By Solomon Gizaw, Tadesse Gugssa, Yayneshet Tesfay, Dawit Woldemariam and Azage Tegegne
Effective early pregnancy detection (PD) technology that can be used by farmers themselves is key in improving dairy cattle reproduction and profitability in Ethiopia.
Delayed cattle pregnancy diagnosis lengthens calving intervals and decreases reproduction performance. Rectal palpation, the most common method of pregnancy checking, is not only intrusive but can also be performed only after 2–5 months into the cow’s gestation period by experienced technicians. The method’s accuracy also varies depending on a technician’s experience.
The introduction, a few years ago, of Hormonost® and Preg-Tone in Ethiopia by the Livestock and Irrigation Value Chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) project seeks to provide simple and accurate PD kits, compared to existing options. Even though the Hormonost® test is performed by trained professionals using milk samples and requires costly reagents, it has been well received and adopted by the country’s livestock development bureaus.
LIVES has now introduced an instant farmer-friendly PD technology known as Bovipreg® (pictured above). The technology detects pregnancy 18-21 days after insemination and is easily performed by farmers themselves. It uses milk, blood or urine samples.
The use of Bovipreg® was evaluated through action research under field conditions in smallholder dairy farms in Tigray state in 2016. Twenty-three cows were checked for pregnancy using Bovipreg® 21 days post-insemination (ranging from 15 to 25 days). The cows were then palpated rectally for pregnancy 128 days post insemination (ranging from 122 to 133 days). The pregnancy diagnosis results using Bovipreg® and rectal palpation were similar in 82.6% of the tests or the cows checked. Only three cows that were detected to be positive by Bovipreg® were found to be negative after rectal palpation, and two cows that were detected as negative by Bovipreg® were found to be positive after rectal palpation. The discrepancies found between the results of Bovipreg® and rectal palpation could be due to embryonic mortality between day 21 (date of Bovipreg® test) and day 228 (date of rectal palpation). The technology was highly appreciated by the AI technicians who check pregnancy by rectal palpation.
Two action research activities are underway in Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples states to further evaluate the performance of Bovipreg®. The next step will be to promote the technology with the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries and livestock technology businesses to introduce it at larger scale.