Much like other African countries, demand for milk and dairy products is on the rise in Cameroon. Indigenous breeds, all zebu cattle, make up the majority of milk-producers in the country. As these breeds are ‘poor milkers’ producing about 500kg of milk per lactation, they cannot meet demand. Exotic breeds such as Hostein and Jersery produce around 12 litres per day by comparison.
The need to improve the milk producing capacity of the local herd, led to the establishment of livestock research programmes at the Bambui and Wakwa Centres of the Institute of Agricultural Research for Development (IRAD). The Centre determined that artificial insemination (AI) would be an effective means of achieving this goal. As the only functional AI centre in the Central Africa Region, the centre supports AI services in the Republic of Chad, the Republic of Central Africa, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and the Congo Republic, because they keep the same cattle breeds as Cameroon.
IRAD Bambui continues to use semen from Holstein-Friesian bulls, originating from northern Europe, to cross breed with local cows so as to improve the dairy potential of the resulting crossbreeds and increase heterosis (when a crossbred individual shows qualities superior to those of both parents). Semen collected from the bulls is evaluated, processed and chilled for subsequent use. This is the first in a series of steps to introducing frozen semen. Previous attempts were unsuccessful because the price of liquid nitrogen was nearly US$30 per litre. With government support for a scheme to reduce the cost of obtaining liquid nitrogen, it could be more easily distributed throughout the country. However, improving the breeding system in Cameroon and its central African neighbours will also require organising breeding societies, empowering research institutions to multiply valuable offspring for improving dairy production and stabilising Cameroonian dairy breeds that are well adapted to local conditions.