Second Republic sets sight on 11 million cattle by 2030

OVERNMENT has set an ambitious target of growing the national herd by 100 percent from the current 5,6 to 11 million by the year 2030, as various initiatives to revitalise the cattle industry bear fruit.

Government-facilitated and private sector driven interventions over the past five years have resulted in a 26 percent increase in cattle herd from 4,4 million in 2019 to 5,6 million in 2020.

To achieve its 11 million cattle target by 2030, Government, in collaboration with development partners are improving the national breeds. This will ensure that country has enough meat while ensuring that there is quality breeding as well.

Livestock production plays an important role in the social, cultural and economic environment of Zimbabwe.

What policies have been put in place to build the national herd?

National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1)

The NDS1 said the livestock herd sizes declined by about 20 percent for beef and over 83 percent for dairy between 2009 and 2020. Furthermore, the productivity of smallholder cattle herds remains very low, with average calving rates of about 45 percent against a potential of 60 percent and off-take rates of about 6 percent against a recommended 20 percent.

The NDS1 will prioritise animal health and production through strengthening farmer knowledge, skills in livestock production and health so as to enhance productivity through the following strategies: Upscale hay cutting, development of pastures green belts and creation of forage banks.

Livestock Recovery and Growth Plan (LRGP)

Concerned by the level of performance of the livestock sector in 2020, Government promulgated the LRGP (2021-2026) to address all areas that were limiting growth and laid a good foundation for the livestock sector to assume its prominent role in transforming farmers’ livelihoods by providing the required raw materials for agriculture-led industrial development.

Its main goal is to reduce livestock mortality and introduce more productive livestock systems that are adapted to meet the incessant drought events caused by climate change.

The LRGP intends to grow the national cattle herd to six million by 2023 and eight million by 2025.

The sector was targeting US$2 billion by 2025, but now it’s expected to grow to US$3,4 billion after it made positive strides in improving productivity and combating cattle mortality following the outbreak of tick-borne diseases which ravaged almost half a million of cattle since 2016.

In 2021 the livestock industry was worth US$1,1 billion and now its US$1,5 billion— a 36 percent growth.

  1. Intensive cattle dipping programme

The Government declared war against tick-borne diseases by the adoption of a religious dipping programme; 5-5-4 model where farmers dip their cattle after every five days, after which they go on to dip after every four days and make sure that they dip their cattle at least five times a month.

Together with development partners, experts in the livestock sector are encouraged to teach rural communities on the correct dilutions so that they can eliminate the brown tick and achieve the targeted goal.

Though plunge dipping remains the most effective method where the whole animal is immersed in the dip to kill the ticks, other dipping methods for small herds of less than 30 cattle include hand spraying using knapsacks.

2.Accelerated dip tank rehabilitation programme

Government is rehabilitating the national dip tanks to ensure optimal functionality with more than 4 000 dip tanks constructed since 2021, setting the country on course to have sufficient infrastructure required to curb theileriosis and other cattle diseases.

A total of 5 000 dip tanks are expected to be constructed by 2025 to help fight the brown tick that has recently been wiping off the national herd.

The programme encourages community participation for sustainability with communities providing labour while Government chips in with financial and material support.

  1. Blitz tick grease application programme

The programme came up as a result of the outbreak of January disease (theileriosis). It is seen as a supplement to dipping and the tick grease is for free. Farmers are only required to   produce stock cards when collecting from the nearest GMB depot.

The Presidential Blitz Tick Grease application programme was launched in November 2020 to contain January disease outbreaks.

The programme involves the provision of one kilogramme of tick grease per cattle-owning household, targeting a million smallholder households.

Upon receiving the tick grease, farmers are trained on the application and use of tick grease in between dipping sessions.

The tick grease is a supplementary tick control measure, being applied to tick-feeding sites on the animal such as the inside of the ears, base of the horn, under the tail and tail brush, to improve the outcomes of the national dipping programme.

  1. Capacitating of field extension personnel

Government has capacitated all agricultural extension staff with motorbikes and they get a monthly fuel allocation to increase their mobility while disseminating and imparting critical knowledge to livestock farmers.

This capacitation allows the foot soldiers to quickly respond to outbreaks and institute control measures. In addition to mobility, the extension staff have also received tablets to allow for better communication with farmers, swift disease reporting and also access continued education through an in-service training application run by the training department in the Agriculture ministry.

  1. Review of the Animal Health Act and Regulations

Animal movement controls are critical in the fight against the January disease. It is an offence to move cattle infested with ticks, according to the Cattle Cleansing Regulations, 1993, and all cattle must be dipped and tick-free before they can be translocated.

