By Ishemunyoro Chingwere
Local farmers have spent $8,4 million importing livestock breeding stock over the last three years as part of efforts to improve breeding efficiency which has plunged over the years, statics availed to this publication by Government’s statistical agency ZimStat have shown.
The imports saw cattle accounting for 74 percent of the total bill after farmers brought in live cattle worthy just over $6,2 million in the period from January 2015 to November 2017.
The statistics also show that of the total live cattle bill, 73 percent of the arrivals were pure breeds that included bulls, heifers and cows with beef breeds such as the Boran, Brahman and Simmental dominating while for dairy ranchers the Holstein, Jersey among others remain popular with farmers.
The imports will go a long way in boosting efficiency in farms which Government is on record saying has been plunging as in the beef industry where the average carcass weight has dropped from a high of over 200kg per head to less than 165kg.
The efforts are in line with Government’s which last week saw the launch of the much anticipated $300 million Command Livestock Programme which aims to improve breeds, pastures as well as curb the effect of diseases.
Speaking at the launch of the programme in Insiza last week, Vice-President Retired General Constantino Chiwenga, said Government had already set aside $80 for the Special Livestock, Fisheries and Wildlife Programme and is now mobilising $220 million from the private sector.
“Government has since identified the need for funding to the tune of over $300 million . . . In this regard, the $220 million of the required $300 million total support package of the programme would be sourced from the private sector, while the balance will be funded by the Government.
“I am pleased to advise you that to kick start this programme, Government has already set aside $80 million towards this livestock programme which will, among other things, enable National Parks to demarcate red and green zones.
“The aforesaid will inevitably go a long way in controlling the spread of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and curtail the domestic and wildlife conflict,” said VP Chiwenga.
Farmers have been complaining about the inhibiting cost of pure breed stock which has seen some of the best bulls going for as high as $8 000 on the local market while the increasingly popular goat, the Boer, is fetching between $700 and $2 000 per buck.
To circumvent the high cost, Government is urging farmers to take the cheaper route of artificial insemination and will, as part of the Command Livestock programme target 3 600 cows using semen from top breeds that could potentially produce 1 800 F1 bulls and 1 800 F1 heifers.
2017 Harare Agricultural Show Society Champion bull winner Mussolini Ganyo of the Panganayi Boran Stud said Government’s latest move is the best way of improving efficiency especially for small holder farmers who cannot afford live pure breed bulls.
“The success of a cattle ranching endeavour, above all, is premised on the selection of the best genetics available on the market,” said Mr Ganyo.
“Why should a farmer who wants to be the best settle for anything lesser? While the use of a live bull is the best way to go, we appreciate not everyone can afford a stud bull so that’s where artificial insemination comes in.
“We, for example, received several offers for our champion Boran bull after the Agricultural Show with some offering up to $12 000. But as our way of giving back and promoting quality, among small scale farmers we have decided to keep the bull and have so far tapped one thousand semen straws which we are selling to all interested farmers. It’s our way of sharing the best genes with every rancher,” said Mr Ganyo.
Beef exports used to account for a large chunk of the country’s total exports with the country shipping meat to Europe under the Beef and Veal protocol. Zimbabwe was however later blacklisted due to incessant outbreaks of the deadly FMD.