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Govt kick-starts artificial insemination programme

by Staff reporter
28 Feb 2021 at 08:45hrs | Views
THE country's beef and dairy industry is headed for a boom as Government has committed to an extensive livestock revitalisation programme, through a countrywide artificial insemination (AI) exercise that will improve and increase quality of the national herd.

Last week, officials from the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement did a pilot project in the communities of Insiza and Matopo Research Station in Matabeleland South, where more than 600 cows where fertilised.

The Government led exercise is a partnership with the European Union through the Zimbabwe Agriculture Growth Programme (ZAGP), which has an objective to position the livestock sector as a significant contributor to the development of the economy.

Artificial insemination, as defined by livestock experts, is a biotechnological method of collecting semen from a bull and manually depositing it into the reproductive tract of a cow with the aid of instruments.

The scientific method is not new in the country, although some sections of the farming industry, particularly smallholder farmers are still to fully embrace the practice.

As part of efforts to supplement the AI roll out countrywide, agriculture extension officers in Matobo and Insiza Districts were last week trained on how to administer the biotechnological method.

The Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement is of the view that besides increasing the national livestock herd, the application of reproductive biotechnologies will help the country breed cattle with superior genetics in a few years.

There is an estimated 5,5 million cattle in Zimbabwe and the target is to reach a herd of 6 million in five years.
In the ongoing AI programme, the Government has selected the Tuli, Brahman and Boran cattle breeds.

Director of livestock research in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Mr Andrew Chamisa said farmers have to support the Government by accepting AI as a proven method of breeding.

"The programme aims at improving the country's livestock herd, control diseases, improve nutrition, pasture ranchlands and above all animal genetics. In our reach out to farmers, we would want to encourage them to take up the initiative as Government moves to increase the national herd to 6 million by year 2026. This is a shared vision with our implementing partners within the Zimbabwe Agriculture Growth Programme.

"The pilot project we have witnessed in Insiza and Matopo Research Station will cascade to other provinces in the coming days. We selected the best bulls with superior genes, among three breeds namely the Tuli, Boran and Brahman. Out of these, it is expected that artificial insemination will be a success and the country will remain with a good herd on its course to achieve the target in the coming years."

Speaking on the sidelines of the pilot demonstration, a research officer at Matopo Research Station Mrs Grace Tembo said AI was highly preferred as it reduced breeding time compared to traditional methods.

"There is no other way to achieve results in the shortest period of time than to use artificial insemination. The launch in Insiza and Matobo marked the beginning of the programme. From here we will go on to other communities, teaching farmers on the advantages of AI and in also identifying the animals and areas where AI will be done. Community engagements will be done in all the districts," she said.

The AI programme dovetails with principles of the National Development Strategy (NDS-1) where Government plans to prioritise animal health and production through strengthening farmer knowledge, skills in livestock production and health.

Over the years, according to the NDS1, the country's livestock herd declined nationally by approximately 20 percent for beef and more than 83 percent for dairy. The economic blueprint spells out that livestock production plays an important role in the country's social, cultural and economic environment.

Source - sundaynews