Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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AGRICULTURE: Embrace cattle breeding, farmers urged

AGRICULTURE: Embrace cattle breeding, farmers urged

by Emilia Zindi Sunday, Feb 22, 2015 | 134 views

Some of the donated bulls to be used in the breeding programme by the Chikwaka community in Goromonzi

Some of the donated bulls to be used in the breeding programme by the Chikwaka community in Goromonzi

Emilia Zindi – Agriculture Editor

Farmers are being encouraged to diversify their farming operations by venturing into cattle breeding to cushion themselves against droughts or water-logging due to incessant rains.

The call was made last week at a hand-over ceremony of 17 bulls to the Chikwaka community in Goromonzi, Mashonaland East, by Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development (in charge of livestock) Deputy Minister Paddy Zhanda.

He sourced the bulls from various stakeholders.

Cattle breeding, which has been viewed as a preserve for commercial farmers only, has the potential to transform many lives, both in communal and farming areas.

The national herd currently stands at 5,3 million.

The programme will see villagers benefiting by way of breeding their “hard Mashona” type of cows with the Brahman bulls as a way of improving their herd, which had since deteriorated in size as well as quality.

Cattle breeder Mr Solomon Zawe, who donated some of the bulls, explained to the gathering how important it is for the community to embrace the programme seriously as it is in line with the Zim-Asset Food and Nutrition cluster.

Mr Zawe said it was important for any farmer who decides to venture into cattle rearing to know the needs of the animals in order to achieve the best results.

He said the first thing a cattle breeder needed to understand was animal husbandry. This involves, among other aspects, caring and grooming of livestock and their accommodation as well as hygiene, he said.

Animal husbandry has been practised for centuries. The animals were kept for meat, milk and clothing, among other things. This required the farmer to gain knowledge of animal species that could be domesticated in order to ensure maximum productivity.

As such, mankind became familiar with the animals’ habits and thus protected them from predators as well as assisted the animals in giving births and learnt how to treat or prevent many animal diseases.

He said today many of those involved in practising animal husbandry come from being brought up on the farms where large numbers of livestock are breed.

“This is particularly true in rural areas and in less developed countries where children are taught at an early age to take care of animals,’’ he said.

Mr Zawe said it was equally important for today’s farmers to continue with that trend where young ones are groomed from tender ages as crop farming can no longer be relied upon due to climate changes.

He also said the breeding aspect needs to be taken seriously as new techniques that are being developed allow the creation and maintenance, over many generations, of the desired characteristics.

“These might include a docile temperament, high milk yield as well as increase in the size of the animal, among other characteristics. Offspring with the correct characteristics could then be selected for further breeding, with some improvements in techniques where new methods such as artificial insemination as well as transfer of embryos to surrogate mothers has been carried out,’’ he said.

It is against this background that farmers need to know that a single bull is as good as half of one’s herd.

A good bull determines the direction of a farmer’s herd, with the animal expected to service between 25 and 30 cows per season before being given time to rest and settled down to new conditions.

Extra feed is also required for the bull to remain in good condition.

A bull is also expected to start working from two to two-and-a-half years old.

The cows or heifers should always have a good body condition for them to be on heat. Heifers can also be bulled at the age of two-and-a-half years and after calving it becomes a cow.

Mr Zawe said heifers must be bulled earlier, preferably in October so that they are given time to recover their body condition before the next bulling season. Extra feeding is again required for both cows and heifers for good body condition.

Cows, on the other hand, must be bulled in December, with the animal expected to have a calf every year. The calves must then be de-horned and castrated (if they are bulls) before weaning at seven months.

A farmer must prepare for weaning well in advance, with enough roughage and water available.

Dosing of animals is equally important, with farmers expected to do so every season during the wet and dry season.

Vaccination, although expensive, is equally important, with these being used at intervals. These should be used to prevent diseases, not curing.

Tick control must also be done at all levels, with dipping required once every week in summer and after two weeks in winter, with the best being tick grease.

Nutrition is also important for animals, with winter seasons requiring early preparations.

Prevention of fires around farms is good in that grass is the cheapest food a farmer can get for the animals.

Mr Zawe said in an area such as Chikwaka where breeding is taking place, the locals are urged to castrate their old bulls so as to give the new bulls a chance to bull the villagers’ heifers and cows in order to get the best herds.

Speaking at the same occasion, Deputy Minister Zhanda urged the community to be responsible in the cattle-rearing project.

Under the project, each villager whose cow or heifer is on heat, is expected to bring the animal to the central point where these will stay for at least 42 days before being taken back to the owner.

Officials from the Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services are responsible for providing technical assistance in the project.


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