Samuel Kadungure Senior Reporter
THE private sector has started building the blocks for successful command livestock roll out in Manicaland by training smallholder farmers on a basic animal production coupled with the introduction of high-yielding bulls to improve genetics, securing access to animal health services and lucrative market.
The joint venture by Coopers Zimbabwe, Makera Cattle Company and MC Meats under the Livelihoods and Food Security Programme (LFSP) is aimed at improving communal livestock quality – which had been compromised by excessive inbreeding.
The programme also addresses challenges of inadequate extension and training, lack of feeds, high incidences of diseases and parasites, purchasing of livestock pharmaceuticals, insufficient pastures and poor marketing.
More than 40 high-yielding bulls have so far been distributed in Buhera and Mutare districts, with more still being expected. The bulls are being handled by paravets. For one to qualify as a bull handler, they need to have proper animal housing, supplementary feed and commitment to provide support to other farmers around the area.
The bulls are set on cows on heat at community feeding lots and communities have agreed to castrate or sell all tiny bulls to avert recurrence of inbreeding.
Coopers Zimbabwe business development manager, Professor Joseph Kamuzhanje, who visited Manicaland last week to assess the condition of the latest batch of bulls delivered to the province in May, said for Zimbabwe to reclaim its position in the livestock sector there was need to work with smallholder farmers on basic livestock production.
He said under the model, livestock management would be supported by Coopers, a company that specialises in livestock veterinary services and the Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services extension staffers.
Makera Cattle Company focuses on its core business of breeding high-yielding bulls, while MC Meats will provide the market.
Farmers who will sell to MC Meats will not receive the full value, but will have about $3 deducted, which together with another amount from MC Meats, contribute into a revolving fund which will be used to purchase more bulls and livestock inputs that will be used for the welfare of the animals in a specific zone.
Prof Kamuzhanje said Zimbabwe always had a dual agricultural system with crops and livestock.
“Over the years, there has been a decline in the crop sector due to the adverse effects of climate change, poor agronomic practises, unavailability of inputs and an unattractive pricing system. Livestock therefore becomes the main, if not only viable, economic enterprise.
“There are a number of issues that require attention, starting with genetic improvement.
There is a lot of inbreeding which results in small animal size and ultimately, lower prices for the farmers at the market.
Two options are available – bulling and artificial insemination – but experience has shown that the more scientifically-inclined artificial insemination works well in controlled environments and may not be as well suited as bulling in the communal areas,” said Prof Kamuzhanje.