‘Paddocks will alleviate pasture, water shortages’
Edgar Vhera Agriculture Specialist Writer
PADDOCKS with enough water to allow the practice of controlled grazing can save cattle from poverty deaths even in the face of the projected El Nino phenomenon this coming season or during lean years that usually have inadequate pastures to sustain livestock.
Livestock Farmers Union (LFU) chairman Mr Sifiso Sibanda yesterday urged farmers to take livestock production as a serious business and invest in paddock systems for effective grazing.
A paddock is an enclosed area that is mainly used for pasturing animals.
Mr Sibanda’s advice comes on the backdrop of a recent weather forecast the Meteorological Service Department (MSD) indicating that much of the country was likely to receive normal to below-normal rainfall for the period October 2023 to March 2024. The forecast added that the bulk of Matabeleland North, parts of Midlands covering Gokwe North and South districts and parts of Matabeleland South province covering Bulilima district were set to receive below normal to normal rainfall for the sub-season October-November-December.
“As we enter the lean season, water becomes the biggest challenge faced by livestock farmers. This results in cattle straying from farms looking for drinking water. We encourage farmers to establish pastures with enough water resources for controlled grazing,” the LFU chair said.
He said water for maintenance of the paddocks could be availed through drilling boreholes in and around deficit areas.
“Though there are a lot of companies drilling boreholes in the country but equipping them is costly and therefore a challenge for most farmers. A windmill is one piece of equipment that can be used in sustaining paddocks although it requires a high initial investment cost for installation. Currently, we are importing windmill accessories from neighbouring countries at high costs of up to US$9 000,” he said.
Borehole equipping is the final phase in setting up a borehole project. In involves installing accessories such as control panel, submersible and underground cables, galvanised pipes and main tank on the pump. The effective lifespan of submersed pumps is, however, relatively short and requires considerable skills to install, maintain or replace.
A power source with mains or generator is also required. A windmill is a machine on a tower that harnesses the renewable green wind energy, uses rotating blades to convert it into mechanical energy or electricity.
When properly maintained, windmills have a lifespan of several decades and were once a common feature in farms across Zimbabwe. Windmills have several advantages over solar installations such as robustness, unlike solar installations that rely on electronic components and circuitry that are susceptible to damage. Windmills are much less vulnerable to theft unlike solar panels. They remain functional as long as there is wind and are environmentally friendly.
Persistent water challenges over the years have caused wild animals and cattle to stray from local farms into neighbouring countries in search of the precious commodity.
This has left some cattle farmers counting their losses after their animals were shot upon straying into Botswana. The Botswana government is left without much choice but to do so to protect their livestock from possibly contracting diseases like foot and mouth disease.
The Zimbabwean Government is currently operationalising the livestock recovery growth plan with the short-term target of increasing the country’s herd count to 6 million by end of 2023 as it moves to meet national demand, curtail imports and in the long run resume serious beef exports.