The North West Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (NWDARD) is intensifying efforts to improve the genetic make-up for cattle in the province as part of its Livestock improvement initiative.
The program aims to prioritise growth rate, fertility and milk production. This will be achieved by empowering communal, private and land reform farmers so as to assist them to optimally produce livestock, particularly cattle, with the required quality to be able to compete in the commercial value chain.
The Department is currently piloting the Artificial Insemination, Synchronisation in the Bojanala Platinum District. The District has already spent a tune of R1, 2m from the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme in 2018/2019 purchasing start up resources for farmers. The functionality of the project started in July 2020/2021 through public private partnership approach.
The department said in a statement that to date, about 200 breeding cows have been synchronised and inseminated, embryo flushing was done on 10 breeding stock of one of the volunteer farmers.
“Other beneficiaries of the program are local producers who after an intensive training volunteered as the first batch of participants. So far about eleven subsistence and smallholder producers each availing between 10-30 breeding cows have embraced the initiative with a hope of increasing their calving percentages which will eventually increase their cash flow,” said the department.
The priority bull breeds for insemination includes Bonsmara, Simmertaler, Brahman, Simbra, Boran and Nguni. The pilot programme will begin its reviews through pregnancy diagnosis during March 2021 for all inseminated animals.
As part of the commitments to beef cattle production support, MEC Desbo Mohono for NWDARD indicated that the Department will continue to create an enabling environment for farmers to help them to improve their production through improved animal.
She emphasised that the initiative is bound to assist farmers in ways needed to make the agricultural sector a more economical one, thus leading to a general upliftment of the farmers and the broader communities.
Mohono said that beef cattle production is a developmental vehicle that carries great potential to contribute to the province’s populace by enhancing food security and ultimately improving the quality of life of communities in a sustainable manner.
“Livestock Improvement plays an important role in poverty alleviation and the eventual improvement of livelihood,” MEC emphasised.
She further said that through this programme farmers will be able to increase their profitability since access to the competitive beef industry markets will be improved.
The department said that in its infancy stage, the pilot programme saw voluntary support of private sector partners, Zoeties as well as Embryo Plus.
“With the two companies’ extensive experience in effective breeding, the Department saw a smooth running of the pilot programme. Inclusive of this support, NWDARD has established a team of role players to ensure effective implementation of the game-changing initiative and those include livestock specialists, State Veterinarian, Engineers, Farmers including those who have a wealth of experience in artificial insemination. The team is expected to bring in their knowledge and expertise to enable farmers to exploit opportunities within the beef production value chain.”
One of the beneficiaries, Bojanala District based farmer, Mr Isaiah Nke appreciated the initiative. Nke is one of the farmers who have volunteered 20 breeding cows to be artificially inseminated. He embraced the efforts by the government and wished that more farmers can come on board.
Although he has never thought of it, Nke said Artificial Insemination was one breeding method which was cost effective. He was looking forward to more improved livestock. He called for the Department to invest in training farmers about the method. He said the process comes with general evaluation of livestock and that would benefit farmers as some are sitting with livestock that is no longer economically viable.
The Department plans to implement the artificial insemination programme further in the Bojanala District in the year 2021/2022 before rolling it across the North West province.