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Getting the best insemination service for your dairy cow

Saturday December 9 2017

Meru dairy farmers go through an A.I catalogue.

Meru dairy farmers go through an A.I catalogue. Heifers typically go on heat every 17-24 days, with numerous factors among them environmental and managerial being key in determining heat detection. PHOTO | CAROLINE WAMBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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When most dairy farmers call for inseminators, many are usually not sure at what stage of heat the cow is.

A majority of farmers further fail to inquire from the inseminator what kind of semen they have.

What they ask is, uko na ya ngapi (you have semen for what price?), with the farmer going for the cheapest.

Cost of normal semen ranges from Sh1,000 to Sh4,000, some counties have, however, subsidised the product.

To begin with, farmers must know how to interpret the semen code. It normally starts with numbers that represent the origin whether imported or local. For example, 029 – ABS, 014 – Worldwide sires, 001 – Kabete and 0200 – Semex Canada.

This is followed by the animal’s breed written as AY – Ayrshire, GU – Friesian and JE – Jersey. So if the semen code is 014AY07635, this means its origin is Worldwide Sires and the cow breed is an Ayrshire. The rest of the code, 07635, shows the semen traits.


Paul Mambo, a dairy consultant with SNV in Meru County, notes that failure to interpret the catalogue before insemination makes farmers get calves with traits they may not want to carry along like bad teat placement.

“A cow inseminated with semen of a breed with a high somatic cell count that is above 2.7 is an indication that the animals would contract mastitis easily. So if a cow that has been suffering from mastitis is served with semen with a cell count of 2.7 and above, it means that you have increased the somatic cell count in the next breed,” he says, adding it is important to know the history of the animal.

Though expensive, sexed-semen is considered fairly accurate with a 90 per cent guarantee, though it has a lower concentration of sperm per straw (approximately 2 million) as compared to non-sexed semen (approximately 20 million), says Mambo.


The other mistake farmers make, according to Mambo, is to ask the inseminators to do the job in their absence.
“In some cases, the inseminator comes days/hours later when the cow isn’t on heat, but to ensure that he doesn’t lose on payments, he pretends to be inseminating but in essence he isn’t doing anything,” he says.

Such cases increase the farmer’s timeframe of achieving his breeding goals or the intentions of acquiring a pure breed in 48 months.

“Sound reproduction of a herd has a direct relationship with correct timings of insemination manifested by oestrus heat signs. Poor signs of insemination ignite several setbacks and are a major cause of prolonged calving interval leading to low rates of conception and loss of replacements of stocks.”

Heat detection, therefore, is a critical component of reproductive management. Early heat is characterised by increased nervousness, restlessness and instances where the animal mounts others but walks away when mounted with a slight swollen vulva.

For standing heat, the cow mounts other cows and stands to be mounted with a sharp decline in milk production
Lastly, in late heat, a cow sniffs at other animals and is sniffed but refuses to be mounted and has dried mucus on its tail.

Heifers typically go on heat every 17-24 days, with numerous factors among them environmental and managerial being key in determining heat detection.

Mambo notes that chances of conception are increased when the cow is inseminated when showing signs of standing heat while applying an AM-PM rule where if the standing heat is observed in the evening, the animal should be presented for insemination early the following day.


Before calling inseminator...

  • Before the cow comes on heat, the farmer should first identify some of the traits he would want to rectify. That is, is it mastitis or placement of the udder?
  • The farmer should then check what the inseminator has.
  • He should then be in a position to identify when the said cow comes on heat and then ask the inseminator to come with the specified semen
  • During insemination the farmer should check at the semen code and use a smart phone to verify its details
    The inseminator should then indicate when the cow is expected to calve.