The Sunday News
Judith Phiri, Business Reporter
CATTLE farmers in Chiredzi District have seen an increase of more than 130 percent improved income from selling their cattle after pen fattening, a model that is improving livelihoods for rural cattle farmers.
With Chiredzi District generally a dry region, falling under climatic Region Five, the rainfall patterns are sporadic and there is not enough crop farming practiced in the district, except for the large-scale sugar plantations.
Despite such challenges that are climate controlled, livestock based agriculture remains the primary source of livelihood for communities in Chiredzi.
In an interview, Chiredzi District’s Chanienga community, Ward 11 Cattle Business Centre (CBC) chairperson, Mr Wilson Kwinika said the community has started realizing improved income from selling their cattle after pen fattening.
“Before the intervention, the selling price for a fully grown cattle ranged between US$180 to US$220. This was mostly realized through selling to middlemen who would then sell to off takers for a premium price in-turn short-changing the farmers. Farmers are now getting between US$600 and US$900 for the same quality cattle, an increase of more than 130 percent,” said Mr Kwinika.
He said that in 2020, during their first pen fattening period, the group inducted 48 cattle for pen fattening, realizing more than US$24 000.
Mr Kwinika said riding on this success, they have mobilized 61 cattle from their membership for induction, with a total of 37 people inducted cattle, among those who have inducted are 11 women.
He said that the pen fattening model in the areas was adopted after having been trained on good cattle production standards under the Beef Enterprise, Strengthening and Transformation (BEST) project which is under the Zimbabwe Agricultural Growth Programme (ZAGP).
“We came together to create a beef enterprise through pen fattening. The group is made up of 41 members, which 24 are men and 17 are women. With support from the BEST project, the community received a cattle crush, trying nuts and wire, gum poles to augment those which they had mobilized on their own.
“In addition, the BEST project constructed feeding troughs within the cattle pens. It has earmarked completing the storage house, rehabilitating the water system.”
ZAGP is a response to the challenges in Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector through a 40 million Euros support package from the EU.
Mr Kwinika said the need to pen fatten was in recognition of beef prices that normally adapt to seasons; where the seasons are good, the price of beef is usually low for the good grades.
He said that the best and highest prices are usually realized during dry seasons where good grades fetch premium prices.
“Having been trained on the primary benefits of pen fattening; which are increasing the mass of the animal for slaughter and thus increasing turnover and maximizing the output. Increasing the degree of fatness and fleshing the animal to achieve higher grades thus good prices and lastly to take advantage and benefit from the high seasonal prices associated with the dry season,” he added.
Mr Kwinika said that they were happy with the feeding programme and they were now aware that they could take a positive role through utilizing available resources to improve the quality of life.
Through the BEST programme, the community was linked with First Mutual Life who are providing finance for feeding, which will be subtracted once the farmers have sold their cattle.
He said that this has made the pen fattening process easier and the farmers do not have to struggle with middlemen anymore as they have already secured the buyer for their cattle in MC Meats.
“The community has now realized that collective action will make them realize better profits as they no longer must individually source feed or pay excess costs in transporting the cattle to the market. Everything is now being done from one point,” added Mr Kwinika.