the herald

Office of Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge

Successive droughts have brought agony to many farmers in the Matabeleland region, especially in Beitbridge, where agricultural production cannot go well in the current climatic conditions.

The situation has gradually deteriorated in recent years due to continuous changes in the rainy season.

This area falls under Natural Region 5 which is designated to receive irregular rainfall.

The district received about 200mm of rain in the last agricultural season and as a result many people in this region who depend on agriculture as a business have turned to several coping methods.

These include irrigation, which is mainly powered by solar energy.

Livestock production, particularly cattle, goats and sheep, became Beitbridge’s main economic activity.

Due to the droughts, many farmers have had to watch in despair as their cattle herds are decimated.

Over the past two years, more than 500 cattle have succumbed to drought in Zimbabwe’s Southern District. This has forced many in the community to turn to goat herding, given that goats survive on grazing and most breeds are drought tolerant.

Farmers have started to make goat production a business and are migrating to higher value breeds.

The proceeds from the sale of goats have enabled many small farmers to write success stories and to be able to absorb the adverse effects of climate change.

It is understood that health concerns, the milk value chain and a marked increase in religious festivities have driven up goat production in Zimbabwe.

Renowned businessman and A1 farmer from Lesanth region, Mr Chris Nguluvhe, said he started raising goats in 1994 and has migrated to better breeds in recent years.

“I have over 70 Kalahari Red, Boer and Matabele breeds in my rural home in Makakhavhule and Lesanth A1 farm,” he said. “I got the inspiration to improve my breed after attending an auction where some Boer and Kalahari goats were fetching prices in excess of R200,000 each.

“Usually I sell my shares once every February and the returns are encouraging. However, it should be noted that no business can thrive overnight. two years after the start of their initiatives.

“You will notice that most businesses fall apart during this period and if you find yourself running for more than two years, they will not be easy to fall unless you decide to let yourself down.”

Another A1 farmer from Joko area, Ward 13, Mr Herbert Zhou said he became a serious goat farmer in 2016 when he imported 11 goats from the late Deyzel Xander from Polokwane in South Africa.

He now specializes in breeding Boer and Matabele crosses and has at least 100 breeding does and about 30 different classes.

Mr Zhou said he was driven by a combination of factors to improve the quality of his goats, including love of the breed, financial gain and their influence on the meat production industry.

“It hasn’t been easy to produce high-value goats on an A1 farm because the framework is capital-intensive, but you have to make a soldier out of it,” he said.

“In my case, I solved the headache of cattle rustling and threats from wild animals by using sheepdogs and human shepherds. Also, agricultural extension workers have been very helpful to many herders goats in this region.

According to Zhou, a high-value breeding goat fetches an average of US$1,000 in the local market. Mr Granger Nyoni said he set up his goat project at Juta village in 2020, starting with 19 Matabele female breeds and one Kalahari red male.

“I now have 129 mixed-breed goats and my goal is to reach a threshold of 400 so that I can supply the market fairly,” he said.

“Demand for Boer, Kalahari Reds and Matabele crosses is high and I have purchased several breeds of sheep as well.”

The young agronomist, Mr. Ntandoyenkosi Ndlovu, grew from a mere cattle fanatic to a renowned goat herder in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

He started by renting land from Malala in Beitbridge, Ward 6, before migrating to South Africa where he registered with the Boer Goats Breeders Association.

Mr Ndlovu now runs the Gatsheni Breeding Company, which specializes in breeding Boer goats in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

“Now I have 30 breeding ewes, and I collect goats from Namibia, Botswana and South Africa and supply them to customers,” he said.

“It is pleasing to note that many people are migrating from regular goat breeds, which are sold for less than $50 in the market compared to Boer and Kalahari breeds which can cost upwards of $500.

“These breeds are in demand, they grow fast and also improve multiple births from one child to two or four and have a good birth weight averaging 3.5kg.”

Mr Ndlovu said climate change had affected many things around animal production, including pasture quality, so it was ideal to raise goats that did not require too much pasture like cattle.

Goats, he said, need little land to breed compared to huge animals.

“Goats multiply rapidly and in four years you can break even,” Mr Ndlovu said. “They grow faster and drop kids about three times in 24 months compared to cattle that drop calves once a year.

“In fact, goat production is a short or medium-term investment that can be set up without any problems. The demand for goats is high within SADC and globally. People are willing to pay a premium for these goats in the market. »

Beitbridge Livestock Specialist Ms Cecelia Chakanyuka said that according to the second crop assessment carried out in April, the district had 125,970 goats.

These, she said, include the native Matabele, Boer, Cross (between Boer and Matabele) and the Kalahari Red.

Ms Chakanyuka said farmers should breed improved breeds, use artificial insemination and avoid inbreeding (keeping males for more than four years so they eventually mate with their children), to achieve high yields goat production.

“In some cases they need to improve complementary feeds (forage and feed formulation), and ideally goats are more grazers who survive on acacia species and veld grass,” he said. she stated.

“For supplements, farmers can create fodder banks from lablab, velvet bean, alfalfa and bana.”

Ms. Chakanyuka said that many educational activities were carried out by the extension workers on vaccination of goats, housing and the prevalence of common diseases such as kidney pulp and heart water.

It remains to be seen how goat herders and producers will fit into the government’s ongoing drive to transform lives in rural areas through the goat transmission scheme.

This is a program that is expected to benefit three million households by 2025.