BRAC Artificial Insemination began in 1987 as a partnering initiative with the government of Bangladesh to provide the rural poor with an access to better quality breeds of cows. While BRAC provided cattle as assets to the rural poor, the situation was not ideal as these cows could only produce an average of 1.25 litres of milk per day (Survey of BRAC Research Department) and this amount of productivity did not help the target groups generate a decent income. BRAC figured that breeding higher yielding dairy cows would help ameliorate this issue. At this time in history, the government alone had access to high quality bulls frozen semen and the rural poor were seldom capable of administering artificial insemination by those semen. Hence, a joint effort by BRAC and the government workers into the field to train a selected number of people on how to administer artificial insemination gave a head start to the project. Initially, 130 people volunteered to be trained as artificial insemination technicians and till today, BRAC has trained 2,141 artificial insemination technicians successfully. Few are waiting to start their activity in the rural areas.
The government had access to two different kinds of semen: liquid and frozen. They provided liquid semen and the proper insemination equipment to the trained BRAC’s AI workers to inseminate the cows of the dairy farmers but with inconsistent electricity supplies in villages, the liquid only lasted two to three days, which, in a holistic way, deteriorated and limited BRAC’s rural development endeavours. In addition, in 1997, the government’s limited resources for frozen semen caused a huge number of drop outs of the farmers from the programme. In an attempt to tackling the matter, BRAC began producing its own bull frozen semen after taking the government’s permission. To preserve the temperature without electricity, BRAC provided liquid nitrogen to the artificial insemination workers.
Transition into an enterprise
In 1998, BRAC officially split its efforts from the government and worked with various other organisations to support its development efforts. Till 2007 it has a development phase and by 2007, the artificial insemination development programme became self-sufficient and BRAC finally established an independent artificial insemination social enterprise.
BRAC Artificial insemination has one bull station in Shambhugonj, Mymensingh, Bangladesh. When it was first built, it held 35 bulls along with growing. Today it holds 73 bulls and 19 Black Bengal goats BRAC is the pioneer of private owned large sized bull and buck frozen semen collection, processing, preservation and distribution centre in Bangladesh. Till date no government and private organization is involved in goat frozen semen production, processing and distribution. Now-a-days, from the bull station, all types of frozen semen gets distributed to depots. BRAC Artificial Insemination has 70 CCA (depots) throughout Bangladesh. Here, artificial insemination workers purchase semen for average BDT 140. Then they charge the farmers BDT 205-250 for the semen and their services. Artificial insemination workers not only inseminate the farmers’ cows, but they also train the farmers to take care for their cows’ on general health (water supplementation, feeding for proper nutrition, housing and management, disease prevention, and cattle breed selection).
When a farmer’s cow goes into heat, the farmers call an artificial insemination workers and the technician inseminate the cow within 12 to 18 hours for proper conception. Farmers eventually benefit from both male and female calves. High quality breeds of male calves grow more quickly and larger than average male calves, making them a better source of beef. If the cow births a female calf, this calf will eventually grow into a high-yielding cow. For making profitable business on dairying the one calf in one year is essential. AI workers are devoted to informing the farmers in that regards.
Today, BRAC Artificial Insemination covers 61 districts across Bangladesh and has inseminated a total of about 1.64 million in 2015. The districts covered also contribute to BRAC Dairy and Food Project. BRAC Artificial Insemination definitely contributes to the success of BRAC Dairy, helping to fuel the demand for milk in Bangladesh.
BRAC’s AI workers are providing different services, in addition to the AI, the FMD vaccination, mastitis test by CMT kits, fodder seed supply, cattle feed sell, mineral mixture (Minamix) and primary health services through health camps organized by veterinary doctors etc. are continuing in the rural areas.
BRAC Artificial Insemination initially targeted the rural poor, helping them generate income. Today, they focus on a community approach. For example, if milk production increases in a community, the poor can make money rearing cows and selling milk. The rich also benefit from milk and meat products. Today, BRAC Artificial Insemination employs 85 staff. Positions include skilled workers with degrees in Animal Husbandry, Veterinary Science studies, Social Sciences and management. They also employ temporary staff about 40 are working in bull station.
BRAC Artificial Insemination has become extremely successful, surpassing the quality of other artificial insemination services in the country. The general practise in the artificial insemination sector is for farmers to transport their cows to insemination centres, where conception rate averages around 46 per cent. BRAC’s artificial insemination workers actually travel to farmer’s door step to inseminate the cows, and at present their conception rate averages more than 65 percent. BRAC credits their success to the calm state in which they inseminate the cows. When in general practise, receives insemination on cows, they are exhausted from travelling in the hot sun. BRAC has the highest quality bull semen in Bangladesh; this quality paired with high conception rates has drawn more farmers to use BRAC Artificial Insemination’s services.
BRAC Artificial Insemination, as a profitable social enterprise, is constantly working on expansion of artificial insemination services throughout Bangladesh and introducing innovations for dairy development. The profits generated also contributes towards funding BRAC education and health and nutrition programs.
A dairy breeding farm with embryo transplantation facilities is currently in the planning phase. They also plan to increase the bull blood level from 50 percent to 100 percent, creating the highest quality bull possible.
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