Adoption Of Forage Legume Technology To Improve Dairy Production




A Programme for the improvement of Beef Animal Production was requested to the Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU)`s Faculty of Agriculture and was started in Sanyati Area of Kadoma district in July 2017 as a felt need of the community. Sanyati became a community-based research site of ZOU where an Artificial Insemination (AI) Project was launched to improve the beef cattle in the community. Originally, the land belonged to a few Large Scale Commercial white Farmers and a few Estates which were then subdivided into A1 and A2 Resettlement farms. The area falls in Agro-ecological Zone (AEZ)(Natural Region III;  Vincent and Thomas, 1961)and has a mean annual rainfall of 400 to500mm. with long mid-season droughts.

The mean annual temperature ranges from 37-42 degrees Celsius. Sanyati community-based research site therefore covers one to two large scale commercial farm(s), many Small-scale Commercial farms like in Chenjiri and Copper Queen; as well as A1 Resettlement and Communal area farms. Unfortunately some illegal settlers went into grazing land with chaotic cutting of trees for tobacco curing or for firewood and cultivation of crops.

Small earth dams and fencing lines were vandalized or ripped off. To date, the Large Scale African Commercial farmer had boundary and internal paddock fences; fencing standards and droppers and borehole equipment removed and stolen and cattle are constantly driven into his commercial farm for illegal grazing.

Grazing improvement in the Sanyati-ZOU community-based research area is not easy because of issues of (i) land tenure; especially communal grazing; (ii) unavailability of land to grow the animal fodder and (iii) unavailability of grass or forage or browse legume seeds and other inputs. Improvement of grazing is now urgent because 122 calves have been born out of 152 cows in a ZOU-led AI Project (81%) using a Tuli bull`s semen.

In theory, there is plenty scope for improving the management and productivity of communal veld grazing areas, if there is careful communal management. There is a need in Sanyati to introduce “Grazing Schemes” that usually consist of four or five fenced paddocks which are rotationally grazed[or concentrated controlled herding; hedgerows of thorny shrubs or electric fences instead of the conventional wire fences which definitely will be vandalized].

There is need to determine again the grazing capacity and carrying capacity to stock the grazing scheme appropriately and encourage controlled grazing and resting in the grazing Scheme; applying the principles of Grazing Management (rest; period of utilization; stocking density and top hamper removal) and using Veld Management Planning. So far, it is clear that the new crop of calves born to the AI cows is improved genetic material which requires improved nutrition through improved grazing.

The most suitable method of improving grazing in Sanyati may be by veld reinforcement with high protein, nitrogen-fixing forage legumes; improved grasses and browse legume shrubs (Maclaurin, 1998). A number of varieties of forage legumes has been tried and screened and some adopted especially in the large scale commercial farms like Fine Stem Stylo (Stylosanthes guianensis); Silverleaf desmodium (Desmodium uncinatum); Greenleaf desmodium, (Desmodium intortum); Siratro, (Macroptilium atropurpureum) and Cassia Rotundifolia (Chamaecrista rotundifolia).  To plant and nurse these forage legumes in the grazing Scheme requires control of the grazing animals through wire fencing. So an Agritex staff led meeting is needed in the community to:-

(i)Raise Community motivation to improve grazing.

(ii)Foster discipline within Grazing Scheme Farmers.

(iii)Encourage Grazing Scheme Farmers to contribute to fencing material and other resources.

(iv)Develop community resource management plans and agreements binding the community to sustained controlled use and improvement of their grazing Scheme.

(v)Put in place a Grazing Scheme Community Management Committee.

The principle of control of and rotation of grazing during veld reinforcement cannot be over-emphasized!!!

Thank you,

by Professor N. T. Ngongoni Cell:<0773879816> E-mailngongonint@   Bus. Tel.<+263 4 781124/7/8>/Land:04-749495

(Head of Applied Research In ZOU Institute of Research, Innovation and Technological Solutions [IRITS]).

Animal Production:

Fodder production planning aims must be interrelated to supplying nutrient requirements (energy, protein, macro- and micro-minerals, vitamins and fibre) of ruminants not only for maintenance but for production too; i.e. at their varying physiological states i.e. growth, pregnancy, lactation and non-pregnant non-lactating. These animal requirements may be fairly constant or variable depending on climatic zone, climate change and nature of animal production. Thus we plan and budget to supply nutrient requirements first from cheap fodder, then later balanced with provision of any deficits by use of bought-in supplements; all done in a profitable way. Management decisions for fodder production and grazing improvement should evaluate:

  • Animal production considerations,

(ii)  Forage production considerations

(iii)  Feed budgeting considerations and

(iv)  Economic considerations.

