The current milk production in Uganda is still low, given the fact that the country has a comparative advantage to produce milk over other countries south of the Sahara.
Furthermore, the milk consumption per capita in Uganda is only 50 litres. The population of Uganda is estimated to be 42 million and, going by the recommended per capita consumption of 200 litres per person per year by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the people will need six billion litres per annum, which is much higher than what is being produced.
This goal can only be achieved through the introduction of appropriate technology in feeding, breeding, and management at the farm level. In this article, breed improvement will be discussed.
Other technologies relating to animal nutrition, feeding and management systems will be discussed in the subsequent ones.
Animal breeding is the multiplication of the number of animals for a specific purpose. For dairy farmers, the main purpose is to provide breeds of animals that are suitable for milk production. Breed improvement, therefore, refers to the process through which inferior breeds of animals are upgraded, using improved bulls or artificial insemination.
The outcome of the process is normally an animal that gives more milk and reaches maturity quickly. The cattle population in Uganda consists, predominantly, of the indigenous breeds of cattle and their crosses. Examples of the indigenous breeds include Ankole, Small Zebu and Nganda types. Examples of exotic breeds include Holstein Friesian, Jersey, Guernsey and Brown Swiss. The indigenous breeds are characterised by a higher degree of heat tolerance, lower nutritional requirements, mainly due to their smaller size, a higher level of resistance to ticks and tick borne diseases.
However, they produce little milk, take long to mature and are small in size. On the other hand, the exotic breeds and their crosses are characterised by high yields in terms of growth and milk, susceptibility to diseases, especially the tick-borne diseases and they are expensive to manage and feed.
In planning the breed improvement programme of dairy animals, the emphasis should be two fold; to attain a good conception rate and to improve the genetic potential of the dairy stock of the producer.
To carry out artificial insemination, semen is collected from proven good quality bulls at a breeding centre and frozen using liquid nitrogen. It is then collected by a technician, who, when notified by a farmer, visits the farm and deposits the semen in the uterus of the cow. The method is used widely for breeding dairy cattle in many countries.
Where is good quality semen?
Good quality semen in Uganda can be obtained from the Government’s National Animal Genetic Resources Centre and Data Bank (NAGRIC & DB) in Entebbe or from private breeding service providers, such as World Wide Sires, Africa Breed Services and Heifer Project International.