Government reviewed the Animal Health Act and its associated regulations to more effectively enforce animal movement controls for an enhanced disease control programme.

Implementation of the revised Animal Health Act and its regulations will effectively serve the country’s livestock production and growth objectives.

  1. Local manufacture and supply of dipping chemicals

Government has also propelled the manufacturing of Theirelia BOLVAC vaccination locally, as part of the implementation of the National Integrated Ticks and tick-borne disease control strategy.

The effective use of the vaccine together with other measures will result in the reduction of cattle mortalities and will promote higher production, productivity and profitability as envisaged in the LRGP.

Fiscal Policy

During the 2023 national budget presentation, Finance and Investment Promotion Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube revealed that the Government had set aside $6,6 billion  for dip tank construction, dip tank rehabilitation, disease surveillance and control as well as vaccination programmes.

Breeding programmes

Government created an environment where breeding is made possible through distribution of high-quality breeding stock, provision of support for artificial insemination (AI) programmes, selective breeding and genetic improvement to enhance the quality.

This came after the realisation that the national genetic improvement was being stifled with the local beast size getting smaller and smaller because of inbreeding.

To counteract this, the AI programme is being spearheaded where farmers acquire semen from the best bulls and then inject it in heifers in rural areas as a way to improve the national herd genetics.

In its push to grow the beef herd, the Government is also rolling out innovative breeding technologies aimed at producing good genetics that can compete effectively on the export market following a low calving rate ranging from 35 percent in communal areas to 48 percent in large-scale commercial farms, against a national target of above 60 percent.

In terms of improving national cattle genetics, the Government also effected the Presidential Youth Heifer scheme, which is intended to improve the average carcass weight of an animal.

Government will sell quality bulls to A1, A2 and commercial farmers to make sure that they have new bloodlines in the breeding system of their cattle.

The national herd currently stands at 5,6 million cattle, which is not enough for a country like Zimbabwe. The country has to increase its pedigree breeding herd to at least one million so that it can have a herd of 11 million by 2030.

Impacts of Government policies

The scaling up of supportive initiatives is expected to have numerous benefits for the country. Firstly, it will create employment opportunities, especially in rural areas and will help to alleviate poverty and improve living standards for rural communities.

The Government will prioritise the provision of training and technical assistance to farmers, equipping them with the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed in the livestock industry.

Furthermore, an expanded livestock sector will contribute to food security by increasing the availability of meat, and other livestock products. This will reduce the country’s reliance on imports and improve access to affordable, nutritious food for the population.

Through scaling up supportive initiatives and implementing a comprehensive strategy, Zimbabwe aims to unlock the full potential of its agricultural resources and improve food security for its population. The successful realisation of this plan will not only benefit farmers but also contribute to the overall development of the nation.

The progressive impact of the Government’s various intervention programmes in the beef industry is there for all to see.

Farmer testimonies

A local farmer from Headlands and Tobacco Farmers Union Trust vice president Mr Edward Dune said Government’s efforts to increase the national herd were greatly appreciated, adding that there was a great improvement shown so far in safeguarding cattle from tick-borne diseases.

“We can now feel a great improvement in our national herd. We lost thousands of cattle in the past few years due to tick-borne diseases, but today we are celebrating these efforts. These deaths are very low. In Manicaland we are still safe. Farmer awareness campaigns are helping a lot. We thank the Veterinary Department for providing enough information on the importance of dipping to our farmers. We also expect this to happen in other areas,’’ he said.

A farmer in Macheke, Mr Taurai Mangwiro has embarked on renovating dip tanks so that farmers can take their cattle for dipping. He said farmers risk losing cattle to diseases that arise from not dipping their animals, hence the decision to construct dip tanks in the area.

“It is important for farmers to appreciate the Government’s effort of issuing subsidised dipping chemicals as they go a long way in the fight against ticks and tick-borne diseases.

“We want to thank our fellow farmers and the Government for the vision to construct dip tanks to reduce tick-borne diseases.”

Mrs Maggy Munyoro of Zvimba said it is critical for farmers to continue working hand in hand with authorities to ensure that livestock is protected from tick-borne diseases.

“This is a critical issue which must not be ignored because we lost thousands of cattle due to tick-borne diseases. The majority of us were left with nothing, hence we appreciate the Government’s efforts to provide chemicals which we are using to safeguard the livestock,” she said.

Herald

Positive Eye News

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