AI gains ground in Western Province as smallholders strive to increase milk production
By Dean Lihonde Operations Manager - Livestock Markets & Bernard Hauma, Operations Manager – Western Region
When Ultravetis embarked on a program to improve the breed of cattle in Western Province through Artificial Insemination (AI) in 2015, it faced heavy resistance from smallholder livestock farmers claiming that the technique had never been proven in Zambia.
Mwangala Maopu with some of his animals born through Artificial Insemination
To help break the myths surrounding the technique, the company intensified training of farmers in preventative health care and nutrition for their animals as the entry point, and identified farmers that expressed willingness to demonstrate the advantages of AI in boosting the productivity of their predominantly beef animals.
The establishment of a milk processing plant in Western Province by Zammilk, a Zambeef Products Plc dairy division, also gave Ultravetis an opportunity to stimulate the farmers' desire to convert some of their beef animals into diary animals so as to boost their milk production and increase their income.
Two years later, Ultravetis reports that farmers are beginning to buy into the concept. In 2017, the company managed to inseminate 202 animals, with a conception rate of 79 per cent, up from inseminating only 13 in 2015, and 129 animals in 2016.
"With the joint effort of partnering with Zammilk and incorporating extension and awareness programmes, farmers are now more interested in milk breeds like Friesians and Jersey," Ultravetis Manager for Zambia, Dr Mzota Lungu, explained.
Mwangala Maopu, a farmer and headman of Nanganda III village in Limulunga district, is one of the pioneers in utilising AI services and has become a role model in his community.
His herd rapidly increased with 18 calves born since 2015.
Currently, 12 cows were inseminated and the pregnancy diagnosis results indicate that 10 cows had conceived representing 83% conception rate.
I'm convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that A.I works and is cheaper compared to the cost of rearing and maintaining breeding bulls. I pay K200 to have each cow inseminated," he observed.
With the ready market for milk through Zammilk, Moapu has started the process of inseminating his cows with dual breeds that combine both high beef and milk yields. He has taken it upon himself to sensitise and encourage other farmers to adopt and enjoy the numerous benefits that come with AI.
The genetics industry has expanded dramatically and gaining ground in Zambia. In 2016, farmers in five districts of Western Province invested in 229 AIs with other provinces recording equally strong growth.
Between 2014 and 2016, over 3,800 cows in the smallholder sector have been Inseminated with improved genetics by one company.
One immediate benefit of AI observed by farmers has been the remarkable improvement in calving rates (average of 80 per cent) due to careful management of the cows, which has further stimulated demand for the services.
As an organisation that stimulates and supports private sector investment in the smallholder market, Musika's interventions have not only increased farmers access to veterinary products and services but also improved access to transparent and assured markets and technical training.