Mwandi UCZ Agriculture Project: Newsletter 2013

Mwandi UCZ Agriculture Project: Newsletter 2013

It is hard to believe that we are already more than half-way through 2013 already. In January the farm set out on an ambitious program for 2013. Our major decision driving this was to merge the farm and OVC project into a single entity that could be mutually supportive to each other, the farm providing produce and profit and the OVC providing administrative and logistical capacity. This we hope will go some way to securing the projects sustainable future.

In November we purchased seven cross bred dairy heifers from a research trust in Batoka, out side Choma, 200km North of Livingstone. We had been looking to expand our dairy herd for some time but had concern over both the cost and the viability of pure bred dairy animals in our climatic situation. These cross breds seemed to be a strong compromise, with Friesian or Jersey Mothers and a Boran Sire would provide us with decent milk production but also bred back with our Jersey and our own Friesian/Boran bull good male calves for the butchery but also strong, hybrid vigor in our heifers. The first of these heifers delivered a male calf three weeks ago and is giving us more than 12lt of milk a day, on this performance this purchase would appear to be a shrewd cost effective, sustainable decision. With four animals milking and providing 260lt of milk a week we can now fully support the OVC demands for milk for the Children while having some left over for sale to the community. With eight heifers still to deliver this year we are in a strong position to deliver significant benefit to the community and project.

In May we sold our first 4 bulls to some farmers from Senanga, 200km up the river. This was a happy and sad moment for us. We were so proud to have reared such fantastic stock that could bring in through their sale some great income but we are also very sad to see them leave as we have watched them grow into fantastic breeding animals. It is however very satisfying for us to know that our little farm is contributing to the development of livestock throughout the province.

One of the big challenges we have is to be able to feed these animals effectively and in order to maximise our production in an efficient and cost effective way as possible. Unlike traditional dairy farms we do not allow our “milkers” to graze but instead we cut fodder on the flood plains and bring it into the cows to have alongside their concentrate. We have struggled with the logistics of this in previous years however this year thanks to some wonderful assistance from friends all over the world we have been able to purchase a small slasher for our tractor. We have been able to cut enough grass for two months in a single day, this is an unbelievable step forward as we previously would spend a day cutting grass that would last us less than a week. We did manage over the rainy season to plant using the tractor and broadcaster two paddock of pasture mainly vetch, Lucerne and Rhodes grass. This grew really well and we were able to broadcast tones of our chicken manure all over the pasture. This gave us grazing for all 47 of our animals for a month.

milkingOur other successful mechanisation has been the purchase of a milking machine to improve the hygiene and consistency of our milk production but also to free up some man hours for other duties. In a few months we will be milking at least eight animals, with the machine this will take about an hour but by hand it would be double that.

One of our great success stories over the last few years has been our pigs. With our renewed focus being income generation and the sustenance of the OVC program we have identified this area of our operation as one that can provide strong cash flow and good returns. We have had a very good relationship with Zambeef a large Agri business and they buy any pigs we can produce and for a good price. We took the decision to utilise some of the funds raised for sustainability to invest in a new blood line for the pigs to maximise our potential and ensure our production is as efficient as possible. Two weeks ago at 10 o’clock at night ten Canborough 22 gilts and a hybrid boar arrived at the farm from South Africa. It is such a privilege and huge step forward for both the farm and the community to have access to such incredible stock. We hope to produce over 400 pigs in the coming year 2013/2014 for sale or for use by the OVC nutrition support program. If we can meet these numbers then this will provide a strong financial base for the project to build from.

With the development and focus upon our animal production it is often easy to overlook the contribution that our poultry flock makes to our performance. Our 1000 laying hens have been very successful in maintaining strong levels of production and as a result reliable cash flow and a great source of protein for the OVC project. With strong sales and clear demand for eggs in the community and surrounding area we hope to replace these 1000 with 1500 next year.

We have also made a strong commitment to the community by embarking on mobile sales in the surrounding villages and to Sesheke, taking eggs and meat to areas of the community who have not had the opportunity to access our products before now This has resulted in benefits to both the community and to the project. We have received strong sales and as a result fantastic support towards the OVC project from its own community. Just as importantly it has allowed a large portion of the community access to quality produce and more importantly protein at an affordable price.

It is fantastic to see the community waiting for us every Wednesday ready to buy our produce, if for whatever reason we cannot make it that day we are assured of a number of phone calls of complaint and inquiry as to when we will be coming. The butchery, however has continued to be our primary point of sale and we have continued to slaughter our own produce and add value to it through its processing to sausage, mince and cuts. We have also now become an abattoir for local cattle and we contract slaughter up to forty animals a week for transport and sale at markets across the country.

All of this incredible development would not have been possible without you friends from all over the world supporting us in such an incredible way. We are indebted to all of those individuals who give of their time to come and help us at the farm, what may seem mundane tasks like fencing or welding or sitting cutting hay on a tractor for a day helps us make giant steps forward in both developing the farm but more importantly improving the lives of the communities children but also securing the future of both projects.

Where we still need help:

Cross Bred Dairy Cows K7000 each ($1400)
Layer Chickens (500) K29,000 ($6000)

Developing Infrastructure (steel gates & fencing, irrigation & water, block work)

Gates: $300
Piggery: $500
Pasture: $250
Dairy: $300

WESTERN PROVINCE DROUGHT
Owing to the unseasonable extreme dry conditions, the Province will expect great hardships As households begin to deplete their basic food needs much earlier than normal. Their own production is nil for some, where do the poor families go for food there will be many thousands effected. World agencies will have to be asked in to contribute food and this will have to be handled fairly, as this can favour larger township and not getting out in the outlying districts causing grief and death to many. please keep this situation in your prayers for these needs.

 

Rury Waddell

Project Coordinator
Mwandi UCZ Agriculture Project

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