Kenya has one of the largest dairy industries in sub-Saharan Africa, with an estimated 3.8 million dairy cattle. Nearly 85% of all milk in Kenya is produced by smallholders, for whom diary production is a major source of income. The industry however suffers from low quality cows with poor milk yielding capacity. Embryo transfer (ET) technology – the process of impregnating a cow with an embryo of superior breeds – offers the possibility for farmers to produce up to 10 calves per year or get a milking cow in 2 years compared to the current 15 year waiting time in some cases.
Supported by the World Bank East African Agricultural Productivity Project (EAAPP), interested farmers can receive advice on the procedures involved in using ET along with a tailor-made programme and financing options from the East Africa Embryo and Semen Transfer Association. The cost however still remains prohibitive for most farmers. A minimum package that includes harvesting embryos from 3 donors and transferring them to at least 5 surrogates costs Ksh200,000 (nearly US$2,000). The association is encouraging farmers to partner or work with cooperatives to meet the financial requirements which hopefully will pay off in the long run since a calf of superior quality can be sold at Ksh150,000 (nearly US$1,500).