The Ministry of Agriculture plans to increase hybrid cows, improve breeds, ensure better feeding and veterinary services to help dairy farmers raise milk production from the current 770,000 metric tonnes per year to over 800,000 tonnes next year.
Dr Christine Kanyandekwe, the head of animal resources department at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), said this after awarding three livestock farmers whose cows won ten-cow milk production competition at the 12th Agricultural Show at Mulindi expo ground on Sunday.
The first crowned cow produced 31 litres per day, first run-up 30.5 litres and the second run-up 29 litres per day at a ceremony graced by the Minister forAgriculture, Dr Geraldine Mukeshimana.
Each of the farmers was awarded milk-transporting cans, materials for testing milk quality, 50 kilogrammes of animal feeds, and semen for artificial insemination.
Dr Kanyandekwe said 50 per cent of 1.4 million cattle population in Rwanda are still traditional with low milk production, stressing the need for more modern cows and improved breeds.
“Besides increasing modern cows, we are urging dairy farmers to improve animal feeding. We have introduced strategies of also storing forage especially in the Eastern Province so that they cope with drought effects by also planting special grass for cows,” she said.
Kanyandekwe said by working with veterinaries, artificial insemination must be scaled up across the country for easy access.
“We are also going to improve Masaka bull station where we will have imported more high quality bulls by December so that we continue producing and distributing semen to inseminate the cows. This approach is cheaper and more productive than natural insemination as it increases cow conception rate and demands less energy,” the RAB official said.
Kanyandekwe said RAB is currently working with private veterinaries to improve the services in terms of advising on animal health, scale up artificial insemination among others.
Kanyandekwe said, on average, a Rwandan consumes 60 litres of milk per year from 31 litres in 2010, while the target is to consume 120 litres under the new efforts.
The new president of Rwanda Council of Veterinary Doctors, Dr Francois Rusanganwa, said veterinary services must be improved to ease access by dairy farmers.
“As veterinaries, we pledge that we will approach farmers and advise them on treating their cows in terms of health and feeding. The council has more than 2,000 members and there are many who are yet to join it,” he said.
“The number should work to help dairy farmers to increase productivity. We will soon design zones where a zone must have a representative veterinary supervising others. We will also continue training on artificial insemination so that they help farmers increase conception rate.”
He said they have trained over 100 veterinary technicians and 60 trainers of trainees in 17 districts on artificial insemination, adding that a ministerial order in draft would also help regulate tariffs charged on veterinary services to farmers.
Dr Laurie Ntamugabumwe, a veterinarian, added that some schools are yet to provide practical skills to students which lead to having graduates struggling with improving veterinary services on labour market.
He called for more training to improve performance in helping dairy farmers.