase the genetic pool with which his or her animals can be mated, potentially decreasing effects of inbreeding.