By Derrick Silimina
Dairy farming in Zambia is moving into the future as more farmers incorporate automated technologies in their operations.
Individual Farmers may have common expectations on why they opt to rear cattle in order to benefit from products such as beef or milk. Others raise cows for breeding purposes while some keep cattle for prestige whereas others do so in readiness to pay ‘Lobola’ or bride price for their family members.
A thawing device commonly known as a Sperm Warmer is a vital modern equipment meant to facilitate and regulate temperature for semen during Artificial Insemination (AI) of cattle.
And artificial insemination has the potential to improve quality of cattle by bringing in desired genes which small holder farmers can significantly double their livestock production and increase household income.
Despite the availability of water, green pasture, and vast land at 752,000 square kilometres, Zambia realistically is not doing well in terms of its cattle population which is slightly over 3.5 million as compared to a lucrative livestock industry in Botswana which is a desert and has a total cattle population of 2.5 million.
“Currently, it is worrying to note that the conception rate of cattle belonging to small scale farmers in the country has significantly gone down,” says Christopher Muzundu, an expert in Livestock production.
Mr. Muzundu who is also director for Agri-Cm Investments limited a company that distributes feed supplements; premix and animal health products cited poor feeding as one of the major reasons why the low conception rate of cattle is widespread.
In an exclusive interview, Mr. Muzundu further attributed the traditional methods that small scale farmers use to inseminate their animals which do not guarantee the results as the semen get destroyed due to lack of tools and technical know-how of the procedure.
“The major reasons why Small scale farmers have low conception rate due to the quality of their animals in terms of feeding. This means that they are not able to keep their animals healthy. The other factor is their traditional way of inseminating their animals which does not guarantee the results and temperature is not well regulated. For them, it is just guess work and semen gets destroyed during the process of AI,” Mr. Muzundu said.
“The other cause is lack of skills for small scale farmers to detect the exact period when their animals are on heat whether it is mild or not. There is a period when the animal is supposed to be on mild heat and when it becomes mild, that’s when insemination is supposed to be done. Again, for small scale farmers they just assume during this period. Guess work again lowers the conception rate. Furthermore, small scale farmers fail to select quality straw semen required to attain the needed conception rate.”
It is for these reasons highlighted above that a Sperm Warmer device comes in very handy to mitigate the challenges small scale farmers face in the sector.
Mr Muzundu bubbled with confidence that the gadget is precisely made to give the farmer a correct temperature reading and maintains the particular temperature at all levels at a required level which is 37 degrees centigrade which cannot be exceeded or below because it is at that level that conception is to take place.
“The sperm warmer device comes in very handy because it precisely gives you the temperature reading and it maintains this particular temperature at all levels that this is a required body temperature at 37 which should not be exceeded or below because its at that particular temperature that conception is likely to happen. It is also a good potable gadget that you can move about in the field due to the 8 hours it has to continue working after charging especially for farmers who have various outdoor farms,” he stated.
Mr. Muzundu affirmed that livestock production is big business and small scale farmers should treat it as such and not leave it to their commercial counterparts.
“We can only safely say that commercial livestock farmers are the ones able to manage the sector as they have the capacity to maintain quality feeding of their animals and because of that they have higher production rate,” he said.
“Livestock is serious farming; we want to reach to a certain level where production becomes high for all farmers including the small and medium scale farmers in the country by embracing such technologies of the Sperm Warmer which would give them a guaranteed result in terms of conception.”
In his national budget speech on November 11 2016, Finance minister Felix Mutati pledged that the government would continue with construction of 18 artificial insemination centres country wide in order to enhance the livestock sector.
However, it is yet to be established whether this project has kicked off or it was just one of those plain political rhetoric aimed at drawing farmers’ attention.
*For any comments, clarifications or contributions, kindly feel free to get in touch with the author via email: email@example.com