The Ol Pejeta Conservancy is a non-profit organization located in Kenya’s Laikipia County. In addition to boasting East Africa’s largest black rhino sanctuary, Ol Pejeta holds the largest single herd of Boran cattle in the world. With a herd size of 2,000 top quality Boran breeding cows, Ol Pejeta is at the forefront of breeding for improved beef production. As a member of the Boran Cattle Breeders’ Society, Ol Pejeta as embraced breeding technologies such as artificial insemination (AI) and embryo transfer (ET).
Although Ol Pejeta has not used ET for its own breeding programmes, but it has exported 1,600 embryos from around 100 cows to South Africa. To comply with export regulations, Ol Pejeta relied on expertise from South Africa which cost more than US$1,000 per calf born. This proved to be the most costly aspect of the embryo transfer process given that a team of 1 vet and 3 technicians are able to flush 20 cows and freeze all their embryos in the span of just 1 day.
ET has a number of benefits, such as mitigating the transmission of viral diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease which are endemic across Africa. Local ET vets are also growing in numbers who can provide services to smallholder farmers, but drugs and other equipment necessary for ET remain high and the results have thus far been poor. Whist ET will be important to large scale dairy farmers, to multiply their top performing breeds, AI remains the most affordable and accessible option for smallholders for improving milk production. Ol Pejeta also provides improved breeds and semen at subsidized rates in addition to training for local communities through their ‘Linking Livestock Markets with Wildlife Conservation’ programme.