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Harare- Zimbabwe’s raw milk production  for the first quarter of 2015 has surged 9,8 percent compared to the  first three months of  2014 owing to improved dairy herd management  by farmers.

Figures released by the Dairy Services Department in the Ministry of Agriculture Mechanization and Irrigation Development, show that the Southern African country produced 13,4 million litres in January, February and March this year up from 12,2 million same period last year.

Diary expert Tatenda Guta said improved management of dairy cattle that followed after the Zimbabwe Association of Dairy Farmers (ZADF) programme called somatic cell counts (SCC) 300 was the reason behind the rise in raw milk at collection centres.

“The initiative aimed at improving the quality by lowering raw milk SCC from above 500 down to 300. A high SCC (mastitis) has resultant effect of lowering milk yield and declining milk quality. If the quality of milk is worse it results to condemnation of raw milk at milk collection centres,” Guta said.

SCC that is above 300 is an indirect indicator of mastitis. Mastitis is a disease characterized by inflammation of cow’s udder that is due to biological agent in the environment or the dairy.

It can be transmitted from one animal to the other under unhygienic conditions.

Guta said farmers were also enjoying the benefits of the wet season since digestible forage was still available.

He said there was also improved service delivery from raw milk carriers.

“The increase may also be attributed to fulfilling relationship between farmers and dairy processors which can be characterized by lowered side marketing activities,” Guta said.

The trend, he said, may be further maintained by strategic use of post-harvest residue as feed resources. The residues are in the name of maize stover, soya beans stover, wheat straw, barley straw, molasses, soya bean cake, sunflower seed cake and cotton mort.

“Post-harvest technology is key to all dairy farmers particularly storage and preservation of raw material. Raw materials tend to develop mycotoxins due to fungal invasion in barns and shed. So when farmers are preparing their total mixable rations they are encouraged to use mycotoxins binders,” Guta said.

Mycotoxin binders kill and prevent fungal invasion.

Mycotoxins reduce milk yield, they lower the immune system, compromise feed conversion efficiency and reduce fertility in dairy animal.

Further, Guta said, the increment may be attained by reducing dairy overheads, improvement of breeding technology to increase herd size and continuous improvement on dairy management. Dairy overheads may be reduced by the government and stakeholders fighting to reduce feed costs and availability among dairy farmers.

This year, ZADF is targeting an increase of 0, 5 to 1 percent.

Annual milk output for 2014 stood at 55, 5 million litres up from 54, 7 million litres in 2013. The dairy industry is currently operating at about 45 percent capacity, with an estimated 223 registered dairy operatives and a dairy herd of approximately 26 000.

April 2015
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