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SIFET Research Project (2007-2010): A system for producing low cost crossbred heifers

Project Overview:

Sexed In-vitro fertilized F1 Embryo Transfer (SIFET) is a research project that explores the feasibility of producing female calves from embryos produced through an In-vitro system. Ova are harvested from cows in abattoirs at slaughter or directly from live animals, then matured and fertilized invitro using sexed semen from bulls of appropriate breeds and genetic attributes. In particular, this project aims at addressing the two main problems currently faced by the smallholder dairy cattle farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • High producing purebred dairy cattle breeds are not appropriate for smallholder dairy farmers, as they require high feed and veterinary inputs, and male calves are uneconomical to raise.
  • The F1 females (typically Zebu - Holstein Friesian or Ankole - Jersey crosses) are in high demand, but are in very short supply in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Harvesting ova from live animals requires utilization of Ovum Pick Up (OPU) technologies that uses OPU ultrasound scanning machine.


The project aims to alleviate the above problems by:

  • enabling dairy smallholders to access appropriate cattle genotypes (F1 exotic dairy x local crossbreds ), including, where possible, producing their own crossbred females without having the expense of maintaining the parent stocks.
  • significantly reducing (by at least 80%) the risk of producing the much less profitable male calves.

Project Activities:

  •  Invitro Embryo Production (Oocyte harvesting, maturation of oocytes, invitro fertilization, invitro embryo culture).
  • Estrous synchronization
  • Heat detections
  • Embryo transfer
  • Pregnancy monitoring

 Donors/Source of Funding:

 Heifer Project International

Project Leader:

Dr. Okeyo Mwai (Bsc., Msc., PhD.), ILRI Scientist and Animal breeder/Geneticist