Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
Small-scale livestock farmers in Beitbridge district have applauded the government and its partners for implementing an Artificial Insemination (AI) program that has helped most of them rebuild their livestock after years of devastating droughts.
Between 2019 and 2021, the district lost nearly 5,000 livestock due to drought-related poverty deaths.
At that time, the Government, in cooperation with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), started a program to improve the quality of livestock in the area.
This was done under the PROGRESS consortium led by the International Rescue Committee (IRC).
Between 2019 and 2021, a total of 1,200 cows were managed with high-quality Tuli, Boran and Brahman cattle, and a total of 800 calves were obtained.
Another 500 cows were shot in June this year and the calving rate is still being monitored.
The goal of the program was to promote sustainability by introducing bloodlines from beef breeds that are challenging in terms of disease and nutritional needs.
“Being a beneficiary of the recently completed AI phase, it has greatly improved my sex. Now my herd has shades of pure Tuli breed,” said Mr. Oscar Singo of Langeni area in Ward 5.
“This program has produced the right results because there are fewer errors compared to when your cows are in heat/ready to conceive and you don’t have a bull, which is a loss.
“But with this program, everything goes according to plan and you get the breed you want, rather than waiting for your cow to mate with any bull and some poor genes.”
Ms Eunice Mudau from Ward 15 in Mapayi region hailed the Second Republic for rolling out people-oriented policies that help empower people from the grassroots.
He said that the artificial insemination program is important in terms of breeding good breeds at lower cost.
Another livestock farmer, Mr Oscar Chiromo from Ward 5, Lutumba district, said the program was good in disease control and the probability of the cattle becoming pregnant after the shots was very high.
“This is a very good program implemented by our government, especially when we look at the situation of communal farmers,” he said.
“You will note that it costs at least US$5,000 and more to buy a better breed bull, which is beyond the reach of many small farmers.
“Availability of artificial insemination vaccines is relatively affordable and it also minimizes the cost of keeping high quality bulls on common pastures.”
Ms Patience Moyo from Ward 8, Masera, said the program has given the majority of women, who are in some cases low-income, the opportunity to improve the quality of livestock at affordable prices.
An average bullock of Boran, Tuli, Nkoni and Brahman breeds sells for US$5 to US$30, compared to bulls that can fetch between US$5,000 and US$15,000 in local markets.
“As women farmers, we see this as a positive development that bridges the gap between male and female farmers.
“It was a disadvantage that women were on an equal footing with men in selecting and owning good breeds of cattle. This technological advancement is leveling the playing field and everyone can afford shots,” said Ms Moyo.
Ms Praise Matizirofa from Mzingwane in Ward 6 said the smallest scale livestock farmers are now warming to the programme, given that livestock is one of the main economic anchors in Beitbridge.
Local agronomist Mr Ntando Ndlovu said: “It was important for the framers to take advantage of the program which helps control disease and improves animal genetics, birth weight and natural weight of calves.
“Some high quality breeds grow fast and fetch good money in the local market compared to regular cattle.”
Mr Masauso Mawocha, Beitbridge’s director of agricultural development and advisory services, said although the genetic makeup was mainly indigenous animals, they also included meat animals of non-descript breeds due to uncontrolled breeding in communal areas.
“More than 500 farmers (including youths) around Beitbridge district have been sensitized to adopt technology as a livelihood after the programme,” the official said.
He also said that some farmers from all the village wards were trained on breeding bull management, nutrition, productivity, drought (bull) management, disease control and prevention.
“We encourage livestock farmers to adopt good husbandry initiatives such as dehorning, castration, proper dosing, effective tick control and proper livestock feeding regimes.
“They should also consider introducing weight bearing breeds such as Tuli, Boran and Brahman, although Brahman is drought sensitive,” said Mr Mavocha.