Rwanda is working on strategies to maximise milk production from its over 1.43 million cows, as it seeks to ensure sustainability of dairy supply even during dry season, The New Times understands. The Deputy Director General in charge of Animal Resources Development at the Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB), Solange Uwituze, told The New Times that the current average milk production is 1.5 litres a day (L/day) per cow in local breeds, 7.5L/day in improved (cross) breeds, whereas pure breeds can reach 20-30L/day, each. READ ALSO: How growing grass for long-term has saved cows, boosted milk yield Regarding the target of raising milk yield levels per cow in Rwanda, Uwituze said the country plans to increase the productivity of improved breeds by 37 per cent to 10.3L/day, as well as that of pure breeds (by between 16 and 50 per cent) to their maximal potential of 30-35L/day. On the number of cows available in Rwanda, and the type of breeds they consist of, Uwituze said the recent cattle registration data (2022) indicates that the country counts over 1.43 million cattle. Of these cows, 16 per cent are local breeds, 32 per cent are pure breeds (Holstein-Friesian or Jersey), and 52 per cent are cross breeds, she added. These data suggest a significant increase in pure breeds, and a major drop in local breeds, largely as a result of increased artificial insemination services for the country's cattle genetic improvement. This is the case because, figures from the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources indicated that, for instance, in 2016, only 6 per cent of cows in Rwanda were pure breeds, 40 per cent local breeds, while 54 per cent were cross breeds. Overall, she pointed out that Rwanda’s annual milk production was 999,976 tonnes in 2022, which implies an annual increase of 12 per cent compared to 891,326 tonnes of milk that the country produced in 2021. “The current production appears to meet the national demand in milk except some months of the dry season where the production slightly decreases due to the scarcity of water,” Uwituze observed, indicating that the target is to reach over 1.27 million tonnes in 2024, representing a 27 per cent rise compared to the quantity of 2022. Towards sustainability of milk supply Meanwhile, Uwituze said that interventions were being put in place to maintain milk production high and constant in all seasons. Such interventions include among others, improving the dairy farmer’s knowledge and skills in appropriate animal husbandry practices, enhancing farmers' access to artificial insemination and veterinary services, support to farmers in harvesting and storage of water, as well as cultivation and storage of forage. According to her, those actions can help meet the demand of dairy factories such as the powdered milk plant being constructed by Inyange Industries Ltd in Rwanda's Eastern Province, even during drought which causes low production and supply shortage. The milk demand of this plant is estimated at 500,000 liters a day. Gahiga Gashumba, a dairy farmer from Nyagatare District, told The New Times that in order to maximise milk output, such as getting 35 litres for a pure breed cow a day, easy and reliable access to enough water and fodder for cattle should be ensured, underscoring the crucial importance of water in dairy production. One of the challenges that exist is access to quality water, yet water accounts for 80 per cent of milk content, he said, calling for scaled up efforts to achieve its supply sustainability to cows, even during dry spells. Again, he called for increased efforts in growing and proper storage of grass at the same time lowering related costs, so that they can be used for cattle production during dry season. Also, he said, cattle keepers need cow breed improvement such as through the use of artificial insemination so that they get the highly productive breeds. Dairy farmers in the country comprise small-scale, and large-scale ones. Uwituze said that the former generally own one to two cows, each, and are mainly beneficiaries of Girinka Programme -- a one cow per poor family programme -- , indicating that, from its establishment in 2006, the initiative has distributed over 427,000 cows to vulnerable households. For-large scale farmers, she indicated, they may own up to 50-100 dairy cows, each.