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Murage, A. W1, Muasya, T. K.1 and Ilatsia, E. D.12
 Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, National Animal Husbandry Research Centre, Naivasha P. O. Box 25,
Naivasha 20117Kenya
 Animal Breeding and Genetics Group, Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University, Njoro, Kenya
As part of the economic re-structuring, the Government of Kenya (GoK) has reduced the level of support and
interventions in the dairy industry. These actions have altered the access of small-holder dairy producers to
Artificial Insemination (AI) services and occasioned an influx of imported semen into the market. The
objectives of this study were to determine the quantity of semen from foreign countries introduced into the
local market and establish the reasons for farmer preferences of the available semen in the market. To achieve
these, 3 sets of questionnaires were used to collect information at different levels of AI channels in Kiambu and
Nyandarua districts. Information was sought on semen providers, AI technicians and on farmers, which
represented levels 1, 2 and 3 of the AI channels, respectively. The results of the survey were presented in form
of descriptive statistics. Since the liberalisation of the industry, there has been an increase in the quantity of
semen imported in the country over the years. This has been occasioned by high genetic merit of bulls from the
exporting countries and as a result such semen attracted high cost of insemination. The ease of access to private
AI technicians and dairy co-operatives in Kiambu District made the use of AI more prevalent than Nyandarua
District where natural service by use of unproven bulls was more common. Implications of the results to future
dairy cattle improvement policies are discussed.

Artificial insemination (AI) services as a reproductive technology was introduced in Kenya in the 1930s as a
means of rapid dissemination of genes from superior bulls to the large indigenous cattle population and also as
a method to control the spread of reproductive diseases. The services were heavily subsidised by the
Government of Kenya (GoK) as one of the strategies to realise rapid genetic improvement in the local dairy
cattle populations. However due to the liberalisation of the services and concurrent introduction of structural
adjustment policies in the early 1990s, there has been an influx of semen from genetically superior sires
selected for increased milk yield mostly from developed countries (Ojango and Pollot, 2001) and a greater role
of the private sector participants in the industry (Owango et al., 1996).
Farmers have relied on imported semen on the assumption that they will be able to achieve increased milk
production similar to that obtained in the exporting countries where high genetic gains have been reported. This
assumption might not be true since these countries have different production systems and operate under
different environmental conditions. Therefore dairy cattle improvement strategies based on imported
germplasm should be implemented cautiously because of the significant genotype x environment interaction
(Ojango and Pollot, 2002; Vargas and van Arendonk, 2004) and the sharp contrast in breeding goals and
breeding strategies between Kenya and the exporting countries (Kahi and Nitter, 2004; Kahi et al., 2004;
Okeno et al., 2006). It is important to have knowledge on the amount of semen sourced from developed
countries and introduced into the Kenyan market, its distribution and associated costs to the farmers to facilitate
informed decisions on future breeding strategies following a cost-benefit analysis and a comparative
assessment of genetic gain resulting from either use of imported or local semen. This paper presents
preliminary results of an ongoing study to determine the impact of liberalisation of AI services on the dairy
industry in Kenya.

Materials and methods
Three sets of questionnaires were used to collect information at different levels of AI channels. Level 1 was on
Semen providers; level 2 was on AI technicians and level 3 on farmers. Extension staff in each district were
used to help in sampling and in data collection. A cross sectional survey was conducted whereby 56 farmers
and 20 AI technicians in Kiambu were interviewed, while 46 farmers and 10 AI technicians were interviewed
in Nyandarua district. Interviews were conducted in vernacular languages, Kiswahili or English depending on
the level of education of the respondent. Most questions were open ended and the enumerator would tick the
answers given by farmers against prepared lists in the questionnaire. A transect was drawn within a sub
location and a target household was randomly picked after every 3 kilometres. AI providers and technicians
were purposefully sampled with the help of department of veterinary services field personnel. The AI providers
and AI technician were picked based on their experience in the industry. The main features in the
questionnaires are presented in Table 1.

Table 1– Questionnaire information sought for the different levels of AI channels
AI Channel                        Information sought
Semen Providers                   Types of semen sold (imported or local), exporting country, breeds, quantity
                                  imported semen per breed (no. of straws), quantity of local semen,
AI technicians                    Business status (private, cooperative, appointed agent), type of semen (local,
                                  imported), semen source, semen procurement costs, amount procured per breed
                                  cost per insemination, other services offered to farmers, farmers’ preferences
Farmers                           Household characteristics, livestock inventory, method of insemination (AI, natural
                                  type of semen used (local or imported),reasons for choice of semen type, ability to
                                  discriminate between semen type, service providers (private or cooperative
                                  technician),cost per insemination (local or imported), availability of AI services,
                                  conception rates, awareness and knowledge of breeding, strengths and weaknesses
                                  AI privatisation

Results and discussion
Figure 1 shows the trends in the quantity of semen from developed countries imported by breed into the local
AI market. The results indicated that there had been an influx of semen from genetically superior sires selected
for increased milk yield from developed countries. The general positive trend in the amount of imported
germplasm could be attributed to the superior genes of the sires for milk production and also the aggressive
marketing strategies employed by the private companies. The upsurge in imports also reflected a correlated
increase in the demand for foreign germplasm to boost production of the local dairy breeds. This emerging
shift to foreign semen was occasioned by the low success rate of the local selection programmes due to major
physical and socio-economic constraints, poor performance and pedigree field recording and lack of expertise
in genetic evaluation of local breeding bulls (Kahi et al., 2005). Many farmers were therefore opting for
germplasm from temperate countries as an attempt to achieve faster genetic improvement of the local dairy
cattle (Ojango and Pollot, 2002; Bebe et al., 2002; Okeno et al., 2006).

