BRAC’s artificial insemination initiative began as a partnering initiative with the Bangladesh government’s livestock department in 1987. The aim was to provide people from low-income groups in rural areas with access to better quality cattle breeds. While BRAC provided cattle as assets to such people, the situation was not ideal, as these cows could only produce an average of 1.25 litres of milk per day (according to a 2003 survey done by BRAC). This amount of productivity did not help the target groups generate a decent income. BRAC thought that the solution could be breeding higher yielding dairy cows.
At this time in history, the government alone had access to high quality, frozen semen of bulls. People from low-income groups were seldom capable of administering artificial insemination using those semen. A joint effort by BRAC and the government began - to train a selected number of people on how to administer artificial insemination (AI). A total of 130 people initially volunteered to be trained as AI technicians. As of today, BRAC has successfully trained 3,500 artificial insemination service providers.
The government had access to two different kinds of semen: liquid and frozen. They initially provided liquid semen and insemination equipment to BRAC’s trained artificial insemination service providers, known as AISPs, to inseminate cattles belonging to local dairy farmers. However, the durability of the liquid semen was low due to inconsistent electricity supplies in villages. Additionally, in 1997 the government’s limited resources for frozen semen caused a huge number of farmers to drop out from the programme. In response, BRAC began producing its own bull semen and provided liquid nitrogen to AISPs so they can preserve the semen without electricity.
Transition into an enterprise
In 1998, BRAC began to work independently with other organisations to support its development efforts. The artificial insemination programme was in its development phase until 2007, after which the programme became self-sufficient and an independent BRAC Artificial Insemination social enterprise was created.
BRAC Artificial Insemination has two bull stations: BRAC Bull and Buck Station in Mymensingh, Bangladesh, and BRAC Bull and Breeding Station in Bogra, Bangladesh.
BRAC AI initially held 35 bulls along with bull calves. Today, it holds 97 bulls and 18 Black Bengal bucks in Shambhuganj, Mymensingh and 60 bulls in Sherpur, Bogura. BRAC is a pioneer in establishing a private-owned semen collection, processing, preservation and distribution centre in Bangladesh. Today, all types of frozen semen gets distributed from the bull station to the area sales centres (distribution points). BRAC AI has 95 area sales centres throughout Bangladesh. Here, we train artificial insemination service providers in collaboration with agricultural universities in Bangladesh. People with minimum qualifications of secondary school certificate (SSC) with a science background are selected for the training.
Artificial insemination service providers not only inseminate farmers’ cows, but also train farmers on caring for the general health of their cows (water supplementation, proper nutrition, housing and management, disease prevention, cattle breed selection and breed development).
When a cow goes into heat, farmers call an artificial insemination service provider, who inseminates 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 as well as money. If the cow gives birth to a female calf, this calf will eventually grow into a high-yielding cow. For making higher profits, ensuring one calf in every one year is essential. AI service providers are trained to inform and guide farmers in this regard.
BRAC produces high quality semen from more livestock breed including:
- Holstein Friesian: Cross breed and 100% Australian breed (milk breed)
- Sahiwal: Cross breed and 100% from abroad (milk and meat breed)
- Red Chittagong Cattle
- Buffalo Semen
- Black Bengal Goat
Today, BRAC Artificial Insemination covers 64 districts across Bangladesh and has inseminated a total of about 2.83 million cattle in 2019. The districts covered also contribute to BRAC Dairy and Food Project. BRAC Artificial Insemination has contributed to the success of profitable dairy farming, helping to fuel the demand for milk in Bangladesh.
In addition to artificial insemination, BRAC’s AISPs also engage in vaccination services and medicine sales activities, primary healthcare services through health camps and mobile veterinary clinics organised by veterinary doctors in the rural areas.
BRAC Artificial Insemination was initially set up to help generate income for people in low-income groups from rural areas. Today, it focuses on a community approach.
For example, if milk production increases in a community, people can increase their incomes by rearing cows and selling milk, thus serving a market for people who want to buy milk and meat products. Today, BRAC Artificial Insemination employs 30 skilled experts with degrees in animal husbandry, veterinary science, biological sciences and management. About 60 temporary staff work in the bull stations.
The general practice in the artificial insemination sector is for farmers to transport their cows to insemination centres, where conception rate averages around 50%. BRAC’s AISPs travel to farmers’ doorsteps to inseminate the cows, and at present their conception rate averages more than 65%. BRAC credits their success to the highly professional manner in which cows are inseminated. BRAC has the highest quality bull semen in Bangladesh; this combined with high conception rates has drawn more farmers to use BRAC Artificial Insemination’s services.
BRAC Artificial Insemination offers access to loans for rural community members, and continues to provide them with entrepreneurial opportunities, training them as AISPs who provide door-to door insemination services, including educating farmers on how to care for livestock.
In 2019, BRAC Artificial Insemination established a cattle breed development research centre at the Bogra Bull and Breeding Station. The aim of this research centre is to produce pure-bred bulls using embryo transfer technology, as well as creating a new cattle breed which naturally adapt to the local environment, developed specifically for rural Bangladeshi farmers. This new breed will require low production and maintenance costs in comparison to foreign cattle breeds, and will ultimately promote enhanced livelihoods of farmers as well as strengthen the village economy of the country.
BRAC Artificial Insemination, as a profitable social enterprise, is working on expanding artificial insemination services throughout Bangladesh and introducing innovations for dairy development. The profits generated contribute towards funding BRAC’s education, and health and nutrition programmes.
A dairy breeding farm with embryo transfer facilities is currently in the planning phase to increase the bull blood level (from 50% to 100%) and improve milk production performance, creating the highest quality of bulls.
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