Efficient reproduction is of utmost importance for sustainable improvement
of animal productivity and is a critical factor influencing the economic viability of livestock farms. Low reproductive rate is often identified as one of the primary constraints hindering the effectiveness of IL production systems in developing countries.
IL are known to mature late, have low conception rates and long calving intervals, among others which are majorly attributed to poor reproductive management (such as failure to detect estrus) in combination with poor nutrition and harsh climatic conditions (resulting to cases of silent heat).
Accurate detection of estrus is one of the keys for successful reproduction and can be performed by close observation of the animal for estrus signs, use of teaser males, ultrasound technique or measurement of hormonal levels. Reproductive technologies such as artificial insemination and embryo transfer can also be applied to the IL industry to improve their reproductive capacity.
In addition, they enable producers gain access to superior genetics for crossbreeding or pure breeding to improve productivity of their livestock. As such they can be used to satisfy both genetic and financial objectives simultaneously through improved production and reproduction efficiency.
The techniques have received widespread application in the livestock industry (dairy and beef cattle, goat, sheep, swine and recently poultry industry) in African countries, greatly contributing to improved performance of IL.
However, owing to a number of technical, financial, infrastructural and managerial problems their applicability (especially embryo transfer) in Africa has not yet matched that of its success in the developed countries. Artificial insemination increases the efficiency of male usage, particularly those of superior genetics hence
enabling the production of a very large number of offspring from a single elite male.
Embryo transfer on the other hand seeks to amplify reproductive rates of genetically valuable females, especially in the case of cattle species known to naturally have low reproductive rates and long generation intervals. The technique involves hormonal manipulation of the reproductive cycle of the female, inducing multiple ovulations, coupled with artificial insemination, embryo collection, and embryo transfer to obtain multiple offspring from genetically superior females, by transferring their embryos into recipients of lesser genetic merit.
Success rates of the technologies are highly dependent on good management practices which may not be present in most IL production systems.