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Dairy value chain/Kenya - Farm sets up lab to offer cheaper and better embryo

17 January 2016

The search for improved breeds that offer optimum milk quantities by farmers in East Africa could soon be over after a local organisation launched the first cow Invitro Fertilisation (IVF) Embryo Transfer (ET). Indicus East Africa has set up the first IVF laboratory in Kenya. IVF is a new technology which uses genetics to improve cattle breeds. Indicus East Africa Managing Director, Tim Chesire revealed that, the firm entered into partnership with Invitro Brasil, an embryo company, to set up a first laboratory to offer farmers cheaper breeding options. The Managing Director disclosed that, the lab has the capacity to produce more than 20,000 embryos annually with a projected success rate of 45 per cent. The new technology will help farmers to get quality heifers and embryos at reasonable prices. The IVF process entails the removal of female eggs (oocytes) from a cow and transferring to a laboratory where it is fertilized with semen imported from Scandinavian countries or France before it is placed into an incubator. The oocytes are extracted from animals through the use of an improvised plastic tube and stored in a cool box before it is transferred to the lab. In the incubator, vets control temperature as they wait for cells to split, an indication that fertilization has taken root. Subsequently, seven days the embryo is then placed unto a surrogate. According to Ruth Kogos, an IVF embryologist working at the lab, the process of improving breeds through IVF locally will cut costs for farmers who have been importing pedigree animals from South Africa. Before the removal of oocytes from the cow, vets conduct an extensive research and protocol on the animal to ascertain the vaccination record and its reproductive status to ensure the final breed is of good quality. Kogos revealed that, the transfer process has the capability of determining the ideal sex for the unborn calf, an advantage IVF has over Artificial Insemination (AI). Furthermore, with IVF, the surrogate does not transfer its genes to the unborn mainly because they are just used to carry the foetus. Moreover, dairy breeds developed through IVF can produce more than 40 litres of milk daily thus boost smallholder farmer’s productivity and view on dairy not as subsistence farming but rather a business, therefore escaping a poverty trap. For the entire process, the lab only charge U$ 488 while importing pedigree animals from South Africa costs U$ 2441.



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