Roberta Katunga Senior Farming Reporter
AGRICULTURE research institution, Matopos Research Station, has introduced a cross-breeding programme of foreign and local cattle aimed at increasing adaptability while at the same time maximising on milk production.The programme involves artificially inseminated local breeds with semen from foreign breeds to produce a hybrid which has both advantages.
According to the station, the most favourable dairy cows to cross breed with are the jersey and red dane.
In an interview, chief research officer Mr Daniel Nkomboni said the station was promoting the use of artificial insemination to cross a Tuli to a Jersey bull in order to produce 50 percent Jersey and Tuli heifers that produce milk which is above 10 litres a day.
“We are breeding these animals at the station and then selling them to farmers. Artificial insemination is cheaper as compared to the purchase of bulls,” said Mr Nkomboni.
He said there were, however, instances where some farmers had high yielders and then collaborated with the station in cross breeding them with the Red dane or Jersey.
“Farmers co-fund by buying the semen and this involvement in the project is important because it gives the farmers a sense of belonging and ownership instead of relying solely on the station. Our objective is to groom smallholder farmers to become commercial farmers as they upgrade in dairy production,” said Mr Nkomboni.
He said the nutritional component was important as farmers had to feed their animals properly and the station was supplying them with seed or planting material of forages they grow.
He said the station introduced forage sorghums which are almost like sweet reeds which can be planted.
“These are used to make high quality silages,” he said.
Dairy Farmers Association Matabeleland Region chairman Mr Gilbert Moyo said what Matopos Research Station was doing was commendable.
Mr Moyo said the project was good for sustenance of livelihoods and not milk volumes as cross bred animals could only produce about 10 litres a day as compared to 24 or more litres produced by pedigree cows.
“What the station is doing is commendable as it is helping in the sustenance of livelihoods by producing cattle that have a high adaptability to harsh climates. In terms of milk volumes, pure breeds will always produce more milk,” said Mr Moyo.
However, research has shown that cross bred dairy cattle produce high quality milk which is rich in fat.
Meanwhile, the agricultural research station is also conducting research on donkey draught animal power and has designed a special harness suitable for donkeys.
Mr Nkomboni said a lot of farmers had donkeys but do not give them the same attention they give to cattle, goats and sheep but still use them a lot for farming hence the need to develop mechanisms to protect the animals.
“Our harness is made of soft material that doesn’t injure donkeys and it has minimal metal material as well as being adjustable at the back. Most farm implements like ploughs, carts etc were designed for cattle but we need implements that are suitable for donkeys,” he said.
According to Matopos research station, a plough designed by the station together with Zimplow especially for donkeys is on the market to help preserve and protect the animals from abuse as part of the implement matching project.