Challenge for Zimbabwe’s dairy farmers

Successive droughts have slashed dairy farming, which curtailed milk supply.

The unfavourable weather conditions forced most farmers to cut back on milk production or to switch to other profitable enterprises altogether.

This, however, has not dampened the spirits of producers who have national needs at heart.

Dairy farmer Lovemore Mugabe of Wedza in Mashonaland East Province is one of them.

Mugabe, a beneficiary of President Robert Mugabe’s land reform programme, has is one of the few dairy farmers who continue to thrive where others have thrown in the towel.

The droughts that have dogged southern Africa in recent years have not deterred him.

His steadfastness has paid him handsome dividends.

He has been crowned the 2005 Nestle Dairy Farmer of the Year in recognition of his perseverance.

His enterprises, Magure Farm, are 160 km east of the capital, of Harare.

This southern African nation of 14 million people, are a fledgling dairy industry of an insignificant number of milk producers.

The equitable land distribution, which set off in 2000, slashed the number of the once vibrant milk producers among the odd 24 000 commercial farmers who owned more than half of the prime land. When the agricultural industry sneezes in Zimbabwe, the whole economy catches the cold.

This explained why the recent Utete Commission on land utilisation recommended that some of the dairy farms should be returned to their previous owners.

This move was aimed at boosting milk and improves the nutritional status of the population.

However, Zimbabwe can be rest, assured that producers like Mugabe would eventually turn the agricultural economy should the government provide them with the necessary incentives.

Mugabe abandoned a thriving transport network and took up dairy farming.

“Many people do not understand why I left the transport industry,” he said.

“It has always been my dream to become a successful dairy farmer out of my love for livestock.”

Mugabe started with a small property which he bought in 2003 and had 13 commercial dairy cows.

Since then he has expanded his operations moved on to 1 280 ha Magure Farm.

He now has 480 dairy cattle, including 206 in milk and 211 heifers.

Last year he was the second largest milk supplier in Zimbabwe.

He has since increased milk production from 60 000 litres to 100 000 litres.

Mugabe s working on plans to increase his byre to boost his milking capacity. The cramped parlours takes him about five hours to milk all the cows.

Nestle Zimbabwe, a conglomerate with interests in the dairy industry, is helping Mugabe to build another byre, which will enable him to milk 24 cows at a time.

“This, said Mugabe during a field day at his farm, “will halve the time I spend milking.

“The efforts that the government is taking to help in building the dairy herd are encouraging.”

Through Dariboard Zimbabwe Limited, the government has started to import high breed milk cows.

“I really appreciate this,” said Mugabe. “In Hwedza we, as dairy farmers, are already increasing our herds by selling cows to one another.

“That will come up with cows with a high yield potential. We are helping the government resuscitate the dairy industry.”

Mugabe felt that the government should import heifers to improve the quality of high-yielding dairy cows.

“I believes that one needs commitment to succeed in dairy farming,” said Mugabe.

“What I have achieved so far is only the beginning. I have set my sights on becoming the most outstanding dairy farmer in the country.” ‘ New Ziana

June 2006
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