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Makerere conducts research to develop milk replacer diet for piglets and scale up pig Artificial Insemination Technology in Uganda

Researchers want to get  nutrition options for piglets incase a lactating sow like this one lacks milk, refuses to breastfeed or dies.


In November 2011, Makerere University College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) succeeded in her research when it helped a pig farmer in Wakiso district to produce twelve 12 piglets by using Artificial Insemination technology. The research work, which was the first of its kind in Uganda, was conducted for two and half years at Makerere University Research Institute Kabanyolo (MUARIK) as a pilot project to evaluate the performance of Artificial Insemination technology in pigs in Uganda.

The main problem in Uganda is lack of skilled manpower and technical preservation (freezing) the semen for use in future. What the university did was to use fresh semen. A local diluent that is able to keep boar semen for 3 to 4 days was also made.

Another problem is how to raise the boar, first it is expensive, secondly, when the sow comes on heat a farmer has to look for the boar which has been a major spread of African Swine fever, a deadly disease for pigs. The university succeeded in training   boars for semen collection and established a boar stud (Artificial Insemination Unit)   at MUARIK to collect, examine, package and distribute good genes to piggery farmers to reduce the risk of diseases and to roll out the technology to the farmers.

Two technicians from the University’s Department of Agricultural Production Mr. Robert Natumanya and Ronald Kuwule at Graduate Master Level were trained in Germany in pig Artificial Insemination and for the past five years have been helping farmers to inseminate their sows. However, the technicians are overwhelmed by the demand for AI services.

Now, a team of researchers led by Dr. Donald Rugira Kugonza (Principal Investigator (PI) is in advanced stages of scaling up the technology of Artificial Insemination in pigs. An additional research element is geared towards developing a milk replacer diet for piglets.


Part of the research team: Dr. Bamundaga Kyobe, Dr. Donald Rugira Kugonza (PI) and Mr. Robert Natumanya

In August –September, 2014 the research team conducted research in Wakiso and Kabarole districts on pig production, feeding and breeding. The findings are informing the development of diet for piglets and scaling up Artificial Insemination Technology in Uganda.

Speaking during the research feedback meeting and farmers training at Wakiso district headquarters on 18th April 2016, Dr. Donald Kugonza said the project titled, “ Improving pig productivity: Diversifying piglet nutrition options and upscaling Artificial Insemination in Uganda (DIVERSE-PIG) is being funded by the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) at an estimated budget of Shs. 225,517,500 from May 2014-2017.

Dr. Donald Kugonza (PI) speaking to pig farmers during the feedback meeting and training in Wakiso

“The project has two components involving research and upscaling Artificial Insemination in pigs in Uganda. We have an undergraduate student who has conducted baseline surveys on characterization and profitability of pig farming and two Graduate students presenting findings on pig feed resources and pig breeding practices among 60 pig farmers in Wakiso and Kabarole districts”. Dr. Kugonza stated.

Key findings from the baseline survey on pig feed resources conducted by Mr. Katongole Ignatius in Wakiso and Kabarole in 2014 indicated that pig farmers faced challenges of feeding piglets. Majority of the households (78%) feed piglets on maize bran, cotton seed cake (2.7%), cotton seed husks (4.5%) and sweet potatoes (0.9%).

Results also showed that pig farmers faced problems when the mother sow died after giving birth or when it refused to breast feed or lacked milk. Majority of the households (57%) fed the piglets on milk in the bottle, 28% gave the orphaned piglets to another mother and 14.3% fed the piglets on other things like silver fish (Mukene), food and paw paws.

   Mr. Ignatius Katongole presenting results from the baseline survey during the feedback meeting and training 

Mr. Katongole reported that when farmers were asked whether they had heard about the milk replacer diets, 100% of the respondents in Kabarole and 91.3% in Wakiso had no idea.

He said one of the project objectives was to develop diet for piglets that loose mothers or where mothers refuse to breast feed or lack milk based on evidence-based –research.

“We want to formulate rations and subject them to evaluation if they are fit. We shall be in our station at MUARIK and in the laboratory doing the testing. Then, we shall come back to the farmers and report the progress”. He said.

The second project component according to the PI is training the farmers to administer Artificial Insemination technology, promote the rearing of high quality breeds of pigs through careful selection of good boars and building famer’s capacity to detect the females on heat, record keeping and proper feeding to increase farmers’ productivity and income.

Dr. Bamundaga Kyobe presenting results from the baseline survey during the feedback meeting and training

Dr. Bamundaga reported that most farmers (52.1%) do not have boars, 36.8% had one boar and 11.1% had more than one boar on the farm. Two breeding practices were reported namely, natural uncontrolled (72%) and natural controlled 27%).

The major source of the breeding boar (54.5%) according to Dr. Bamundaga was fellow farmers, on farm (40%) and others (5.4%) meaning that many pigs were roaming increasing high risk of contracting diseases.

He also said that farmers were making losses as revealed by the average number of matings per conception i.e once (44.7) %, twice (25.2%), thrice (21.4%) and more than once (8.7%).

Few types of breeds according to Dr. Bamundaga was expressed by majority of the farmers( 30.6%) as a problem faced in breeding, costly to keep a boar( 25.4%) and poor quality boars (22.4%).These and other findings implied the potential success of Artificial Insemination if promoted.

Mr. Robert Natumanya, the Technician in the Department of Agricultural Production and one of the brains behind Artificial insemination in pigs underscored the importance of a sound breeding strategy in reducing farm losses.

  Mr. Robert Natumanya (Technician) training farmers on pig production and breeding

“We have established a boar study at MUARIK and we are going to train the boars to climb the dummy this week. We are also going to select 10 farmers to undergo training as inseminators for five days starting next week”, Mr. Natumanya said.

The other plan is to have centres at the sub county level so that when a farmer observes that the female pig is ready for service, s(h)e rings the center and technicians collect the semen, they go and inseminate the sow.

A section of the farmers during the feedback meeting and training


Report compiled by

Jane Anyango

Communication Officer, CAES







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