Ethiopia boasts the largest number of cattle in Africa, but millions of Ethiopia’s cattle owners struggle to improve the number of female calves their cows birth as well as their milk producing capacity. This is due in part to a deficient breeding system incapable of meeting demand. Currently artificial insemination (AI) technicians must travel door to door and are only able to inseminate an average of 3 cows per day. In many cases, they arrive too late in the cow’s oestrus cycle and insemination cannot take place.
The ‘Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers’ (IPMS) project operated in 4 regions of Ethiopia from 2005-2012 with the aim of providing ‘mass insemination.’ Funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), IPMS was a research for development project implemented by International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) of Ethiopia as well as Regional Agriculture Bureaus and Livestock Agencies. The ‘mass insemination’ model brings cows to the technicians instead of bringing the technicians to the cows. By informing farmers about the benefits of AI and encouraging them to bring their cattle to a central location then synchronising their oestrus using hormones to better ensure fertilisation, thousands more cows can be inseminated with improved varieties and sexed semen to increase the female cattle population.
In total 1,400 cows in Tigray and the Southern Regional State received AI. 95% of the cows responded positively to the hormone treatment to synchronise oestrus, and there was a resulting conception rate of 65%. Using X-bearing (female) sexed semen has resulted in the breeding of 90% female calves. Improved cows sell in Ethiopia for between ETB 18,000-20,000 (about US$850 – $1,000).
Kebeat Halform, a female farmer who participated in the programme, explained that her improved cow produces around 17 litres of milk per day selling for about ETB 140 (US$6.5). Each month, Kebeat earns around ETB 3,000 (almost US$150) that is enough to cover her feed costs and leave her with a profit. Her cow just gave birth to a female calf. She expects to be able to produce more milk, yoghurt and butter that will enable her to school her children and save money.