New Dairy Breeding Technic in Mukurwe-ini
By Samuel Waititu
Dairy farmers in Mukurwe-ini sub-county of Nyeri have a reason to smile as they are set to reap big following the introduction of a new technology of breed improvement with higher yields in milk in just one calving period.
The development follows a move by Gakindu Dairy Co-operative Society of introducing the new technology of breeding animals through a procedure called Embryo Transfer (ET), which involves transfer of embryos from genetically superior animals into inferior ones to produce better offspring.
This technology which involves harvesting of embryos from high quality breeds of animals a few days after fertilization and implanting them into animals of lower economic value enables farmers to get offspring with higher milk production.
Dr. Muchemi Kariuki from the State Department of Livestock says the donor cow, which is first conditioned with hormones to induce ovulation thereby releasing several eggs, which normally range between 10 to 15.
The animal according to Muchemi is then inseminated for the next 12 hours, three hours apart, to ensure all the eggs are fertilized upon which the embryos are flushed out after seven days in a procedure called ‘washing the uterus’.
Excess fluid is then filtered using a catheter and the embryos are selected to separate male and female embryos and then graded under a microscope. Muchemi says the embryos are then transferred into females called “recipients”.
“The donor animal is not allowed to carry the offspring to term in order to ensure it continues being used to produce more embryos,” says the veterinarian, adding that the embryos can be transferred immediately into recipients or frozen for later use.
He adds that when embryos are set to be transferred immediately, the recipient cow is brought on heat at the same time as the donor animal in a process called heat synchronization to ensure the harvested embryo finds suitable conditions to grow.
Muchemi adds that the donor cows are selected based on milk production, body conditions, dairy character and fertility factors of the animal and the recipients have no genetic effect on the calf they deliver since they are merely surrogates.
Dr. Morne De` La Rey, Director, Embryo Plus Company from South Africa that offers services in semen collection says the technique is an excellent reproductive technology and an economical method of genetic multiplication to increase impact of outstanding animals in a herd.
He says the embryo of a genetic superior animal implanted into the womb of a genetically inferior recipient will produce an equally superior offspring with same genetic qualities of the donor animal.
“Implanting a high-value pedigree embryo into a genetically inferior animal will drastically reduce the duration that it would take to achieve that standard by the normal grading up scheme of improving successive generations’ progenies,” says Dr. Morne.
The doctor adds that the genetically superior embryos can be implanted into inferior breeds of animals such as the Boran which are cheaply available in the country.
He adds via embryo transfer, a farmer is able to get a high-pedigree breed with milk production capacity of up to 40 liters in a day in just nine months, which can otherwise take between 7 to 10 years if an animal is improved the natural way.
The Chair of Gakindu Dairy Co-operative Society, Ephantus Gichohi, says they bought the idea from the East African Semen and Embryo Transfer Association and organized for farmers’ sensitization program in partnership with Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP).
He says with proper uptake of the technology by farmers, the society projects to increase its milk collection from current quantity of five liters to 30 liters per cow every day.
The cost of carrying the procedure on one animal can go as high as Sh. 60,000 which Gichohi says is quite high for majority of their farmers.
“We are looking into the possibility of introducing a revolving fund to help ease the burden of cost implications associated with the technique on our farmers thereby increasing its uptake,” says the chairman.
ASDSP Institutional Capacity Development Coordinator in Nyeri County, Robert Wamani, says they are keen on bringing new trends, technologies and innovations in agriculture to farmers’ as a way of capacity building them to increase production.
Beth Muthoni, a member of the co-operative society hails the technology, saying it spells good fortunes for them since they will be able to increase their milk yields within a short span of time, which could have taken longer via Artificial Insemination (AI) procedure.
(AI) is the technique where semen from elite males is collected and introduced into female reproductive tract.
The technique, however, is a slow upgrading program which can take up to 10 years to acquire a high-value pedigree breed as it improves the offspring by a system of succeeding generations moving up till the standard considered necessary is acquired.
Despite the cost implication associated with the technology, Muthoni says the gains set to be acquired far much outweigh the cost incurred.
“Besides increasing milk production for us, the offspring produced thereby are of high quality and can fetch good prices in the market,” Muthoni affirms.