Evans Ondora and his wife Dinah live well, by many people’s standards. Their nine cows are the secret to their success.
And it is not just about dairy cows. The animals’ ability to produce a lot of milk is what makes them valuable.
Their high-grade Friesian cows are a product of Artificial Insemination (AI).
According to the Ondoras, AI has worked miracles in the breeding cycle of the animals.
“Our two farm workers are paid from the milk proceeds,” Mr Ondora says.
On a good day, they get about Sh5000. Their house, in the five-acre farm, is moderately posh.
There is a shed for their dairy cows on one end of the farm and nappier grass on the other side.
The farm is paddocked and the animals are rotated to ensure they get enough grass.
The Ondoras say they have known no other source of income except their dairy cows. Their three children are in universities and colleges.
“My parents were successful farmers and I got my first animals from them. We have maintained the business for more than 20 years. The mother to these cows was born right here,” Mr Ondora says.
Their farm is in Taraja village, Nyaribari Chache constituency in Kisii County.
The Ondoras say subsidised AI service has come in handy “for we can service the animals more effectively”.
The devolved government in Kisii came up with the subsidised AI plan to improve dairy farming in the region. One only pay Sh500 for the service. It used to be Sh1,500.
“We are assured of high quality breeds. AI prevents the spread of certain diseases and sterility,” Mrs Ondora says.
With limited land size in Kisii, AI saves space that could have been taken up by bulls.
There is also no need to of maintaining a breeding bull for a herd and this saves costs.
Another advantage of AI is that by examining semen regularly after collection and frequent checking on fertility, it is possible to make early detection of superior males.
Beauty of artificial insemination
The semen of a desired bull can be used long after the animal dies. The semen can be transported to distant areas easily.
Mr Ondora says AI makes it possible for “mating” of animals with great differences in size without injury to either of them. Old, heavy and injured sires can also be used.
In artificial insemination, semen with living sperms is collected from the male and introduced into female reproductive tract at proper time with the help of instruments.
Mr Richard Mose, an animal health expert and AI provider says the semen is placed into the female either in a collected or diluted form by mechanical methods.
Mr Mose says county government officials provide the AI services in their jurisdictions. They get semen from the Central Artificial Insemination Station in Kabete.
Mr Mose says only a handful of farmers used to ask for their services.
“These days, we do not rest. Farmers have discovered the beauty of AI,” he says.
But providing AI services comes with several challenges too.
Mr Mose says AI requires special equipment and high skills. The county government pays for liquid nitrogen which is used to preserve the semen.
Improper cleaning of instruments and may lead to low fertility.
“If the bull is not properly tested, AI may actually spread diseases,” the technician says.
Edited version of the story as it appears on Daily Nation of Kenya.