Government moves to improve milk production

The government is targeting 1 500 small holder dairy farmers for silage production this cropping season, as it seeks to increase the milk output that has reduced over the years owing to high production costs.

Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, director of livestock production and development in the ministry of Agriculture, Alban Mhindurwa, said the silage pasture programme will reduce the cost of milk.

“Feed accounts for 70-80 percent of the costs of producing raw milk, when feed is obtained from manufacturers or retail shops. When it is produced on the farm this reduces the costs by 35 percent and this will increase profitability of the enterprise.

“We had a target of 1 500 and so far more than 1400 have received the first batch of Presidential silage input packages and we have almost reached the main target of distribution. Now we are encouraging farmers to collect the additional 10 kg red sorghum that the government introduced this month,” Mhindurwa said.

The presidential input package contains 25kg of maize seed for farmers in high rainfall areas and 10kg of red sorghum for those in dry areas for silage production that covers one hectare.

Each farmer receives five bags of 50kg for basal fertiliser, 5 bags of ammonium nitrate fertiliser, tick grease and five litres of herbicides.

Mhindurwa said the first beneficiaries of the first batch will receive an additional 10 kg of red sorghum for silage making to climate proof the programme.

“Beginning of January, the government came up with an additional package of 10kg of red sorghum for every farmer whether in the high and low rainfall area.

“We are encouraging farmers to go on red sorghum silage planting because it’s a short season variety and drought tolerant. The bulky material is nutritious for dairy cows. We don’t wait for it to fully ripe, we just need the soft kernel that will be taken for silage making.”

“There was a delay of the rainfall season followed by a dry spell and that confused the farmer, so the best alternative is to switch to climate proofed seeds like the red sorghum which is suitable for silage making,” Mhindurwa added.

He also encouraged farmers to continue planting small grains as the window period is still open.

“The window period for planting pasture and silage crops ends at the first week of February. Farmers should work with their Agritex extension officers to collect red sorghum and forage legume packages, input packs of 10kg that will cover one hectare at the Grain Marketing Board.”

According to Mhindurwa the beneficiaries of the programme were carefully chosen.

“Farmers which were selected have ten or less dairy cows, produce less than 200 litres of milk in the communal area, old resettlement areas and A2 farmers qualified in the presidential programme.”

This comes as the director of the division of veterinary technical service under the ministry of Agriculture, Pious Makaya recently told the Daily News that the country was producing milk below the national target.

 “Zimbabwe to be self-sufficient in milk production it needs to grow its raw milk production from target production in 2021 of 81 million litres to at least 157 million litres per annum to meet national demand. While raw milk production is continuing to grow, the demand is also growing due to population growth and entry into export markets. The sector is anticipating an increase in demand for milk products in 2022 due to improved economic activity (forecast GDP growth rate of seven percent)”.

“The government has already started implementing these interventions in order to boost feed production for dairy animals.

The national enhanced agriculture input scheme previously known as command has been expanded to accommodate dairy maize silage production for medium to large scale dairy farmers.

“Small Scale dairy farmers producing less than 200litres per day of milk will be catered for under the Presidential silage and pasture scheme where they will receive inputs aimed towards fodder production for their dairy cows,” Makaya said.


Melisa Chatikobo