MY interaction with smallholder communal farmers has revealed that most of them are not able to make a proper decision when it comes to selling their animals.
While they are usually driven by various pushing factors to sell, largely not dictated by any clear cut production policy, they are found wanting when it comes to the exact animal to take out from the kraal to the market.
The reasons for choosing the one to sell are predominantly culling reasons and much production policy related reasons.
I therefore intend to help these farmers distinguish between culling and selling as a matter of production principles.
Culling simply means taking an animal out of your herd to the market because it is no longer fit to remain in the herd.
There are a number of reasons why a farmer may decide to cull his/her animal and these include poor performance in key production traits such as weaning weights, age at first calving, poor milk production, poor mothering ability, difficulty calving tendency and such related factors.
Other factors can be due to diseases or deformities, for example one may cull due to disease such as contagious abortion, mastitis and other diseases.
Also damaged teats may lead a farmer to cull his/her cow because it will not be able to nurse the calf.
Poor temperament is one factor that is commonly used by most smallholder farmers to get rid of an animal.
A violent animal is normally difficult and dangerous to handle and if it is a cow it may not be possible to even milk that animal.
However, culling is not always the best decision for selecting an animal for the market because it does not always follow that the culled animal may be in best condition and shape to attract the best price.
Selling which is based on a production policy will give a farmer the best price all the time because he/she will take the best animals to the market.
Last week I lamented the scarcity of heifers in the market and the high prices that the few available ones are attracting.
This means a farmer who is into heifer production will be smiling all the way to the bank.
It is therefore prudent for farmers to have a production policy which guides them on what to sell, is it heifers or steers and the time to sell.
It should also be always at the back of a farmer’s mind to sell the best available animal except for breeding cows.
If it is an ox, get the best ox to the market and you will get the best price. This business of taking an ancient, tired animal to the market and still somehow expect premium prices simply because you have kept the animal for 10 years, is unmitigated folly.
I tell farmers all the time to take that ox or steer, which gives you the best pleasure to look at in your kraal, to the market and the price will give you pleasure as well. Let selling be based on production policy and choice as opposed to culling only.
On a separate note, this week readers woke up to the good news that cabinet has approved a $300 million facility for Command Livestock. This is good news indeed and we hope it will go beyond being just that, news. I have written many a times pushing for recognition of the livestock sector as an important agricultural sector and I am therefore happy to recognise any movement towards addressing issues in this sector.
I would like to counsel farmers especially in the Matabeleland region to embrace Command Livestock and partake in it. I sensed the usually scepticism and negativity in most platforms where I interact with other livestock stakeholders. This scepticism is the one which made some of you fail to get farms during the land redistribution exercise and are now regretting and bouncing between empty offices trying to get a piece of land.
Instead of being negative and lambasting the initiative and complaining of this or that in the scheme, please follow what needs to be done, complete relevant forms if any and hope for the best.
One person in another platform even suggested that the minister should come down to their ward and explain this Command Livestock programme properly, really? Does he owe you that much? I think that’s being a bit megalomaniac at your own expense. Let’s participate. Kasingeneni bantu bakithi.
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