The Sunday News
Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
A DAIRY programme initiated under the Feed the Future Zimbabwe Livestock Development Programme has been praised as a huge success towards improving livelihoods and increasing milk yields in the rural communities of Umzingwane District in Matabeleland South Province.
In an interview with Sunday News Business on the sidelines of a beef-dairy and village aggregation tour in the Irrisvale resettlement area in Umzingwane District recently, Feed the Future Zimbabwe Livestock Development Programme western region provincial co-ordinator Mr Meynard Chirima said the beef-dairy programme, which was initiated in 2015 had played a pivotal role in turning around the livelihoods of most families in rural communities.
The five-year programme, which is funded by the United States Agency International Development (USAid) and is winding up next year covered Umzingwane, Mvuma, Gokwe South, Gweru, Chipinge and Kwekwe districts.
“The beef-dairy concept has played a significant part in enabling communal farmers to realise and appreciate the value of their indigenous cows, especially when it comes to the provision of milk. For instance Umzingwane has four milk aggregators who collect milk from about 12 villagers each.
“We have managed to train these aggregators and the farmers on how to attain improved yields as well as on proper milking hygiene and handling. Through our training, the aggregators have managed to meet the quality required by the two local processors,” he said.
The aggregator is responsible for collecting milk from other villagers and sending it to milk processors.
Under the beef-dairy concept, beef farmers are encouraged to adopt good agricultural and animal husbandry practices that increase milk production in beef cows to meet household nutritional requirements and sell any surplus, first to the local informal markets and eventually to formal markets.
Mr Chirima said as part of its efforts of ensuring proper milk storage the organisation installed solar panels at each of the aggregators’ home to enable them to keep the produce under the requisite refrigerated temperatures.
One of the aggregators, Mr Dzingirai Juwere Chuma of Ward 20 said he has managed to significantly improve his livelihood and homestead since embracing the beef-dairy programme.
“Before being an aggregator I was rearing cattle mostly for beef production and did pen fattening but on most occasions I didn’t realise the value of my animals when I took them for sale. At one stage I even put my car as collateral for a loan as I pursued my pen fattening programme and risked losing it as I failed to raise the cash I had been borrowed including the interest.
“All along I was pessimistic about venturing into dairy because of the perception we had that dairy farming was an expensive enterprise. However, after undergoing dairy farming training being an aggregator under the Feed the Future programme it took me only three months to repay my loan and take back my car. In essence I realised that for one to make it in dairy farming there was need for proper animal husbandry,” he said.
Mr Chuma reckons that through adhering to proper animal husbandry and improved feeding management he has managed to realise increased milk yields from his cows.
“I milk two cows a day and on a daily basis they give me 12 litres which translate to $36 or $40 a day. My success enticed a number of neighbours to emulate me and now I get at least two litres of milk from them. We have even formed our own co-operative, which we call Vukauzenzele.
“We started off being 10 but we are now four as some pulled out as their cows could no longer produce enough milk due to the effects of drought. At one stage we were even contemplating starting our own milk processing plant as we were producing more than 200 litres in four days,” he said.
In essence milk income is derived from milk volume and unit price, both of which can increase with improved feeding management.
Another aggregator, Mrs Prayers Mhlophe said she has managed to improve her feeding management through producing her own feed.
“It is of paramount important to note that for one to attain better milk yields from their cows there is a need to ensure that they are well fed. I make my own feed through mixing natural forages from certain tree leaves, crop residues or fibrous agricultural residues with molasses or coarse salt and this way my milk yields have been significantly increasing. I however, also buy commercial dairy meal as supplementary feed,” she said.
Ward 13 Councillor Jabulani Makhaya said prior to the introduction of the beef-dairy concept most villagers were relying from donor handouts.
“This programme has had a positive impact in most communities because most villagers used to depend from handouts mostly from donors in times of hunger but now they are able to feed their cows and sell the milk for income and this has gone a long way in alleviating them from abject poverty,” he said.
The Feed the Future Zimbabwe Livestock Development Programme aims to ensure beneficiary households own a minimum of three high quality milking cows that yield an average of 12 litres of milk per cow per day with farmers being linked with local milk processors to facilitate formal sales to ensure they earn at least US$2 500 per household per year.