Ugandans Still Shun Artificial Insemination Despite Its Benefits

Veterinary artificial insemination is a technique of breeding cattle that is yet to be appreciated in Uganda despite its benefits.

The technology which improves the genetics and reproduction of farm animals is one of the most effective techniques available to cattle producers. Although it has been practised in Uganda for over 60 years, less than 10 per cent of the country’s herd has been bred through insemination.

In Uganda, artificial insemination services are being promoted as part of the services that can be funded under the Parish Development Model with the hope that it can be a booster for the dairy sector. A 2019 study by the Economic Policy Research Centre found that dairy farmers in Uganda were producing 2.4 billion litres of milk annually instead of 10 billion litres.

The low production was blamed on diseases and low uptake of grade exotic breed cattle. A failure of artificial insemination and limited access to extension workers were other factors blamed for low production. The National Animal Genetic Resource Centre and Databank (NAGRC&DB) has recently stepped up efforts to increase artificial insemination and embryo transfers.

Mastula Namubiru, a Livestock Technician with NAGRC&DB told URN that the Ministry of Agriculture has an arrangement under the community breeding program where semen from improved breeds is given to farmers at no cost. She says generally, the semen has also been subsidized as part of the efforts to scale up veterinary artificial insemination (AI).

Namubiru says there is no doubt that artificial insemination can improve animal productivity and help meet the soaring demand for animal products in Uganda.

The EPRC study found that most farmers in western Uganda who had embraced exotic breeds are reverting to the local Ankole cattle. Farmers reportedly cited the cost of managing exotic breeds as one of the factors they were reverting to local breeds despite low milk production.

Namubiru, however, says farmers need more sensitization on the management of the exotic breeds.  “Of course when taken on the exotic breeds, you need to improve on the care. Those who think that these animals are difficult to take care of need more sensitization,” Namubiru said.

According to Namubiru, the crossbreeds come with an added advantage in terms of milk production and are able to withstand drought conditions because of the attributes of the mother.

A report by the International Livestock Research Institute in 2003 shows that in many districts, less than 2 per cent of communities reported the availability of artificial insemination services locally, and in large parts of the country, particularly central-west and the north, there was no reported access to or use of it at all.

According to Diary Development Authority, the dairy sector contributes approximately 9 per cent of the national Gross Domestic Product, playing an important role as a source of food, income, and employment. Uganda Dairy Development Authority (DDA) indicated that milk production in Uganda increased from 2.08 billion litres in 2015 to about 2.5 billion litres in 2017.

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