The need for improved genetics avails a lucrative business opportunity for Batswana to set up their own Artificial Insemination (AI) businesses in the remote areas of the country, the National Animal Breeding Coordinator in the Department of Animal Production, Dr. Benjamin Sebonego has said in an interview recently.
Sebonego said a privately owned AI company can allow Batswana to utilize their skills to earn a living, whilst farmers who cannot take their cattle to the camps may have complete coverage of their cattle including those that have calves.
“There are some parts of Botswana that are very remote; those are the places with lots of potential for improved genetic merits of cattle using AI,” he said.
For a person to qualify for AI training, Sebonego said the requirements are that they should be able to read and write, have bought AI equipment, or at least have a kraal and crush where they can practice.
“The other pre-requisite is that the farm has to be fenced (that includes a small holding facility even a communal farm, as long as it has water and the farmer is able to fully supplement the cattle). Training is offered for free at Ramatlabama National AI Lab and Ranch Management center for free.”
Sebonego said according to statistics, the usage of artificial insemination in Botswana is at 0.42 percent in the communal set up, and 4 percent cattle inseminated in the commercial ranch set up as per the cattle population of 2013.
“The low usage of AI has been due in part to the fact that in the communal grazing system the lack of movement restrictions of the bulls leads to an uncontrollable breeding system, and the lack of optimum utilization of reproductive technology like synchronization. There has also been a general decrease in interest by farmers because of the limited accessibility to AI equipment by the farmers,” he said.
“There are 15 AI camps across the vastness of Botswana. Only 5 cows per farmer can enter a government AI camp in a given breeding season. The camps were set up as a way for communal farmers to have accessibility to AI usage. The capacity of the farms has always been a challenge, with the carrying capacity of the camps being highly impacted by the frequent droughts, forest fires, and national activities like restocking after FMD eradications,” said Sebonego.
He added that last year’s drought had a negative impact on the breeding of animals.
“Drought impacts breeding of animals simply because survival comes first. During times of hunger reproduction is sidelined by an animal’s need of basic maintenance energy for survival. The current heat wave also depresses animals and stresses them to a point where they do not fully express heat signs.”
He said several steps have been taken towards combating the limited utilisation of AI which includes:
- Training farmers to monitor and feed their cattle throughout the winter, therefore minimising too much loss in Body Condition Score (BCS), subsidies by the government through LAC’s have been put in place to assist farmers in such times, especially the drought period.
- Training farmers to keep records, especially breeding and health records (vaccination, deworming and dipping).
- Promoting on-farm AI by farmers, including clustering of grazing areas to better monitor grazing systems and breeding by accounting for all bulls in a cluster.
- Usage of Oestus Synchronization (These are medications that are only used only by veterinarian surgeons).
- Other modes of breeding techniques such as heat detection.
- The sale of reproductive equipment at Ramatlabama National AI and Ranch Management center. FMB