President Ruto orders 15 pedigree bulls, 40 heifers from Zimbabwe

Kenya President Dr William Ruto (right) chats with Zimbabwe farmer and Simmental cattle breeder Mr Obert Chinhamo during his tour at ZITF on Saturday.

IMPRESSED by Zimbabwe’s top-notch pedigree cattle breeds exhibited during the just-ended Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) in Bulawayo, Kenyan President Dr William Ruto’s government has reached out to local farmers to facilitate the importation of 15 Simmental bulls and 40 heifers to the East African country.

President Ruto was the guest of honour at this year’s premier trade expo, which he officially opened on Saturday. Earlier on, he together with President Mnangagwa, conducted a tour of various exhibition stands and was particularly charmed by the country’s livestock at the Bulawayo Agricultural Society Show, which runs concurrently with the annual ZITF.

President Ruto was impressed with Simmental cattle owned by prominent Matabeleland South farmer, Mr Obert Chinhamo, who runs a successful enterprise at his farm on the outskirts of Bulawayo, a walking distance from the Gwanda Highway, about 27 kilometres from the city centre.

Following President Ruto’s visit to his stand, Mr Chinhamo and other farmers will now export 15 Simmental bulls and 40 heifers to Kenya. 

This is seen as a milestone development that could open huge opportunities for local farmers as spin-offs from the flourishing Zimbabwe-Kenya bilateral ties.

“I have been contacted by a government official from Kenya who stated that the process to export our Simmental breed to that country has been initiated and from our herd, I have already selected the best beasts that we will send to Kenya,” said Mr Chinhamo in an interview at his farm yesterday. 

“The Kenyan government official said they want about 15 bulls and between 30 to 40 heifers, depending on how many cattle can be loaded into the truck. You can only load so much in a truck for the long journey to Kenya.

“The 15 bulls that will be exported are what we call working bulls in the sense that they are ready to mate and the same goes with the 40 heifers that they want, but we are not exporting pregnant heifers as they can have complications during the trip and abort. 

“I have already contacted other Simmental breeders to select their best breeds so that together we can meet the numbers that the Kenyans want.” 

Mr Chinhamo’s life story is one of hard work, diligent perseverance, and self-belief from the time he ventured into selling second-hand clothes in the early 90s while working as a fitter and turner for the Cold Storage Company (CSC). He bought his farm in 1994.

“I have been breeding cattle for the last 30 years, but when I started, I was into commercial breeding where I would buy cattle from farmers in surrounding areas for fattening in feedlots,” he said. 

“We used to have around 800 cattle in the feedlots at a time, which we bought from cattle sales, fatten them then sell for slaughter. The Land Reform Programme presented us with an opportunity because most of the white farmers sent their pedigree cattle for slaughter at the height of the land redistribution exercise before leaving the country,” said Mr Chinhamo.

“They created a vacuum for good genetics on the market, so, as black farmers we realised that there was a gap for us to go in and identify breeds that were in short supply on the market and make sure we continued with the breeding business.”

He said he opted for the Simmental breed to fill that gap left by the departing white farmers.

“I didn’t want to venture into the overloaded breeds such as Brahman, which almost every farmer was into as I would be forced to compete with some of the most established breeders in the business.

“So, I decided to try Simmental breeding, which was a less popular breed at that time. It took us a lot of effort to bring the Simmental breed into the country as we had to import our first stock of the pedigree cattle from South Africa, Botswana and Namibia,” said Mr Chinhamo. 

“The reason for importing from those countries is because we wanted to have a greater gene pool of the Simmental breed itself and as a farm, we have the most diversified genetics of the breed in the country, which we imported from around the region.

“To date, we also import semen from countries such as New Zealand and Canada that we use for artificial insemination. The Simmental breed is special in that it is a dual animal and by that, I mean it can be used as a dairy animal or a beef animal.

“Right now, the dairy sector in the country is dependent on a lot of importing of milk from other countries and I always urge other farmers to cross-breed their cattle, even in the communal farming setup.”

With the Simmental breed as the animal that is born from cross-breeding, Mr Chinhamo said this could help improve milk production. He said the Simmental breed is one animal that will improve the national herd because it has very good traits for milk production and beef. 

Chronicle

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