Latest on dairy milk production

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THE re-vitalisation strategies being put in place by stakeholders to revamp the dairy sector have contributed to the sector’s recovery process, the Zimbabwe Association of Dairy Farmers (ZADF) has said.
Last year, Government launched a Special Livestock, Fisheries and Wildlife Programme US$300 million facility focusing on dairy revitalisation programme, aquaculture and livestock disease control to enhance the quality and size of the national herd in order to guarantee self-sufficiency and secure export markets.
The move followed the successful implementation of Command Agriculture which was aimed at ensuring the country achieves food security and nutrition as well as empower the people.
The introduction of the Command Livestock Programme will ensure growth of the national herd and, ultimately, milk production.
According to ZADF, the country is in the process of importing embryos from South Africa in order to boost the national herd.
Small scale dairy farmers are also being trained on how to produce quality milk.
Zimbabwe’s dairy herd of 100 000 cows at one point would produced more than 260 million litres of milk annually, but production declined over the years, with an estimated 25 000 dairy cows left.
In the past seasons, dairy farmers were negatively affected by depleted grazing, high costs of production, inadequate drinking water and lack of de-worming facilities.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) first vice-president Berean Mukwende said the increase in milk production is positive news for the sector.
“The growth of the agriculture sector this year was negatively affected by drought and with dairy milk production on the rise, it means a part of the sector is doing well,” he said.
“This is encouraging as this shows that some players are getting returns for their efforts.”
Prior to the Land Reform Programme, dairy farming was dominated by white commercial farmers, but the number of resettled farmers taking up the trade is increasing.
Before the programme, communal farmers kept small herds of domestic animals, mainly for consumption and draught power.
Mukwende said despite the increase in dairy milk production, farmers are still faced with challenges inhibiting increased growth.
“Dairy farmers are affected mainly by the high cost of stockfeeds, electricity used in the storing of milk and machines for milking the cows,” he said.
“Stockfeeds are available on the market though the majority of smallholder farmers cannot afford them.
“In some areas, livestock farmers are receiving assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in terms of stockfeeds.”
In another move set to boost livestock production, Government recently launched a US$10 million stockfeed manufacturing plant in Norton.
In April last year, Government resolved to separate the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) strategic grain reserve operations from its commercial operations.
The stockfeed manufacturing plant is under GMB commercial operations.
Dairy farmers have remained resilient despite challenges the sector is facing and have called on Government to establish one authority that regulates the sector for development and help cut costs.
There are several Government arms that regulate the dairy industry.
Currently, dairy producers are paying levies to the Environmental Management Agency, Dairy Services Department, Agriculture Marketing Authority, Local Authorities and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority, among others.
Experts contend that reviewing the Dairy Services Act, which was failing to cope with modern trends, would clarify the linkage between stakeholders and create opportunities for change.
Government is planning to review the Dairy Services Act to ensure it meets emerging trends worldwide.
The Act was last reviewed in 1977.
The dairy herd dwindled in the past decade as the agriculture sector was not spared the effects of illegal sanctions imposed on the country by the West.
The dairy sector, however, is projected to grow by seven percent in the next five years, aided by an import levy recently introduced to discourage imports and enhance production.
Mukwende said dairy farmers were also affected by livestock diseases which are rife during the summer season.
Tick-borne diseases such as anaplasmosis, babesiosis, theileriosis and heartwater as well as other tick-related diseases like senkobo, sweating sickness and tick paralysis are rife in most local livestock rearing regions.
“It is standard procedure that milk producers only process milk obtained from disease-free animals, hence if a farmer is to maximise on production, he/she has to ensure a disease-free herd,” said Mukwende.
Government has, however, in the past seasons, through the Veterinary Department, helped farmers vaccinate livestock for notifiable diseases such as anthrax, New Castle, rabies as well as foot-and-mouth.
The country requires between 10 and 12 tonnes of dipping chemicals per month.
In the past, Government used to supply dipping chemicals to communal and A1 farmers, while commercial and A2 farmers purchased their own.
It’s important for farmers to remember that during the wet season, cattle are dipped once every week, whereas in the dry season, they are dipped once every fortnight.

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