Leonard Ncube and Fairness Moyana, Sunday News Reporters
AT LEAST 400 000 cows will be fertilised countrywide through Artificial Insemination (AI) as the Government kicks off the Command Livestock programme aimed to revive production of domestic animals especially beef and diary animals.
The Government approved the $300 million Special Programme on Livestock Production last month, but had not revealed how it will be operationalised. Speaking at the Commissioning of a dip tank at Chachachunda area under Chief Whange, in Hwange District last week, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Deputy Minister responsible for livestock Paddy Zhanda said the AI programme will be implemented by selecting between 50 and 100 cows that will be fertilised through AI at each of the country’s dip tanks. The country has about 4 000 dip tanks.
“We are targeting between 50 and 100 cows per dip tank per year but for this place we will immediately select 25-30 beasts so that when we launch the national programme next year we use it as a model. If we can implement this programme for five years we will definitely see change in our livestock population and quality,” he said.
A single sperm shot costs around $10, Deputy Minister Zhanda said, without giving details on where the sperm will be procured from. He said the AI programme was earmarked for the next summer season in Hwange district but implored that it will not sideline use of bulls.
He said artificial insemination is inspired by poor animal husbandry practices by farmers which was threatening livestock population hence the need to sustain it with innovative methods. Speaking at the same occasion, Minister of State for Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs Ambassador Cain Mathema said Command Livestock should also benefit traditional leaders.
“I will be engaging Minister Made (Joseph) because we want all chiefs in the province to benefit. We may need a workshop to apprise them of the programme,” he said.
Ambassador Mathema said Command Livestock should be complemented by water reticulation projects to transform communities from subsistence to commercial farming with piped water for it to succeed.
Meanwhile, farmers in Matabeleland North have been urged to take advantage of the ongoing nationwide free branding exercise being carried out by police following the launch of a universal branding iron to protect their livestock after it emerged that 95 percent of cattle that stray or get stolen are not branded.
Addressing farmers during a cattle branding exercise and awareness campaign at Bulawayo Kraal dip tank in Binga on Tuesday National Coordinator (Anti-stock theft) Senior Assistant Commissioner Erasmus Makodza urged farmers to put value to their livestock by taking advantage of the free branding exercises they were carrying out to protect livestock from theft.
Each police station will be equipped with at least two universal branding irons, each specifically designed per province and will be used to intensively carry out the exercise. Snr Assnt Comm Makodza said there was a notable decline in the number of stolen and stray cattle since the launch of the branding exercise as more farmers embraced the initiative. Between January and May this year 275 cattle were stolen as compared to 367 recorded last year in Mat North. However, there was an increase in the number of stray cattle with 83 recorded this year against the 179 from the previous year during the same period.