Drought dampens Zim dairy output

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In this story:

  • Dairy output retreats
  • Association investing in growing dairy herd

Maricho Reporter

ZIMBABWE’s dairy sector has reported a decline in milk production as the El Nino-induced drought causing over 9 000 drought-related cattle deaths with over 1,4 million cattle at high risk of drought conditions and death due to lack of pasture and water, according to the USAID’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FewsNet).

“In Zimbabwe, over 9 000 drought-related cattle deaths have been reported, and over 1,4 million cattle were reported as being at high risk of drought conditions and death due to lack of pasture and water,” FewsNet said.

“Water and pasture conditions are expected to be poor, especially in typically low-rainfall areas following cumulatively below-average rainfall that has limited pasture regeneration throughout the rainy season. “Poor livestock body conditions, particularly for cattle, will likely lead to higher-than-normal livestock deaths in the dry season as the limited pastures deplete and high prices limit access to supplementary feeds.”

The Zimbabwe Association of Dairy Farmers (ZADF) National Vice chairperson Elvis Gwanzura told Maricho on the sidelines of a Feed and Fodder workshop that the country has a milk supply deficit producing about 100 million litres of milk against a market demand of 131 million litres, impacted by the worst drought in 40 years.

The workshop was organized by the African Union InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR).

To close the output gap, milk producers are implementing strategies to reduce production costs and increasing output per cow.

“We’re looking at increasing production per cow per day, moving from 13 liters, which is the average per cow per day, to 18 liters per day. We’re also looking at building our heads. I think we milk just under 40,000 cows and we’re looking at growing to about 60,000 cows,” Gwanzura said.

He said highly nutritious feed and fodder was important for the dairy cows’ optimal production of milk.

“About 70 percent of our costs as dairy farmers is what we feed to our animals and without adequate nutrition, the cows will not produce optimally,” he said. “And if they do not produce optimally, then you have no business case for dairy.”

“But over and above milk, dairy cows are supposed to drop a calf every year. Now, that only happens when cows are in good health, if they are fed properly. Also, heifers fed properly are supposed to come into calving at about 18 to 14 months, and by the time they come to 24, 25 months, they should be calving down.  And once that is done, it should repeat itself every year,” he said.

Due to climate change, he noted that Zimbabwe is losing
close to 24 000 litres of milk per month.

“And so, you have delayed calving, low production rates, it becomes expensive if you’ve got failures. I gave a case of a milk collection center where in peak rainy season periods, you produce up to 72,000 liters per month is the collection center.

“In the dry season that comes down substantially to about 48,000. Now that’s a lot of volume that is lost. That volume has got a value to it. And I think the figure per annum basis runs into over US$120,000 which is an opportunity cost for the farmers,” Gwanzura said.

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