Integration of the animal production aspects with improvement of grazing in a community grazing Scheme makes assumptions about a herd such as:-

  • To raise calving rate from about 40 to 60 percent?
  • To lower mortality rate from 5 to 1 percent
  • To have a bulling rate of almost 0%; totally relying on AI
  • To have 33 months age at first calving instead of 36 months
  • To have 7 months mean weaning age instead of 9-10 months
  • To have mean voluntary feed intake of 2.5% of mean body mass from 1.5%
  • To have 33 months instead of 36 months age at which to market cattle off the veld.

The fact that the national average performance levels are below these standards suggests that there is vast scope to improve animal production in Sanyati through improved nutrition; breeding and commercial routine cattle management procedures.



If farming is treated as a business and a profitable venture, then efficient equipment and facilities should be put in place to facilitate a smooth flow and ease of operation for good management. Handling facilities should be located at a site which has a (i) slight slope that will ensure surface drainage; (ii) a well drained soil type, (iii) adequate shade and (iv) a nearby permanent water source. The site should be roughly equidistant to all paddocks and areas being serviced.

Excessive distance from paddocks may cause delays and reduce production efficiency through excessive energy loss through walking. The design should allow for an organised flow of animals with least disturbance, taking corners and risk of injury with a by-pass to the working race. Rectangular or triangular pens are preferable.

Gates should be sited to ensure that the flow of the animals can be controlled and directed. Funnel-shaped forcing areas at the entrance to the dip and race prevent milling and wheeling by the animals, and speed up the throughput. Generally, facilities should be meant to handle herds of 125 head.

All materials used in the construction of handling facilities should be strong and durable. Wooden poles should be solid, creosote treated and up to dimensional specifications. Flimsy materials are dangerous, inefficient and require excessive and costly maintenance. They cause frustration to the operator and stress to the animals. For materials and construction details, refer to the Beef Production Manual produced by the Cattle Producers Association printed by Modern farming (1987).


The pens should allow frequent supervision and be near a reliable water supply and bulk feed storage. Keep away from dips or spray races to avoid contamination of water and feed by dip fluids and chemicals and it is important to keep to the windward side of dust of pen fattening cattle. Pens should be kept as dry as is possible to reduce the fly problem. Site the feed alley on the crest of pens on either side so that the slope will allow drainage of feed troughs and the alley. Pen-finishing yields a relatively small profit margin, so the construction of feed pens layout should preferably fit in with the existing farmyard facilities and be cheap yet efficient. Transport of feed must be to a minimum, both from the stores to pens and within the pen complex. Since checking on animal performance and sorting into 4 groups of “finished”; “near finished” and “unfinished” is very necessary for economic reasons, the positioning of a race, scale, sorting gates and a loading ramp require good thinking. Pen sizes depend on the feeding programme and the condition and number of animals to be fed. Group sizes may vary from 20 to 200 or more. Space allocation per head depends upon sizes of animals: Small breeds and young animals require about 9 square metres per head; while the larger breeds or older animals require 11-14 square metres per head. Shade is desirable to keep both drinking water and the animals cool and when sited in the centre of the pen, it helps to make cattle move within the pen and that eliminates excessive accumulation of dung in particular areas.  Trees are normally leafless during the pen-fattening period and so they do not provide satisfactory shade. In addition, animals eventually kill shade trees by constantly chewing and rubbing the bark so that trees die out within a season or two. Water supplies must be reliable and adequate. Build a storage reservoir which handles a day or two`s reserve supply, with gravity feed to the troughs to have insurance against a temporary supply failure. Animals in feed pens drink 35-50 litres each per day and a further 20 litres per day when on a dry diet during hot weather and a reserve supply for 2-3 days is necessary for emergencies. Pen-fed animals drink water frequently. Provide clean cool and fresh water, free from parasites or contaminants which requires you to locate water troughs in the shade.


We have a number of products which are a product of active research which increase rate of protein and fat deposition and improve the efficiency of feed use promoting faster live weight gains and the feed conversion efficiency. Such products are Ionophores, Monensin, Lasalocid and Narasin. However consumer groups in Europe made use of these and hormonal products highly controversial although there is no scientific basis for pressurised disuse of these products. No such products may be imported for use in cattle production in Zimbabwe. The banned products are Ionophores; Antibiotics and implants. These products shall not be administered as feed additives, slow release boluses, subcutaneous implants, injections or by solutions in drinking water.




 Vincent, V. and Thomas, R. G. (1960): Agricultural survey of Southern Rhodesia, Part I. The Agro-Ecological Survey. Government Printers: Salisbury.


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