Government strives to improve and replenish Sahiwal cattle breed – Kenya News Agency
The government is working to improve dairy cattle breeds for increased milk production through the development of a sustainable heifer delivery model that targets small dairy farmers.
Through the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), the government is racing against time to reintroduce and increase the population of superior Sahiwal cattle in Kenya after it became clear that the country is about to lose the race.
Sahiwal cattle in Kenya are the descendants of approximately 60 bulls and 12 cows imported between 1939 and 1963 and KALRO is one of the world’s leading keepers of Sahiwal, a dual purpose (meat and milk) breed that is highly tolerant of areas semi-arid and arid. conditions.
KALRO Managing Director Dr Eliud Kireger said the government through the National Research Fund (NRF) has funded KALRO for a three-year program to restock the superior breed of Sahiwal for the Maasai community of Transmara South in Narok County through a community-based program. breeding and multiplication program.
“Despite the importance of Sahiwal cattle, its production is affected by several challenges including the acute unavailability of quality climate-resistant breeding stock, inbreeding which leads to loss of genetic diversity and low productivity,” Dr Kireger said. .
Currently, Dr. Kireger noted that access to good Sahiwal heifers and bulls at affordable prices has been the worst nightmare for many farmers, especially Maasai herders across the country who heavily depend on Sahiwal genetic resources for their livelihoods. .
He added that these trends, if left unchecked, will permanently lock farmers in Sahiwal into abject poverty.
“Currently, it is a race against time for the research team to meet the full challenge of accessing superior Sahiwal genetics in Kenya.” he said, but added that so far the KALRO-led program has helped the community produce 309 senior Sahiwal AI calves (male and female) which have been distributed among members of the community breeding program at Transmara.
He noted that 1,234 Sahiwal cows and bulls have been registered with the Kenya Stud Book in the foundation or purebred classes since the start of the three-year scheme.
“Registered animals have received Kenya Livestock Breeders Association certificates and their market price has tripled,” Dr Kireger said.
He explained that through the programme, 65 farmers and extension officers were also trained in good Sahiwal livestock management practices while nine elite and progressive Sahiwal livestock keepers were exposed to ARTs training.
To achieve effective population and genetic diversity for Sahiwal livestock, the General Manager said the program aims to mobilize the whole community including women in the cause of genetic improvement and breeding multiplication. Sahiwal genetics.
KALRO, Dr Kireger said he hoped to replicate the program in other parts of the country to boost the production of Sahiwal cattle, adding that at the end of the program it is expected that there will also be increased resilience of Sahiwal livestock, and therefore, resulting in greater production with surplus to sell and farmers able to ensure their food and nutrition security.
Dr Samuel Mbuku, a livestock farmer and principal investigator of the project and leading scientists from the program’s Veterinary Research Institute, said the breeding program involves the use of assisted reproductive technologies (ART), particularly synchronization of estrus and artificial insemination (AI) to enable and increase the rate of genetic progress, accelerate the multiplication and distribution of the most proven Sahiwal genetics among farmers.
“The main challenge for Sahiwal cattle is access to breeding stock, breeding males and females and we found that many farmers were forced to queue for this breed at KALRO Naivasha and this was not sustainable” , did he declare.
He noted that this resulted in a conscious decision to have a multiplication program that was to speed up access to germplasm by farmers in Narok County.
“Overall we wanted to increase milk production in this area, we wanted to have lots of breeding animals, especially males, and thus consider reducing the cost of animals in terms of buying in Naivasha. Now farmers no longer go there to look for the genotypes since they can get them locally,” Dr Mbuku said.
He noted that since they started the program, training the villagers who were in 12 clusters, they have over 170 bulls locally with groups of farmers in the Lolgorian division in Transmara where the appetite for the breed was very high and the genetic material is circulating. in the zone.
Jameson Olenagida, a cattle herder from the Maa community, said: “We used to keep kienyeji cows, but since the introduction of Sahiwal heifers, the community has improved and slowly adopted the new breed. “
“We realized it had many benefits, giving us both milk, meat and money. Initially, we used to go to Naivasha to buy ordinary cows and we could use up to 270,000 shillings for purchase and transport with the trucks having many problems,” he explained. .
Wilson Kipeno, the community coordinator, said that once farmers have received training from KALRO on AI technology, they move away from ordinary cow husbandry to better confined farming.
David Mosingo, another farmer, said that initially they were unaware of the breeds they were raising and they continued with the tick and water challenge.
“The Sahiwal breed is hardy, fast growing and suitable for all climates,” he said.
Noonkuta Sampei, said that when she had regular cows, she milked a lot to get enough milk, but for the Sahiwal breed, she only had to milk a few to get enough.
The Sahiwal is one of the best dairy breeds. It is tick resistant, heat tolerant and renowned for its high resistance to parasites, both internal and external.
Cows produce on average 2270 kg of milk during a lactation and much higher milk yields have been recorded. His bull weighs around 600 kg, twice the average weight of local breeds with the price of a calf aged around one year going up to Sh 40,000.
The Sahiwal cattle breed in Kenya has been reported to have a decreasing effective population size and an increasing level and rate of inbreeding, implying a decrease in genetic variability, hence the 3-year NRF-funded project dubbed “Smallholder Farmers’ Access to Improved Livestock Genetics in Kenya: A Model for Accelerated Delivery of Dairy Heifers Using Breeding Technologies”.
By Wangari Ndirangu