Stagnant calving rate: Govt considers free AI programme The calving rate is an indicator in livestock farming that shows a herd’s reproductive efficiency.

Ashton Mutyavaviri

THE Government plans to introduce  free artificial insemination (AI) for the next breeding season, running from December to March to enhance chances of achieving the national herd target of 11 million cattle by 2030.

The move comes on the backdrop of a low calving rate witnessed over the past two seasons. This was largely attributed to the cost implications of the AI programme that most farmers fail to meet.

In 2023, the national calving rate averaging 42 percent remained unchanged from 2022.

Livestock Production Department (LPD) director in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Dr Sitokozile Sibanda yesterday told this publication that the current AI uptake was still low due to cost implications.

“Currently, the uptake is still low. Many farmers, especially small-scale one, cannot afford AI. The Government is on a drive to provide semen for free at the same time raising awareness on AI starting from the next natural breeding season.”

She urged farmers to be deliberate and conscious when breeding their animals.

Dr Sibanda challenged farmers to take advantage of the natural breeding season when the animals’ condition will be good, saying it enhances chances of conception to improve the calving rate.

The calving rate is an indicator in livestock farming that shows a herd’s reproductive efficiency.

It is calculated as the percentage of females giving birth to calves relative to the total number bred. A high rate indicates a healthy and productive herd, while a low rate, as seen in Zimbabwe, averaging 42 percent in 2023, suggests underlying issues.

The key to reaching Zimbabwe’s goal of an 11 million strong herd lies in optimising calving rates.

“By focusing on pre-breeding herd health, nutrition, and strategic insemination techniques, we can significantly improve pregnancy success. This will require a collaborative effort between veterinarians, farmers and Government agencies to ensure proper animal care, access to quality breeding stock and efficient reproductive management programmes,” she observed. 

It is important to recognise that good cattle management is the cornerstone of high calving rates while prioritising training programmes, especially for communal farmers who own the bulk of Zimbabwe’s cattle. She encouraged farmers to manage bulling ratios and select only effective bulls for breeding. 

She highlighted poor nutrition, low genetic diversity, animal health and poor body condition as factors affecting fertility.

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