Two Holstein-Friesian and two Jersey bulls – named Connacht, Laighean; Mumha; and Uladh after the four Irish provinces will be transported 11,000km to Rwanda today (Thursday, October 25th).
The animals were sourced at Dovea Genetics in Tipperary - leaders in bovine artificial insemination and suppliers of dairy and beef semen.
The country's Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources engaged Bóthar to source bulls for its breeding programme in order to break its rural poverty cycle.
The initiative is part of the Rwandan Government’s ‘One Cow Per Family’ programme aimed at reducing extreme rural poverty by providing families in rural areas with a cow.
The ‘GIRINKA’ programme, as it is known in Rwanda, has reduced rates of childhood malnutrition; increased employment and provides a stable income for the country’s poorest - many of whom live in desolate rural areas.
To date, more than 300,000 families have benefited from the programme.
Bóthar has been bringing Irish dairy cows to Rwanda for 21 years and such has been the impact on families – the Irish dairy cow having six times the yield of the local cow – that the Rwandan Ministry approached the aid agency, which works mostly with genocide widows, with the unusual request.
Bóthar’s Chief Operating Officer - Niamh Mulqueen said they were delighted to respond.
“It was certainly a surprise call. We’ve been working in Rwanda for the past 21 years and have built up a fantastic relationship with the government but to get a call from the Rwandan government to say that they want us to buy Irish bulls for them was a new departure for sure."
Niamh revealed that artificial insemination straws were supplied by Dovea Genetics to re-impregnate cows.
Elevate the quality of cattle
Ger Ryan - General Manager of Dovea Genetics - said that the company was delighted to be part of the project.
“We have a wonderful relationship with Bóthar going back over 26 years. We've been a supplier to Bóthar, which has developed breeding programmes and genetics in a lot of countries,” he said.
“It is wonderful to see some of our top Jersey and Holstein Friesian bulls going abroad and hopefully making an impact like they have in Ireland."
Mr Ryan said that it will elevate the quality in Rwanda of the offspring, the daughters that those bulls will produce."
Speaking of the impact the bulls will make, Ms Mulqueen said Rwanda is a recovering country that had its absolute terrible hardships over the years but it is "progressing enormously well."
"We have seen the impact that one cow per family has. It's changed their lives. We know it works." She said.
"Over the years I would estimate we have provided thousands of Irish cows to Rwanda and this has been largely due to the generosity of the Irish donor, be it through raising funds or Irish farmers donating their animals to us.”