MATABELELAND North Province, particularly Lupane and Nkayi districts, has experienced exciting times in recent weeks with regards to livestock matters. Pedigree bulls and bucks have been brought into the community and these have been launched by Government Ministers.
Around 50 high quality bulls have been shared between Nkayi and Lupane. These have been made available to farmers through subsidised purchase prices by development partners. What is important to note is that this is a programme which dovetails well with Government efforts to improve animal breeds.
I would like to applaud the development partners for taking the bold step of scratching exactly the itching part in so far as livestock production is concerned. Many organisations and institutions, the Government included, are aware that this is the most effective way regarding breed improvement among our smallholder livestock farmers but not many have been brave enough to tackle the issue of non-availability of good quality bulls largely because of the resources required.
I have lamented on this platform before the need for breed improvement among smallholder farmers especially in Matabeleland North where some cattle can compete pound for pound with a hyena in frame size! I wish to celebrate the efforts of these development partners and hope for a spread of similar intervention to other districts. Having said that it is imperative to note that such efforts have been tried by other players before in other districts but not much change in breeds was observed due to a plethora of issues.
Effective technical back stopping must accompany use of these bulls within the community. This means livestock technical arms of Government such as the department of veterinary services and the department of livestock production and development need to superintend on the management of these bulls. A full bull management manual has to be provided to the farmers who bought these bulls so that they take good care of the bull for improved performance and longevity. Without proper bull management back-up support it won’t be long before we start having mortalities especially due to tick borne disease.
Farmers who bought these bulls need to adopt such important practices such as vaccinating against diseases like vibriosis. I personally will hold the two Government departments liable if the bull programme does not deliver the intended results. The farmer must be mentored and made to realise that it is no longer business as usual as the new asset he/she has bought needs utmost care so that it gives him and the nation desired results. As far as this bull effort is concerned farmers simply cannot be left to their own devices until they earn that right, having graduated on a deliberate bull management mentorship programme.
I will make a follow up article next year celebrating the offspring of these bulls in the two districts of Lupane and Nkayi.
This bull initiative by the development partners in collaboration with the Government is a preamble of command livestock and hence it should not fail. The farmers who bought the bulls should be made aware that in addition to improving their herd they are also playing an important national duty of improving the value of the national resource which is our livestock.
In fact such smallholder farmers who have taken a giant leap of acquiring pedigree bulls, which we all know don’t come cheap, should be among the first beneficiaries of command livestock as they have already demonstrated a serious intent.
Once again, I wish to applaud the efforts of the development partners and Government in taking a giant step towards addressing the perennial problem of poor framed breeds which have even deteriorated further due to unmitigated inbreeding.
Without inbreeding farmers will always cry of poor returns from their animals. To a large extent the breed plays a crucial role in the livestock pricing equation and matrix.
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