AI technology changes fortunes of Elgeyo Marakwet dairy farmers
Five years ago Elgeyo Marakwet county administration in a bid to revive its waning dairy sector introduced subsidized Artificial Insemination (AI) services as a way of revitalising the fortunes.
Initially farmers relied on bulls to breed their cows resulting in rampant inbreeding, eventually lowering production in their livestock.
But the scenario is changing for the better as many farmers are recording increased milk production and superior breeds after embracing the ‘sexed semen’ AI technology initially accessed only by established dairy farmers.
Sexed semen, is 100 per cent sure to produce the female calf.
Interestingly farmers are christening their calves ‘Tolgos’ in gratitude of the area Governor Alex Tolgos bid to revamp the sector that was on its knees.
Patrick Kurui from Kabiemit ward narrates how bull breeding was the only option to farmers because the AI services was expensive.
“Like the majority of farmers around, I used to serve my cows with a bull, and they gave birth to bulls and also produced less milk. AI service was expensive to us, especially the sexed semen that would go up to Sh10,000, depending on the breed,” he recalls.
Kurui said despite owning five lactating cows, they hardly produced eight litres of milk a day.
“I remember on several occasions I would get five litres to sell and my family sometimes went without consuming milk. But not any more, because on a bad day the cows produce more than 50 litres of milk on a daily basis courtesy of AI services,” he notes.
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Another farmer, Samuel Kosgei, from Kamariny ward, said a milk chilling plant that was in the area was about to be relocated.
“We had a chilling plant with a capacity of 20,000 litres but the farmers in the entire region rarely produced 2,000 litres a day. There was no livestock improvement at all. But AI technology has turned our fortunes around. We are almost now surpassing the capacity,” he disclosed.
Kosgei observed the households' income has also changed owing to the use of AI services not only in the dairy sector but also in beef farming.
“Beef farmers are also benefiting because the bulls are of superior breeds, making them fetch high market prices unlike before where a bull would not fetch Sh15,000,” he said.
Area Deputy Governor Wesley Rotich told The Standard they have since purchased and distributed 261 pedigree heifers, 16 dairy goats, 45 wool sheep and 125 rams, 30 dorper sheep and 75 rams, 103 galla bucks’ goats, 14,038 improved chicken, 28 Sahiwal bulls to improve the livestock sector.
“Under the subsidised AI programme we have so far been able to carry out more than 20,000 inseminations with 80 per cent success rate. We achieved this through employment of inseminators and purchase of motorbikes for their mobility in the wards,” said the deputy governor.
He said given the cheap cost, demand for AI services has grown drastically with the onset of the Sh12 million project.
“We procured semen and sold it to farmers for Sh200, down from the market rate of Sh2,000. As for the sexed semen, they pay only Sh500, down from Sh6,000, the prevailing price,” he said.
So far more than 10,000 improved calves have been given birth since we launched the programme with subsequently increased milk production in the county drastically.
“To cope with the increased milk production we have constructed 10 milk coolers and installed 13 coolers in wards that had ready houses,” he said.