                   60000                                                                                Friesian
                   50000                                                                                Jersey
   No. of straws

                                                                                                        Brown Swiss



                           1998       1999        2000       2001       2002        2003       2004

Fig. 1. Trends in quantity of semen (by breed) imported by private semen companies into the country

In Kiambu district, 45 farmers interviewed (80%) used AI services while only 7 farmers (13%) opted for
natural mating (Table 2). Four farmers (7%) used both methods especially in the event of repeated
insemination. In Kiambu, AI services were mainly provided by private technicians. Of the 20 AI providers
interviewed 12 were mainly private technicians (60%) and while 8 cooperative societies (40%) provided these
services to their members (Table 2). There were 14 dairy co-operatives and 10 out of these offered AI services
in addition to milk marketing. Private technicians were widespread within the district. The survey established

that local semen accounted for 90% of all the inseminations in the district with farmers citing low costs as the
key reason for their preference. For the few farmers who opted for imported semen, increased performance of
the resultant progenies was cited as the major reason for their preference. Apart from the semen cost, the
farmers’ choice for either local or imported semen was influenced by information provided by the AI
Contrary to what was observed in Kiambu district, the privatisation of AI seemed to have had a negative
impact on the dairy industry in Nyandarua district. Natural mating was predominant in the district and
accounted for 92% of the inseminations (Table 2). Use of AI was more established around urban centres due to
easy accessibility to AI technicians. Most areas in Nyandarua were characterised by poor road networks
rendering them sometimes impassable especially during the wet season. Whilst the government routinely
provided AI services, liberalisation of the services had made it inaccessible to most farmers. This was
attributed to the districts’ terrain that hinders effective communications thus attracting only a few private AI
technicians who were willing to invest in the service. In addition, poor and unreliable milk markets coupled
with low milk prices made farmers unwilling to procure AI services.

 Table 2–Method of insemination (%), semen type and insemination costs in Kiambu and Nyandarua districts
 Information                                                              Kiambu        Nyandarua
 Method of insemination (%)              AI                               80            8
                                         Bull                             13            92
                                         AI and Bull                      7
 Semen type (%)                          Local                            60            86
                                         Imported                         10            7
                                         Local and imported               20
                                         Technicians Dependant            10            7
 AI providers (%)                        Private technicians              60            72
                                         Cooperatives                     40            28
 Cost per insemination (KES)             Local semen                      400-1500      300-600
                                         Imported semen                   900-3000      1000-2000
                                         Bulls                            300-400       100-400

Semen charges ranged from KES 400 to KES 1500 and from KES 900 to KES 3500 per insemination, for local
and imported semen, respectively in Kiambu district, while in Nyandurua districts, the cost of the services
ranged from KES 300 to KES 600 and from KES 1000 to KES 1200 for local and imported semen
respectively (Table 2). For local semen, the cost varied depending on whether the semen was from progeny
tested or nominated bulls. Semen from progeny tested bulls attracted high price because their genetic merit had
been established based on progeny performance. However 74 farmers interviewed preferred semen from the
local bulls because it was easily available and attracted lower costs compared to foreign semen (Table 2). High
cost of AI services had forced some farmers to opt for natural services using the available unproven bulls from
the neighbourhood. Bull service costs varied within a limit of KES 300 to KES 400 and KES 300 to KES 500
in Kiambu and Nyandarua districts, respectively. Most farmers who chose to use natural services also cited low
conception rates and increased numbers of inseminations per conception associated with AI services. Most
farmers interviewed in both Kiambu and Nyandarua concurred that the AI services were now readily available
than when the services were being offered by the GoK. Where dairy co-operatives existed (as was the case
with Kiambu district), farmers enjoyed the daily routines made on specific routes. However, the cost of the
service was perceived to be quite high, and repeated services were of great concern. Farmers lacked knowledge
on how to discriminate between local and imported semen lest for the cost of the semen. This posed a risk of
ignorant farmers being exploited by technicians purporting to provide high quality imported semen while using
local semen. More efforts need to be channelled to proper training and sensitisation of farmers through
demonstrations by government field extension officers.
Recent studies on genetic evaluation of breeding strategies for improvement of dairy cattle in Kenya reported
genetic correlation lower than the recommended threshold that would warrant the use of imported germplasm
(Okeno et al., 2006). Earlier studies reported that local dairy cattle populations can only benefit up to 44% of
the total response to selection accrued in exporting countries (Ojango and Pollot, 2002). The findings therefore

suggested substantial existence of genotype x environment interaction, which may reduce the potential benefits
of strategies utilising imported semen. Therefore the upsurge in semen imports, as a way of achieving
substantial genetic progress in Kenya would be a less optimal strategy in the long run. Policies pertaining to
semen imports for genetic improvement of local dairy cattle populations would have to be re-examined with
the view of shifting to establishment of local breeding schemes.

Liberalisation of AI services has had varying impacts in the dairy farming sub-sector, in terms of accessibility
and costs to the small-holder farmers. The increased number of private AI technicians and providers, coupled
with the dependency on foreign germplasm has both economic and genetic implications in the long run. There
is need to strengthen the local breeding programmes to produce bulls of higher genetic merit to offset the
dependency on imported semen. A policy aimed at limiting such imports and promoting use of local
germplasm to generate genetic improvement in dairy cattle populations seems inevitable in this context.

We thank the Kenya Agricultural Productivity Project (KAPP) for financial support, field extension staff for
assisting in collecting data and farmers, AI technicians and providers for volunteering information.

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