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Crop livestock integration - the way to go for Zimbabwe


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The author argues that crops and ruminant livestock must complement each other in Zimbabwe’s current agricultural system.

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Crop livestock integration - the way to go for Zimbabwe

  1. 1. 1 Opinion: Crop-livestock integration – Eddington Gororo Integration of Ruminant Livestock in Arable Cropping Systems in Zimbabwe By Eddington Gororo Chinhoyi University of Technology, Zimbabwe Summary In this opinion piece, the author argues that crops and ruminant livestock must complement each other in Zimbabwe’s agricultural system. The role that ruminant livestock in general and cattle in particular, play in the crop-livestock farming system is discussed. Major constraints faced in livestock development, the food-feed debate, and aspects relating to the choice between ruminants and non-ruminants in the farm system are further highlighted. Finally, aspects of harmonizing the intensity level of cattle production when integrating it into a given arable system are explored. 1. The 21st Century livestock Development Dilemma A few years ago Zimbabwe embarked on a land reform exercise that was meant to redress the colonial land ownership imbalances and empower the indigenous black people of the country. As the exercise was fast-tracked, the livestock and wildlife components were given secondary priority in planning, at the expense of other farming enterprises. As a result, the national breeding herd (representing several decades of breeding excellence) went through the abattoirs as the former farmer packed his bags, while funding in adaptive research to come up with appropriate technical packages for livestock production and development to suit what was on the ground dwindled by the day. It then became a nightmare for the over-zealous new farmer to take the system of animal production used by the large-scale commercial farmer of the last century onto his small 21st century farm. It became uneconomic and even
  2. 2. 2 Opinion: Crop-livestock integration – Eddington Gororo unsustainable. This further contributed to the continued decline in the national herd. It was after the realization of this anomaly that the government then decided to prioritise the livestock component in agricultural development by setting up a Livestock Production and Development Department in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development (MAMID) and more recently a deputy ministerial portfolio responsible for livestock issues within the ministry. This is quite commendable and shows that the government is committed to agriculture as one of the pillars of economy. The farmer today faces a number of challenges, among them food supply, climate change, land tenure and farm size limitations. It is quite predictable that with the now smaller farming units, there will be increasing intensification and a shift within ruminant production systems, especially from extensive to intensive rearing and systems combining livestock with arable cropping. The farmer will definitely need a combination of the right animal (genetics), feed resources and production system with clear goals. The principal aim should therefore be improved feeding and nutrition, in which the objective is maximum use of the available feed resources, notably crop residues and low quality roughages, and also various leguminous forages as supplements. Therefore, this article seeks to suggest integration as a possible approach to the sustainable development of ruminant stock in the country. Integration leads to diversified land use to provide greater ecological and economic resilience and a better return from marginal land and crop waste resources. 2. Role of the ruminants animal The benefits of crop animal interactions are significant, and integrated systems have had positive impacts on the development of sustainable agriculture, even on the former large-scale commercial farms. The following are some of the roles played by ruminant livestock in the integrated modern farm system.
  3. 3. 3 Opinion: Crop-livestock integration – Eddington Gororo 1. Livestock diversify the farming operation by making use of marginal land and crop residues and waste products, thus cushioning the family against risk. 2. Livestock provide valuable inputs to the crops at comparatively lower costs; that is, draught power for cultivation, tending crops and transport (inputs and crop output) and manure for soil condition. 3. Fodder crop (forage legumes – sirratro, velvet bean, lablab bean – and grasses such as Katambora Rhodes, etc) production improves the crop rotation system and helps reduce soil erosion. 4. Ruminant livestock provide an alternative means of marketing cereal and legume grains by taking advantage of superior or otherwise higher meat prices (marketing the grains through livestock). 5. Because they increase in number and individual size, livestock such as cattle, sheep and goats constitute a form of profitable investment or saving to be drawn on in times of need (e.g., during a drought year or other crop failure). During good years, surplus income from crops is invested in livestock and when a drought comes cattle are sold to buy food for the household. Families who own cattle and indeed any other livestock have a comparatively better chance of surviving difficult times. 6. Direct food production for the family – animal meat contains protein of superior quality. Livestock are therefore important as a source of household food and nutrition security and dietary diversity 7. Livestock are a source of income 8. Livestock convert non-marketable by-products and waste products of crops (feed grade wheat, barley, crop residues) into marketable products (milk, goat, mutton and beef)
  4. 4. 4 Opinion: Crop-livestock integration – Eddington Gororo 3. Constraints to the Zimbabwean livestock thrust 3.1. Socio-economic and policy related constraints 3.1.1. Investment in livestock: Lack of financing of livestock farms for putting up infrastructure, purchase of breeding animals and veterinary supplies and feed resources. As a result, growth of the livestock industry has been slow. 3.1.2. Recurrent expenditure: There is lower recurrent expenditure on government livestock services such as extension and veterinary services. More numerous staff on the ground has therefore tended to be less effective due to inadequate operating budgets. Compared to crops for instance, livestock gets a lower share of the budget in relation to its output within the economy. 3.1.3. Investment in research: Post-land and agricultural reforms no adaptive technical packages into which to channel government and donor investment in livestock were formulated. Investment in research has generally produced high rates of return, but its long term. Focusing research on commodities is no longer enough and should be focused to crop-animal systems especially in cognizance of the fact that most areas are based on dryland farming. Opportunities for increasing productivity through research and development are enormous and merits high priority. Research in farming systems involving crops and livestock in holistic terms is weak. The inclusion of animals into cropping systems needs greater emphasis, to include the development of methodologies to understand the effects of interactions between sub-systems (Devendra, 2000). 3.1.4. Poor infrastructure: in terms of road networks, electricity, markets and cold facilities make commercial production difficult.
