Beef-dairy farmer, Mr. Patrick Bhebhe, of Ward 13, Gokwe South, who was invited by a friend to join the Gokwe Milk Collection Centre in 2015 on the promise that he would get a dairy cow to start his own dairy project, but got frustrated when he could not get the promised cow, is now an successful beef-dairy farmer and has on many occasions managed to outshine several established smallholder dairy farmers in his area.
When Mr. Bhebhe joined the Gokwe Milk Collection Centre, he started paying his monthly subscriptions anticipating that the Centre would give him a dairy cow for his own dairy project but it took much longer than he expected. Frustrated, Mr. Bhebhe asked for a refund for his $300 in paid subscriptions. A member of the Feed the Future Zimbabwe Livestock Development Programme reached out to encourage him to rejoin the Centre and start milking his indigenous beef cows and venture into dairy production.
Mr. Meynard Chirima, the Feed the Future Zimbabwe Livestock Development programme Provincial Supervisor-Western Region said that the Gokwe Milk Collection Centre embraced beef-dairy farmers, after advice from the programme. Under the beef-dairy model aspiring dairy farmers without pure dairy breeds are allowed to sell milk from their beef cows to the MCC as a low-cost entry into commercial dairying. This arrangement was a win-win as it boosted milk deliveries to the MCC.
” I started milking my beef cows that I had, delivering on average 2 litres per day to the Gokwe Milk Collection Centre and soon I purchased an improved dairy cow, delivering 70 litres of milk a month from that one cow”, said Mr. Bhebhe.
Through training and technical assistance received from the programme, Mr. Bhebhe realised he needed to improve the productivity and genetic makeup of his animals and had four cows artificially inseminated in 2017and dropped four calves.
After succeeding with the artificial insemination project Mr. Bhebhe purchased a sweeper bull and is now a proud owner of 16 new calves in a space of two years.
He soon established paddocks for his growing herd and invested in polythene pipes to redirect water using gravity from a nearby uphill stream to provide fresh water for the animals. He says the programme taught him that dairy animals drink a lot of water to make a lot of milk and should not be made to walk a long distance before they can drink.
Mr. Bhebhe is currently milking four cows; two indigenous beef and two Red Dane dairy cows producing 654 litres a month. Bhebhe makes daily deliveries to the MCC as he has no chilling facilities since he is off-the ZESA grid and has not invested in alternative power sources.
The Feed the Future Zimbabwe Livestock Development programme is working with the farmer to invest in a solar chilling system that would allow Bhebhe to store milk on-farm and deliver milk on alternate days; reduce transport costs; milk twice per day and also purchase and aggregate milk from surrounding beef farmers.
“In just two years I have managed to improve my family’s wellbeing and I am working very hard to expand the project as a family business,” said Mr. Bhebhe, adding that many people in the area now emulate his efforts.
Bhebhe is one of 1,847 farmers who are producing milk for sale to formal markets using their beef cows under the programme’s beef-dairy model.
The Feed the Future Zimbabwe Livestock Development programme is a USAID funded initiative being implemented in six districts across three provinces with Chirumhanzu, Gweru, Gokwe South, and Umzingwane being the programme’s dairy hubs.
By Francis S. Bingandadi Managing Editor AgriSeason