Chipinge cattle farmers develop pastures
THE Chipinge Livestock Development Trust has embarked on an initiative to assist at least 2 000 farmers in grazing stressed areas to develop pastures to increase productivity beyond natural levels.
CLDT is also involved in hay production and has so far distributed more than 5 000 litres of molasses — from Hippo Valley — which farmers are mixing with stovers to boost smallholder livestock production capacity which is often under threat from prolonged dry periods.
The organisation is also negotiating with Green Fuel for additional molasses and cane tops to give to more farmers.
CLDT spokesperson, Mr Joseph Mutsvaidzwa, yesterday, said the belt stretching from Birchenough Bridge to Mahenye, has depleted pastures to sustain livestock, hence the move to replenish communal pastures.
“We are starting off with 2 000 farmers in those areas that were severely affected by drought in 2016 as well as pests and diseases. We are assisting farmers with the knowledge to plant fodder and conservation of existing pastures.
“We are also distributing molasses so that farmers can mix it with stovers to improve the crude protein levels. We intend to increase the pace and numbers once a deal has been agreed on with Green Fuels for supply of molasses and cane tops,” said Mr Mutsvaidzwa.
Chipinge is Manicaland’s hub of livestock production where an estimated herd of 50 000 died last year due to a combination of feed and water shortages, as well as exposure to diseases like foot and mouth and anthrax.
Mr Mutsvaidzwa said they were also helping farmers to improve animal genetics, disease control, fertility and the calving rate to unlock value out of animal husbandry.
Coopers Business Development manager, Professor Joseph Kamuzhanje, said veld quality and availability was highly variable in communal areas with crude protein dropping below to five percent in dry mature grasses and stovers.
Prof Kamuzhanje said feasible means by which communal productivity could improve was by reinforcing pastures with legumes and better yielding grass species.
There are grass species with crude protein of 15 percent and a yield of 50 tonnes per hectare which can be introduced in communal areas.
“Smallholder livestock farmers have not reached the level of mechanisation to do on farm feeding and natural grazing is the cheapest and their most important source of livestock feed.
“In the past, we used to have properly designated grazing areas, but a combination of settlement by people and expansion of fields in those areas, reduction in rainfall and shortage of water has seen the grazing deteriorating, overgrazed and whatever is left is no longer nutritious,” said Prof Kamuzhanje.
Prof Kamuzhanje said the most prominent constraints in small-scale livestock farming include disease and pest control and the quantity and quality of feed offered to the animals.
“Animals no longer have the same grazing area per animals as was the case in the past and this explains their poor body condition. We need re-planning and re-organisation of communal areas in terms of designated grazing areas and availability of water so that high yielding grass species that require less care can be planted,” he added.
Prof Kamuzhanje also said smallholder farmers should develop technology to develop the nutritional value of readily available farm by-products such as maize, millet and sorghum stovers.
“Communal farmers can improve the nutritive value of maize stovers and straws by mixing the with urea solution. The stovers have low nutritional value (about 6 percent protein) if fed as they are, but can be improved in quality and digestibility by treating them with a three-week fermentation period using a urea-water solution.
“The crude protein content of stovers and straws increases when treated with urea. There is increased dry matter intake, live weight gain and high milk production from urea-treated stovers and straws compared to untreated material that smallholder farmers are accustomed to,” said Prof Kamuzhanje.