Developing cattle and beef exports

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ZIMBABWE livestock farmers can improve the total kilogrammes of their cattle per hectare by reducing operating expenses, increasing labour productivity and improving infrastructure to make livestock handling and management more efficient.

In terms of accounting, a farmer also needs to know how much it costs him to yield each kg of beef produced per beast.

Zimbabwean communal cattle ranchers need to up-skill their traditional animal husbandry in order to achieve profits in a sustainable manner, compete on an international level and yield the best beef the country has been known for.

For experienced cattle ranchers, there is a simple but crucial formula for calculating the profitability for their livestock enterprise.  

It is as follows: price received and cost of production x total kilogrammes of beef produced per hectare = profit.

The cost of production factor for the cattle in this equation is controllable.  

Here, farmers have to manage their herds for optimal production from optimal grazing utilisation.

Feed availability and quality must be at its best during the calving season.  

A good livestock farmer/cattle rancher must ensure the cattle calving season coincides with the time of the year when feeding sources, whether its natural range grazing, planted pastures or ready-made livestock feed, are at peak availability and superior quality.

Peak demand for beef is normally during the festive seasons – that is December and January.  

This, however, means that feedlot finished cattle should have been ready for the market two months, or more, ahead of schedule.

Today, the advent of vacuum packing technology for beef enables processors to store meat safely in refrigerated conditions for up to 90 days before being sold to consumers.  

This storing technology allows the meet to age slowly for improved flavour and tenderness; qualities that are prized globally by many red meat consumers.

For Zimbabwe to avoid being left behind by beef producing competitors, our indigenous modern cattle farmers need to spend time acquiring ICT skills to facilitate computer recordings and analysis of key production and cost data of their livestock herds.

An essential profit driver for farmers is to have mature breeding cows that all calve every year.  

However, cattle producers should practise selective breeding.

This is achieved by a rigorous selection of replacement breeding stock, primarily from those females that calve early and produce a calve annually.  

In so doing, indigenous Zimbabwean farmers will be creating stronger and more profitable breeds.

The progeny of cattle that are able to produce, even during drought conditions, should be prioritised for retention as breeding replacements as they would have received hardy and adaptable genetics from their mothers. 

This breeding strategy facilitates a highly repeatable fertility trait for further productive and profitable herds.

Indigenous cattle farmers need to be aware that it takes three generations of selective breeding for new bulls’ genetics to be found in almost 90 percent of the farmers entire herd.  

Hence, it is critical that Zimbabwean farmers select or purchase only top-quality breeding bulls to improve the genetics of their herds.

Sires should also be inspected by a qualified veterinary officer if they do not produce every year.

Preserving fertility and productivity in the herd is important for indigenous farmers to realise maximum profits and grow the national herd.

Sustainable cattle breeding needs to be nurtured and taught to both new and old farmers as well as school children through a nation-wide animal husbandry programme.

Instituting an optimal stocking rate of cattle is the most important profit driver for indigenous Zimbabwean livestock ranches.

Another livestock profit driver is developing and knowing how to boost the body condition and weight of all the animals by boosting their condition by a cost-effecting grazing scheme.

Cattle breeding is a life-time commitment.  

Therefore, in order to transform the agricultural livestock sector of rural Zimbabwe into a lucrative national endeavour communal cattle ranchers need to be engaged in developing countryside pastures as a natural resource for livestock production.  

Dr Tony Monda holds a PhD in Art Theory and Philosophy and a DBA (Doctorate in Business Administration) and Post-Colonial Heritage Studies. He is a writer, lecturer and a specialist post-colonial scholar, Zimbabwean socio-economic analyst and researcher. 

For views and comments, email: tonym.MONDA@gmail.com

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