Poor artificial insemination techniques are some of the reasons hindering the growth of the dairy industry in Kenya.
The inferior semen in use and inefficient distribution mechanisms to farmers has greatly contributed to the increase of low quality cow breeds in Kenya, and Africa, resulting in reduced milk production and inferior quality meat.
Research in the past few centuries has involved the use of selective breeding techniques the result in high-yielding dairy breeds, like the Holstein-Fresian, which produce a minimum of 5000 litres per year.
In comparison, indigenous cows, such as the Maasai Zebu, although very well adapted for their environment, produce 5-10 times less milk.
Recognizing this large discrepancy, many developing world countries are striving to improve milk yields—and therefore farmers’ incomes and food security—by crossing the genetics of these selectively-bred cows with the hardy indigenous cattle. Artificial insemination is the prevailing method used to accomplish this goal.
Artificial insemination, at its simplest, requires that semen be collected from a well-bred bull, and inserted into a cow on heat.
A lot of research and development has enabled semen to be cryogenically frozen with liquid nitrogen, a technique that preserves it, almost indefinitely, as it is transported to where it is needed. However, in countries like Kenya, opportunities exist for the degradation of semen as it is being transported, making it in effective when it arrives to rural locations where it is needed.
It is against the backdrop of these challenges that the Kenya Animal Genetics Resources Centre (KAGRC), is working to ensure that it has enough preservation facilities around the country.
KAGR is a State Corporation that was established in, 2011 as a successor of the Central Artificial Insemination Station (CAIS), which was founded in 1946. The Centre is involved in the production, preservation and conservation of genetic material- semen, embryos, tissues- and live animals.
To keep up with the increasing demand for its services, KAGRC recently acquired four liquid nitrogen plants stationed in Nairobi, Eldoret, Meru and Nyahururu. Immediate plans involve setting two more liquid nitrogen substations, in Sotik and Kirinyaga
At its optimum, KAGRC will produce 1.5 million straws of semen every year, in order to meet the local and export demand.
KAGRC believes that using its semen, it only requires 1.2 -1.4 inseminations, for conception to be achieved, if all other factors are right.
In addition, the centre has rolled out an SMS based bull advisory system, which will provide timely breeding information to farmers upon request, something KAGRC believes will “reduce inbreeding, leading to improved production and profitability in addition to empowering famers with relevant skills on livestock management practices.”