  5. 5. 5 Opinion: Crop-livestock integration – Eddington Gororo 3.1.5.Brain drain: The government should be commended for doing a lot to arrest the export of valuable skills to other countries. However the highly trained research and development staff on the ground is under-employed. This is due to inadequate government support, lack of incentives and performance recognition. Hence they will remain under qualified and inexperienced. 3.1.6. Poor technology application: Inadequate, inappropriate and inefficient use of available technologies at farm level is a major limitation to increased production from animals. Technology application is particularly weak and is related to a combination of poorly formulated development peogrammes that often preclude strong inter-disciplinary team effort and concerted on-farm application efforts. 3.2. Technical constraints 3.2.1. Feed and nutrition: Due to seasonality and poor soils there is inadequate feed for all year round productivity. Hence there is need for conservation and storage. Increased intensification and efficiency in use of available feeds represents a most important strategy. It is the principal constraint among the non-genetic factors, which affect productivity. With ruminants, the food resources are very much underutilized. 3.2.2. Breed selection: Farmers are not choosing breeds based on the available resources and their management ability but on genetic performance of the breeds or because they heard somewhere that a certain breed is good. There is need to match the animal (genetics) to the environment (farm size, nutrition, management, production system, etc.)
  6. 6. 6 Opinion: Crop-livestock integration – Eddington Gororo 3.2.3. Health and disease: Most important diseases reducing animal productivity and causing major economic losses in Zimbabwe are Foot and Mouth, Anthrax, Blackleg, tick borne diseases such as Redwater (Babesiasis), January disease (Theileriosis) and Heartwater (Anaplasmosis) and internal and external parasites – ticks, liver fluke, tapeworms, wireworm, etc. 3.2.4. Lack of farm Infrastructure: lack of fencing for proper grazing management and animal confinement, shortage of dip tanks and water supplies that dry off in the dry season top the list of constraints of this nature. 3.2.5. Management: training and skills transfer is still an important requisite to agricultural development. 3.2.6. Shortage of land: Due to smaller farms, commercial production of say beef under extensive systems is difficult and uneconomic. Production in the future will have to be more intensive, efficiently utilizing resources. 3.2.7. Production efficiency: The efficiency (feed conversion, production cycle, environmental impact, etc) and profitability of ruminant enterprises (sheep, cattle and goats) in the short-term are lower compared to the non-ruminants (pig, broilers, layer chickens) and other crop enterprises. This is one reason for the excessive stress on crops by authorities and other stakeholders. To address most of these constraints, particularly those of an institutional nature, livestock development agents must be committed to multi-disciplinary, systems and sustainable development approach. This is particularly important for research and development of integrated systems of production in specific ecosystems. There is also need to formulate tailor made and specific adaptive research programs that address the real needs of the farmers. A reorientation
  7. 7. 7 Opinion: Crop-livestock integration – Eddington Gororo of livestock development programs is required in the country policy framework to deal with the now more complex, diverse farming systems and challenges related to viability, land tenure, farm sizes, competing claims on farm resources, and climate change and variability. Production must both be economically and environment sustainable. 4. Premises for the successful integration of livestock in arable cropping systems In light of the above, it can be said that the livestock thrust cannot be considered and indeed developed in isolation of other agro enterprises if it is to be sustainable. I believe it is an organic component of the general social and economic development of our beloved country. Four propositions for the successful development of integrated systems of production are highlighted here, in order of intensity level and degree of independence of the livestock enterprise. Farmers are advised to start with the first premise until they mature with time to the highest level. 4.1.1.Ruminant livestock kept as secondary enterprises The primary and prioritized enterprises are the traditional crops. This obviously is the starting point. Ruminants (cattle, sheep and goats) are expected to complement or intensify the primary enterprises through the utilization of non- marketable and waste products of crops; non-marketable, soil-improving catch crops; rotational fodder crops (e.g. Katambora in tobacco systems) and fallow land as well as provide manure for soil amelioration. 4.1.2.Harmonious merger of livestock and crops Here both livestock and crop enterprises are given the same importance and the merger is well planned and beneficial to both enterprises, especially for systems based on tobacco and those where organic fertilizers (manure) are used. The ruminant livestock must be able to match the crop growing profile,
  8. 8. 8 Opinion: Crop-livestock integration – Eddington Gororo rotations and commercial background, and contribute to the utilization and processing of crop waste products (bought in or produced on farm). 4.1.3.An independent ruminant livestock operation The livestock enterprise here operates as a separate and independent unit. The livestock arable functions highlighted above (manure, catch crops, rotational fodder crops, etc.) should be replaced with green manuring, use of inorganic fertilizers and lime, composting and biomass production for the crop fields. 4.1.4.An ecologically compatible ruminant livestock production Every serious and sustainability conscious farmer must make this fact their ultimate goal by paying attention to stocking levels and intensity of utilization of available resources, particularly the grazing. A lot of information is available and has been published on optimum stocking and grazing rates. 5. Conclusion In conclusion, the animal enterprise must be able to grow and mature on its own with a secure foundation on which to develop and exploit all its ramifications. And the foundation should be the now dominant and traditional crop enterprises. Rather than fight the crop thrust, let us be part of it; yet promoting livestock too.