Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Head of Matabeleland South Office
Livestock farmers are responding to the government’s call to increase the national herd by adopting smart farming practices such as stud farming, artificial insemination and intensive fodder production.
The government, through ARDAS, formerly Agritex, has also put in place various programs to empower herders to adopt commercial models of animal husbandry.
Speaking recently during a livestock field day at Mr. Obert Chinhamo’s Biano farm in Umzingwane district, the farmers expressed their commitment to the development of the livestock sector.
The field day was organized to inspire farmers to maximize production on their portions of land and adopt smart strategies that can improve the quality and quantity of their herds.
Mr. Obert Chinhamo who is a stud breeder owns 320 animals on 80 hectares of land. He practices silage production, fattening in enclosures, mechanized fodder production, oat production, which has boosted his herd.
Mr. Chinhamo also scoops grass around his area for cattle feed.
Farmer from Gwanda, Mr Rabson Tlou said the field day had opened his eyes to methods of improving his herd.
“As farmers, we have realized that the days of keeping only single breeds on our farms are over. Instead of focusing on quantities, we now need to focus on quality. The question I should be asking myself is how much money can each beast earn me? I felt inspired seeing how Mr. Chinhamo managed to keep such a large herd on a small piece of land that is only 80 hectares,” he said.
Gwanda-based farmer Mr Thulani Dube said the field day helped him realize he could raise quality animals without having to part with a lot of money to support his herd. He said field days are crucial as they help build capacity and inspire farmers.
Mr. Dube said the knowledge they get from extension workers helps them improve their production as farmers.
“I like the way Mr. Chinhamo saves his maize residue after harvest and then processes it in a silage pit to prepare nutritious feed for his animals. It lowers his cost of production. He chooses to grow most he feeds his animals. He also scoops hay around the farm. As a new farmer, I have realized that every bit of land I have is valuable and can help improve my production,” he said.
Bubi farmer, Mrs. Margaret Moyo, said that as a pastoralist from the Matabeleland region, she understood the role she had to play in the growth of the national herd and the development of the livestock sector. She said the field day opened her eyes to silage and forage production.
Ms Moyo said she also learned about the good qualities of the Simmental breed.
“I learned that Simmental breeds adapt well to the environment and can thrive well in our country. I also learned that Simmentals are dual purpose animals as they provide milk and meat. Simmentals also grow large and have a large carcass which makes them ideal for breeding. I also noted that as breeders we need to practice artificial insemination in order to improve the quality of our herds,” she said.
Speaking at the field day, the Chief Director of Rural Development and Agricultural Advisory Services (ARDAS), Prof. Obert Jiri urged herders in the Matabeleland region to maximize production on their plots and to increase their herds to get the Cold Storage Company (CSC) and the Dairiboard factory. in Bulawayo operational.
He said the country had 5.5 million head of cattle out of a target of nine million. Prof Jiri said that to achieve this goal, the Matabeleland region has a huge role to play as a farming area.
“At Mr. Chinhamo, we have seen very good breeding and a very good integrated breeding system which is a complete value chain approach. He does silage production, artificial insemination among other activities.
There is money in this type of agriculture. These activities contribute to the growth of the economy of the province of Matabeleland South. Here we see productivity at stake,” he said.
The government has rolled out eight programs under the Rural Development Program 8.0 including Tick Grease Program, Pfumvudza/Intwasa Program, Pfumvudza Cotton Program, Presidential Rural Development Program which targets borehole drilling in each of the 25,000 villages, the Presidential Poultry Program, the Presidential Goat Program, the Fisheries Program and the Vision 2030 Acceleration Program.
Professor Jiri urged farmers to use these projects and work hard to ensure their success.
Fodder production has been identified as one of the main means of boosting the national herd.
President Mnangagwa launched the Presidential Livestock Program as part of efforts to develop the livestock sub-sector. Under this program, farmers receive legume seeds, fertilizers and fodder sorghum, among other inputs. The distribution of inputs should stimulate the creation of fodder banks for better animal nutrition.
Priority is given to the hardest hit drier southern areas, where drought-related livestock deaths are highest.
The program falls under the Livestock Growth Plan, which is part of the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy which is expected to transform agriculture into an $8.2 billion industry by 2025 and contribute to achieving Vision 2030. — @DubeMatutu