Milk production has increased by over 7000 tonnes with the introduction of fast growing hybrid and exotic cows in the country, latest export and import statistics from the National Bank indicates.
On average an exotic cow produces over 20 litres, a hybrid one produces over 10 litres while the ‘Ankole’ cow produces only three litres daily.
The statistics shows that over the past eight years till 2006 December, the imported tonnes have decreased from 7,923 to 500. For example, 145,961 tonnes where produced in 2006, which is a third of 1999 produce, said Dr Theogéne Rutagwenda, director general Rwanda Animal Resource Development Authority (RARDA).
“The production is expected to increase,” Dr. Rutagwenda was optimistic.
Way back in 1997, Rwanda farmers got exotic cows through the acquisition of loans from Rwanda Development Bank.
They bought cows from South Africa, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki donated some, while President Paul Kagame got several cows from Ireland and were distributed to farmers in the country under ‘one family one cow programme’
Local farmers now have more hybrids than local ‘Ankole’ and exotic cows which produce more than 10 litres per day on average.
This has partly been achieved through farmers’ cooperative unions through which farmers are being taught how to inseminate their indigenous breed of cattle to improve their productivity.
And some associations are now advancing the cause of milk producers by negotiating for better prices and cash payments.
To protect the local diary industry grow, ensure quality and hygiene, government banned importation of milk from neighbouring countries.
Weather affecting milk production
There are two wet seasons of four months each and an average season [not too dry and not really wet] of between one to two months.
Peak milk production period is March, April, may, June sometimes prolong up to mid June.
The worst dry season (Akanda) that negatively affects milk produce starts late June sometimes running through to August but sometimes to as September. During this period milk production is at its lowest ebb.
When rainfall starts falling again during September it runs through to late December giving way to another short spate of a dry season (Akanda) that is characterized by irregular rains. Milk production during this time is at average level.
Unlike during the July, August and September dry season when livestock farmers migrate in search of forage and water for the cows, the December to February season is characterised by less rain that partly affects water supply but this time livestock farmers do not migrate meaning therefore that although milk production is affected, it remains at average level.