Netherlands development organisation, SNV Zimbabwe says inappropriate dairy breeds and inadequately developed breeding services are scampering the revival of the dairy sector.
In a recently concluded, national dairy sector evaluation study meant to facilitate the revival of dairy sector, SNV said there is need to strengthen small scale farmers’ production and marketing capacities.
“Inappropriate dairy breeds and inadequately developed breeding services; inadequate and inappropriate feeds, and lack of feed flow planning or budgeting; and weak milk collection centres (MCC) governance, financial management, and farmer organization and mobilisation need redress.”
The SNV study revealed that most small scale dairy farmers largely get milk from local cattle breeds which, as a consequence of their low genetic milk yield potential, are unsuitable for commercial dairy farming.
“While some dairy farmers milk cross breeds of local and dairy breeds like Friesian and Jersey, milk production from these crosses is variable and the proportions of parent breeds in the cross bred cow are often not planned.
“Exotic dairy breeds are relatively expensive (cost of animals and requisite management practices) for small scale dairy farmers. Unlike in most successful small scale dairy production systems, use of bulls for breeding was widespread and reproductive performance was poor,” SNV said.
SNV also said there was little use of artificial insemination (AI) and other assisted (artificial) cattle breeding technologies.
“Artificial insemination and the other breeding technologies enable dairy farmers to access or develop suitable breeds of cows for dairying, and hence increase productivity and competitiveness,” SNV added.
Dairy is one of the key agriculture sub sectors in Zimbabwe. SNV said commercial large scale farmers previously dominated the sub sector and, at peak in 1990, the sub sector produced 262 million litres of milk. Consequently, milk production dropped to an all-time-low-of 34 million litres in 2009 an output, which was significantly lower than the minimum
national annual demand of 200 million litres.
As a consequence of decline in large scale commercial dairy production, the country’s milk supply will in future likely depend on production from the small scale dairy sector.
This will lead to an increase in income across the dairy value chain, capital growth, and, ultimately, improved livelihoods. Development of the small scale dairy sub sector coupled with diversified value-added milk products processing can also help satisfy rural
demand and keep prices of these products low.
The small scale farmers participating in the dairy sub sector are currently clustered around 35 milk collection centres (MCCs) in five provinces: Manicaland, Mashonaland, Masvingo, Midlands, and Matebeleland South.
The first group of MCCs was established in 1983 when the Government of Zimbabwe, through the Dairy Marketing Board parastatal, established the Dairy Development Programme (DDP) that was initially and largely funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development, Danish Agency for International Development and Heifer International.
During the early years of this programme, membership across the MCCs reached an estimated maximum of 1,700 small scale farmers.
Currently, SNV said only 17 out the initial 35 MCCs are functional. Out of the 17, less than 10 are fully operational as a result of economic downturn.
SNV is a non-profit, international development organisation, established in the Netherlands in 1965.
Courtsey: The Zimbabwe Mail