The Sunday News
Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
FOUR communal farmers in Matabeleland region have received high yielding dairy cow crossbreeds through the Zimbabwe Dairy Industry Trust’s Dairy Revitalisation Programme aimed at boosting the country’s milk production.
Dairy Revitalisation Programme chairman Mr Cleopas Murenzi confirmed the distribution of 26 heifers, progeny from Tuli and Afrikaner cows bred with semen from Holstein and Jersey bulls at Matopos Research Institute to four recipients under the dairy loan scheme two weeks ago.
The four dairy farmers from Umguza and Umzingwane districts are part of the seven farmers from the same districts that had been selected to benefit under the scheme last year.
“There are four farmers who had not received their cows and we gave them last week (two weeks ago) and we were also doing some evaluation of those ones that we gave last time,” said Mr Murenzi.
He said Matopos Research Institution’s breeding programme was proving to be yielding the desired results as observed by the high milk volumes being produced by their breed.
The cows are said to be producing 12 to 18 litres of milk a day.
“The Matopos breeding arrangement seems to be working well because what we are trying to do is to see if we can have our own breeding opportunity for the country since we don’t have (adequate) cows and have been importing. All of us know that importation of heifers has a lot of effects, you won’t know much information in terms of diseases, but mostly we are all concerned about foreign currency outflow out of the country.
“So to come up with a project like the Matopos one, is a good initiative. What we did there is an experimental approach where we injected (artificially inseminated) 40 out of the Matopos arrangement. Now we want to come up with an arrangement where we want to upscale production of in-calf heifers to about 200 in the next round. In terms of evaluation we found out that the cows were producing quite well for crosses,” said Mr Murenzi.
He said the dairy cross breeds are of paramount importance towards the country’s goal of improving milk production as well as springboard for new entrants in the dairy industry.
“For starters we don’t have the cows in the country and most of our dairy farmers are building their own herd. So for us to grow the dairy herd especially for the upcoming or emerging farmers we will have to go to the commercial farmers who are on their own trying to build their own herd.
“You need to start with low level dairy producers which are cross breeds. So that’s the essence to say we have a lot of people who are actually interested to get into dairy or are new comers and you can’t just start by giving them hybrids that will give them problems,” said Mr Murenzi.
He said the second phase of the dairy cross breeding programme was expected to start before the end of the year with plans to spread it across the country being underway.
“We are actually starting this year, actually and we want to dovetail it with an EU (European Union) project going on for dairy . . . I have been talking to Grassland (Research Institute) and I’m going to pursue the same (cross breeding programme) so that at least we have breeders because basically what we are trying to do is to have breeders across the country in dairy. We are not going to approach institutions only but we are also looking at commercial farmers to become breeders,” said Mr Murenzi.