Artificial or natural insemination: the demand for breeding services by smallholders.
Mwai, A. Okeyo
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Different types of breeding services are available to the Kenyan smallholder farmers. An important question is whether farmers choose the service, or they are constrained in their choice. Assessing the demand for breeding services is crucial for planning purposes since it will help in identifying the constraints faced by smallholders in the aftermath of agricultural liberalisation policies of the 1990’s. Household and community surveys were conducted in March and April 2004 in three different farming systems of the Kenyan Highlands. The study of 300 smallholder cattlekeepers found that while 54% prefer artificial insemination (AI) to natural (bull) service, 81% actually use natural service, suggesting a sharp contrast between actual use and expressed preferences. Even in intensive dairy systems (represented by Ndia division in Kirinyaga district), the majority of smallholders use natural service. Farmers prefer AI service in view of its ability to maintain and/or upgrade their dairy herd but main constraints to use of AI services are low availability and perceived high costs. This study shows that the observed high use of natural service over AI recorded in previous studies may not reflect farmers’ choice but the unavailability of the Demand for breeding services by smallholders alternative service types, cost considerations, information gaps and misinformation amongst farmers, historical reasons among other constraining factors. Some recommendations for breeding policy reform are made.