Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
MATOPO Research Station has started distributing its high yielding and climatic adaptive exotic and indigenous dairy cross breeds as it forges ahead to improve production in the country’s dairy industry.
Matopo Research Station chief research officer Mr Daniel Nkomboni said the institution has started selling its crossed dairy heifers borne from its artificial insemination programme.
The institute inseminated the Afrikander breed using semen form the Holstein breed, Afrikander and Jersey as well as the Tuli and Jersey.
The heifers were calved in 2015 while most of them were calved in 2016 and 2017 and their dams (mother of a calf) produced on average 10 to 15 litres of milk per day while some of the heifers especially those calved in 2015 have been bulled.
“We have started selling (the heifers) and farmers have been coming in and buying. Farmers bought 40 heifers through the Dairy Revitalisation Programme.
“We are, however, not just doing production of those dairy cross breeds but we also need to be continuously monitoring them and doing some research on them,” said Mr Nkomboni.
The institute was assisted through Government’s Dairy Revitalisation Programme to carry out the programme while it managed to raise funding for its semen bank through support from various partners.
The cross insemination of dairy breeds has been carried out over the years in the country through the Dairy Development Programme.
“Matopos (Research Station) also joined in because we had a smallholder dairy model. We could produce crosses for Tuli and Jersey and Nguni and Jersey.
“We had to cross those animals because we were looking at the milk potential of the Jersey being an exotic dairy breed and also looking at the size of the small Jersey breed.
“On the indigenous breed, the Tuli and Nguni, we were looking at the hardness of the breed. We selected those animals that gave us more milk and crossed them with the Jersey, so as to produce 50 percent Jersey and 50 percent Nguni or Tuli because we are custodians of those two indigenous breeds (Tuli and Nguni),” said Mr Nkomboni.
He said the institution also carries out artificial insemination in communal areas as part of its efforts to support smallholder dairy farmers.
“When we go to the communal areas to inseminate for farmers, we normally select the animal based on the farmers’ knowledge. We select the animals that are more prolific because for those that don’t produce much, it will be a waste of time as they will not get that complimentary with the Jersey with the yield going down to five to two litres a day. We look for animals that produce a bit more.
“The programme we have on station was meant to support smallholder farmers. However, there are some commercial farmers who are interested in those crosses.
“The crosses are good as they can withstand changes in the climate while the exotic animals do not withstand the heat and their milk production either goes down or they succumb to heat stress,” said Mr Nkomboni.
Matopo Research Station is currently carrying out its artificial insemination programmes in Mwenezi and Beitbridge where it is being partnered by SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and United Nations Development Programme.
“In Beitbridge we are not looking at dairy breeds but using artificial insemination for the beef herd and we have inseminated about 200 and in Mwenenzi they have inseminated close to the same number.
“We wanted to inseminate more, our target was 600 from both districts, but at the start of the season no one knew the season was going to be like this, the rain started late and we had predicted a drought.
“Things turned out well but we hope from those 200 inseminated in Beitbridge and Mwenezi it will go well,” said Mr Nkomboni.