One of the hurdles in delivering artificial insemination (AI) to improve the dairy animals kept by smallholder dairy farmers in Ethiopia is the challenge of making an accurate and timely diagnosis of pregnancy in cows.
Results from a recent MSc study show that on average one AI technician misclassified nearly half (4.6 out of 10) of all cows presented for corpus luteum detection and this triggered the use of alternative detection devices.
To enhance accurate detection of cow pregnancy, the Livestock and Irrigations Value Chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) project has recently introduced a cow-side pregnancy diagnosis (PD) and embryo mortality detection kit called Hormonost® Micro-Lab Farmertest, which can determine pregnancy and embryo mortality as early as 20 days post-AI based on milk progesterone profiles, and shortens the time to re-inseminating cows that failed to conceive.
The technology has been evaluated through action research in Amhara, Oromia, Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) and Tigray (see LIVES Working Paper 12). It took only 15 minutes to complete a PD test for six milk samples at a time, and the results obtained indicated nearly 100% accuracy. The technology also helped in detecting the existence of previously unnoticed high embryonic mortality ranging from 15-40%.
Recently, the technology was adopted by the Bureaus of Livestock Development in the four regions, including in districts outside of LIVES intervention areas.
In Tigray region, the technology was used across six districts to detect pregnancy in 124 lactating cows 19-105 days (average 42 days) post-AI. One hundred and thirteen cows were palpated at 60-90 days post insemination for pregnancy diagnosis. Out of 47 cows which were diagnosed as negative based on their progesterone profile, 5 were found to be false negative upon rectal palpation. This is translated to pregnancy detection accuracy of 90.6% by the technology. Cows diagnosed as positive at 18-21 days post-AI by Hormonost but negative by rectal palpation may not necessarily be false diagnosis as it could be the result of embryo mortality between 21 and 60 days of pregnancy.
Given Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) II to increase the national crossbred dairy herd by 5 million over the next five years and the pressure faced by AI technicians in diagnosing pregnancy by rectal palpation, the technology is proving to be effective in reducing the waiting period for re-inseminating cows. The kit has the potential to reduce the time to make a decision to re-inseminate cows by nearly five-fold (20 days vs 90 days by rectal palpation).
The Bureaus of Agriculture in the four regions have shown interest in using the technology in their AI programs, and some are already looking for resources to purchase the kits.
Written by Solomon Gizaw with contributions from Tadesse Gugssa, Yayneshet Tesfay, Dawit Woldemariam, Haile Tilahun and Azage Tegegne.