Rwanda: Artificial insemination center to increase cattle production

Rwanda is in the process of setting up a national artificial insemination (AI) center which is expected to help increase the country’s beef production in terms of milk and beef yields.

The AI ​​center is being constructed at the Rwanda Agricultural and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB) Songa Station in Huye District, Southern Province.

It will be an internationally recognized centre, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources. The ministry said it is expected to complete its first phase by the end of this year (2022) at a cost of RWF 1.5 billion.

The ministry said it will produce bovine semen from high genetic merit bulls of different breeds, which will be used to support the Rwandan government’s breed improvement programme.

Solange Uwituze, deputy director general for animal resources research and technology transfer at RAB, told The New Times that the AI ​​center will also help produce and store embryos and provide animal transfer services. embryos. [for cattle production].

The centre, she said, will have two main components – the management of bulls of high genetic merit and a laboratory for the production, processing, packaging and storage of semen.

“The rationale for establishing the AI ​​center is to produce quality and genetically superior germplasm and ensure its rapid dissemination, faster bovine genetic improvement and conservation in Rwanda,” he said. she declared.

Germplasm is the genetic makeup of a species used for breeding or conservation purposes.

Regarding its impact on the Rwandan livestock sector, Uwituze said, the center will bring biodiversity of genes and different types of cattle breeds; availability of semen for dairy and beef cattle as well.

According to RAB information, it has the capacity to accommodate 60 bulls, while 30 bulls can yield about 16,000 semen straws per week. [enough to artificially inseminate 16,000 cows].

It will support partnership and exchanges with other international AI centers in research. Also, it will help in the creation of private breeders associations (for each breed) and the exchange of superior genetics.

There has been the issue of low conception rates in artificially inseminated cattle, which has been a concern for cattle breeders.

Meanwhile, a September 2019 study titled Artificial Insemination Adoption and Success Rate in Dairy Cattle in Rwanda found that the conception rate of heifers in 12 districts in Rwanda increased from 53.2% in 2017 to 71.4% in 2018, while that of cows increased from 79.7% in 2017 to 78.4% in 2018.

The study was conducted by RAB in collaboration with the Rwanda Dairy Development Project (RDDP).

Uwituze said the low conception rate is due to different factors, pointing out that nutrition, metabolic diseases, reproductive health, heat detection, insemination practices by the inseminator and climate could influence the rate of conception. successful artificial insemination.

“On a farm with good cow management practices, the success rate can be maximum. Efforts are being made across the value chain to improve AI success,” she said.

She said the amount of milk produced in Rwanda in the financial year 2020-2021 was 891,326 tons, while the target was over one million tons under the National Transformation Strategy ( NST1) by 2024.

Rwanda’s cattle herd is estimated at 1.3 million, including 41% local breeds, 16% pure exotic breeds and 43% crossbreeds in 2019, according to RAB data. Meanwhile, Uwituze said livestock registration carried out across the country will give the real figure.

Artificial insemination is recognized for the genetic improvement of cattle, resulting in increased productivity of both milk and meat. And genetic improvement has proven to be beneficial in terms of milk production. Uwituze said an improved lactating cow produces an average of 7.5 liters of milk per day, while a local cow produces an average of 1.5 liters of milk per day.

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