Livestock farmers in Eastern Province have said that the government’s campaign to transform local breeds into cross-breeds has been successful.
In a mini survey carried out around different farms in Nyagatare district, it was discovered that in a farm of 30 cows about 70percent of them area cross-breeds, projecting that since the campaign’s inception in early 1995, it has registered tremendous impact on modern farming in the province.
Nyagatare district leads with the highest number of cows in the country, followed by Gatsibo and Kayonza districts in the same province.
According to veterinary officials in Eastern Province, the campaign left over 10, 000 cross-breeds in the province, leading to mass increase in milk production.
Dr. Justin Zimulinda, an official with Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) in Eastern Province said that the main focus of artificial insemination of local breeds, commonly known as Ankole cattle into cross and exotic cows was to increase milk production in the country.
“We are at a good level in other animals’ sources of production like meet, eggs and others. What we wanted was to increase milk production and the result has been true,” said Dr.Zimulinda.
According Dr. Zimulinda, the artificial insemination saw the number of local breeds being inseminated and produced between 50% and 75% cross breeds which increased milk production.
Before the campaign started, according to different farmers interviewed, the practice had been stuck on the culture of cattle nomadic pastoralism where massive sensitization was needed to facilitate them to switch to high milk-producing type of cows.
“I owned over 100 local breeds before the campaign. But whenever dry season came, my cows would die and reduce to even 50 in a mere one year. But the campaign came and we were sensetised to switch to cross-breeds and production is now testifying,” said Ladislas Karamaga, a farmer in Rwempasha sector.
“At first we rejected the advice from Government on the fear that cross-breeds were expensive and high demanding compared local breeds…but after massive sensitization to adopt the new system of cross breeds that provided enough milk production, the journey has been successful and a big number of cross-breeds have been registered in the province.
We thank government for really deep thinking for us,” said a 70-year-old cattle farmer, Calixte Rwabyoma as he points at a number of cross-breeds he owns in his farm.
Jonas Munyaburanga, a local farmer in Rwimiyaga sector testified that he had 90 local breeds that only produced 20 litres of milk a day, but after he changed them into cross-breeds, he currently supplies over 80litres of milk a day from ten local breeds.
According to Dr.Zimulinda, as a result of artificial insemination in local breeds, milk production almost tripled compared to previous years.
“Before this campaign, milk production was at around 12, 000 litres but today, over 60,000 litres of milk are supplied by farmers,” he said.
Apart from increasing milk production in the province, the campaign also helped to reduce the number of cows that needed extensive land that is scarcity in the country.
“We are grazing on a very little piece of land compared to when we owned local breeds. This is also another positive impact,” a farmer said.
During the campaign to change local breeds into cross-breeds, a number of development partners played a crucial role in the campaign. Partners in the campaign include East Africa Diary Development project (EADD), and Former Umutara Community Resources and Infrastructure Development Programme (UCRIDP/PDRCIU), among others.