AgResult Project helping dairy farmers increase yields

04May 2021
The Guardian Reporter
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
AgResult Project helping dairy farmers increase yields

MAIMUNA Nyakanazi is a struggling dairy farmer based Dawaka in Morogoro Rural District. Her herd of 30 cows which includes three bulls and eight calves is mainly kept through a traditional free range system.

Vetfarm Tanzania’s extension officers showcasing quality minerals for complete nutrition in increasing dairy productivity. Second right is managing director, Dr Emanuel Swai.

“It’s not easy to get fodder here especially during the dry season because the grass is dry and water is scarce. Nyakanazi who is a mother of four knows very little about raising cattle using modern livestock keeping practices.

Because of tradition methods of cattle keeping, her cows provide less than seven litres of milk per day which experts argue is too little but is a result of poor nutrition to the animals. According to The International Livestock Research Institute, it estimates that lactating cows in Tanzania suffer from a 30 percent nutrient deficiency, but when they are fed properly, they can increase daily milk production from six litres to 13 litres.

“Well-fed cows are also more disease-resistant and are more likely to reproduce regularly,” said Neema Mrema who is AgResults Project Team Leader.  The AgResults Tanzania Dairy Productivity Challenge Project is a four-year, US$4.9 million prize competition that aims to increase dairy productivity by encouraging private sector input suppliers to deliver inputs to smallholder farmers.

Mrema said local dairy farmers face two main obstacles to good nutrition: First, farmers have historically used communal grazing lands and cut-and-carry livestock keeping systems, so they do not see the value in buying critical feed resources such as roughages (hay/fodder) and concentrates (standard dairy meal and molasses).

“Second, even if farmers want to buy quality fodder and meal, there are logistical challenges. Supply of standard dairy meal and hay is low, and transportation costs drive up overall costs, limiting accessibility among farmers,” she said.

The AgResult Project Team Leader further noted that feed companies, meanwhile, have little incentive to produce dairy meal because of the small customer base, choosing instead to focus on producing poultry feed, which has a higher and more reliable return.

“These supply and demand dynamics build on each other, leaving farmers and dairy cows without quality feed,” she argued while noting that the AgResults Tanzania Dairy Productivity Challenge Project is encouraging private sector input suppliers to deliver high-quality inputs to the farmers.

AgResults’ Pay-for-Results prize competition model uses monetary prizes to reward competing private sector actors – known as competitors. In Tanzania, competitors earn prizes for selling different bundles of inputs to farmers, along with providing extension services. The inputs include nutritious feed as well as parasite control, vaccines, and artificial insemination.

She argued that well-fed cows are also more disease-resistant and are more likely to reproduce regularly as such the competition is aimed at encouraging dairy farmers get access to such inputs supplied by the private sector.

The completion seeks to wean farmers from using communal grazing lands and cut-and-carry livestock keeping systems, so they do not see the value in buying critical feed resources such as roughages (hay/fodder) and concentrates (standard dairy meal and molasses).

Feed companies, meanwhile, have little incentive to produce dairy meal because of the small customer base, choosing instead to focus on producing poultry feed, which has a higher and more reliable return.

One such feed company is Vetfarm which is one of the six AgResults competitors and has more than 19 years of providing consultancy services and training on animal management practices to farmers in Pwani and Dar es Salaam Regions.

“In 2019, we sold more than 35 tons of minerals, vitamins and urea molasses blocks,” said Dr Emmanuel Swai, the Vetfarm Managing Director. When joining the AgResults competition,  Dr Swai however acknowledged that it would be difficult to fulfill the nutrition bundle requirements due to unreliable and insufficient sources of hay/fodder as well as lack of access to standard dairy meal.

Vetfarm chose a hybrid approach, forming a partnership with IDACOS, a dairy cooperative union, to produce dairy meal and collaborating with Vikuge, a government farm, to procure 1000 bales of hay, each weighing approximately 20kgs.

“Vetfarm complemented these efforts by providing streamlined advisory services to its farmers, focusing on the importance and correct use of hay,” he explained while adding that through such coordination, the company increased farmers’ access to hay and standard dairy meal with sales of 9,618kgs and 988kgs, respectively.

Top Stories