CUT’s milk parlour to boost, diversify dairy production

21 Oct, 2021 - 00:10 0 Views

The Herald

Conrad Mupesa Mashonaland West Bureau

THE commissioning of the Chinhoyi University of Technology’s multi-million dollar milking parlour is set to help overcome milk handling challenges and boost the country’s milk production in line with the Vision 2030 and National Development Strategy 1 (NDS-1) goals.

Poor milk handling facilities have for years negatively affected milk production and led to huge losses both in terms of productivity, lost farmer earnings and the rise in the import cost of milk to fill in the local demand gap.

The commissioning of the milk parlour with better technological techniques for storage will help farmers to overcome different value chain challenges and increase their milk production.

President Mnangagwa officially commissioned the project recently at the institution’s CUT Farm where he also challenged tertiary institutions to continue providing solutions to societal and national problems. 

The parlour and various industrial parks from universities and colleges across the nation are examples of how tertiary education institutions could nurture practical aspects of production and productivity.

Though in its infancy, CUT envisages the parlour to become a major player in the sector, while Mashonaland West Provincial and Devolution Minister, Mary Mliswa-Chikoka, expressed optimism that the project would become a driving force behind an increased provincial Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

 When fully operational, the parlour, which is installed with state-of-the-art equipment, is expected to produce milk products that include cheese, yoghurt and sour milk to service Chinhoyi town, Mashonaland West and beyond.

It has a Herring Bone structure of the 24/48 milking platform.

Already, the two cow milking machine is operational to cater for those with small numbers of dairy cows.

The project is also a big score for the Government’s Agriculture Recovery Plan which aims to improve productivity, income, jobs and livelihoods.

Through the Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Ministry, the Government has started rolling out various commercial horticulture, fisheries and livestock projects in rural areas where the majority of people live and CUT will outsource milk from local farmers for value addition.

Increasing milk production will help the Government’s target to achieve a middle upper income status by 2030.

Said President Mnangagwa during the commissioning: “Universities and other institutions of higher learning need to provide solutions to societal problems. They must accelerate the quest to be centres of excellence for purposes of empowering communities around them to draw lessons.

“Chinhoyi University of Technology is well positioned to become key in the development and application of science and technology for Mashonaland West and national development. The university is commended for rolling out a robust artificial insemination programme for the production of adequate semen to grow our national livestock herd. The commercial production of animal feed to supplement free range grazing for our livestock and wildlife is also applauded.”

The milking parlour, President Mnangagwa said, was going to help modernise dairy milk production and processing systems for the university and surrounding farmers, while supporting the Agricultural Recovery Plan which aims to make Zimbabwe the breadbasket of the region.

“This investment should not be an end in itself. Therefore, it is my expectation that the innovative young men and women passing through this institution develop value-added dairy products, leveraging on the milk produced at this parlour. CUT is urged to open up this facility to various communities to develop viable dairy enterprises.

“This student centred facility should also afford farmers an opportunity to learn the skills and best practice of running dairy projects,” President Mnangagwa said, urging the institution to use its resources and undertake investments for the benefit of students, the community and nation at large.

He called for scaled up promotion of synergies, cooperation and collaboration towards the “farming as a business philosophy”.

It is against this background that various farmers from Zvimba and Makonde districts have been given hope for a turnaround due to their proximity to the dairy facility. 

Most farmers in these areas who are involved in milk production have been failing to maximise their daily and total milk output due to poor access to markets, unavailability of a cold chain to store the milk and lack of facilities for value addition.

Said Farasi Jamwa, a dairy farmer from Makonde district: “Business is always tough for us. We don’t own any cold storage facilities and because of this, we ended up losing our milk. Milk is a perishable product and it requires good handling facilities.”

Other local dairy farmers and commercial farmers are optimistic that the project will bring about sound partnership that will see CUT increasing milk production and related products. 

The institution’s dairy project is also in line with the Government’s Agricultural Recovery Plan including the Silage and Pasture Production for Enhanced Milk Production and Veterinary Public Health Programme which all aim to improve quality and quantity of livestock, as well as improve milk production.

The university has entered the 4th Industrial Revolution with a focus on breeding and developing cattle for beef and milk production technology.

At the same event, CUT vice chancellor, Professor David Simbi said at its peak, the Milking Parlour will handle between 500 to 600 dairy cows, making significant contributions to the country’s milk supply.

“The unit also houses equipment for the production of milk products that include cheese, yoghurt and sour milk as well as offer students training facilities, and a diagnostic laboratory education,” he said.

Already, 102 dairy cows, including heifers, should grow to between 300 and 400 cows in years, and is also expected to contribute significantly to the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

It is among the main thrust of the university to develop viable business enterprises that are combined with technical skills and competences embracing science and humanities disciplines, essential in optimising production and services that are culture and heritage driven.

The university is also harnessing untried, but traditionally known food preservative technology to further emphasise the value of culture and heritage in human existence.

The country’s milk production has plummeted from an all-time peak of 260 million litres in the 1990s, to around 76 million litres achieved in 2020.

The current figure falls short of the national demand of 120 million litres per year.

Zimbabwe imports approximately 48 percent of its annual milk requirements.

The country’s dairy industry faces several challenges that include lack of foreign currency to procure modern equipment and inputs, depleted national dairy herd, lack of funding, high feed costs, recurrent droughts, inadequate farming practices and skills.

Government is targeting to increase milk production to between 97 million and 100 million litres per annum.

Zimbabwe has the potential to produce over 250 million litres annually.

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