In part one of the series of articles on how we can effectively implement the presidential policy pronouncements in the livestock sector made during the opening of the 13th session of the National Assembly, we talked about how we think the New Dawn Government can implement enhanced disease surveillance and control. Those who wish to follow this discourse can read part one of the article on (https://diggers.news/guest-diggers/2021/10/13/unpacking-president-hakainde-hichilemas-speech-during-the-opening-of-parliament-livestock-sector-part-1/). In this article, we will discuss how we think livestock stocking and restocking can be effectively implemented. Let us start by providing a layman’s definition of stocking and Restocking.
In the context of a farmer and location, stocking is giving animals to a new farmer or group of farmers who have not owned livestock before, and are thus not experienced. This can also apply to taking animals to a place that has been known to be conducive for livestock farming, but people are generally engaged in other agricultural activities, as is the case in Muchinga, Luapula and Northern provinces, with regards to livestock farming.
On the other hand, restocking is the process of giving animals to a farmer or farmers who have previously owned cattle, but they lost them due to disease, or any other condition. We can also call it taking animals to a place that previously owned or own livestock with the sole purpose of increasing livestock production in that area. Having defined the two terms, we will now explain how we think stocking and restocking can be implemented.
With regards to restocking, past governments have talked about implementing livestock stocking and restocking programs, and some of them had gone ahead and done it at various scales, but before the New Dawn administration goes ahead with their new plans, we would like to urge them to analyse the reasons why the restocked areas lost their livestock in the first place.
Ultimately, even without detailed analysis, we know that the main reason for stock losses is always a “disease” of some form or another. Disease in itself is just part of the problem, however, as we outlined in the earlier article on disease surveillance, the New Dawn Government will need to be strategic, forward-thinking and pre-emptive with disease surveillance. There will be a need for national, regional, provincial, district, and veterinary camp level (also known as the first compartment) disease surveillance systems. Surveillance must be ongoing, systematic, functional, and timely, for it to be effective in preventing and controlling possible disease outbreaks. These activities are at government level.
Further, it is our opinion that the majority of stock losses in our country can be attributed to lack of on-farm livestock management plans by the owners. Simple management plans are hinged on the 3 pillars of livestock care.
These pillars are nutrition, anti-parasite remedies and vaccination. An animal that receives these three forms of primary care will be healthy, and it will have everything that it requires to adequately mount a sustained immune response to any other challenge that is thrown its way. It will have vitamins and minerals needed to support its immune system. It will have a manageable level of parasites to deal with, and it will also have a strengthened immune response against a number of diseases due to the vaccines it receives. In our opinion, previous herds of livestock died out because their owners had no capacity or knowledge to implement the above three pillars, and we wish to urge technocrats to ensure that all future recipients of livestock can adequately provide these three basics. We could spend K800 million on disease control, but we will achieve nothing if these three pillars, which form simple, but critical, livestock management fundamentals are not addressed.
With regards to stocking, the activity must target the right group, essentially the “medium-sized” emergent farmer. It is not an exercise to be targeted at the “most vulnerable” because livestock MUST be given to a farmer who already has the both the interest and cash flow coupled with the capacity to care for them. This is especially important because livestock’s initial return on investments starts after 3-4 years based on all “herd projection models” and facts on the ground.
It is therefore imperative that selected farmers should be able to feed these animals, dip them, deworm them, and vaccinate them, while they wait to receive a return on the investment. As a side note, we would like to state that activities to assist the “most vulnerable” need to focus more on providing an immediate cash flow (for example, growing feed to feed the restocked cattle), rather than giving them livestock, which are difficult to take care of, need constant care, and take so long to provide an income.
Ultimately, we should be aiming to graduate traditional farmers into emergent farmer class and the emergent farmer into the commercial farmer class. The rate at which this is happening in Zambia is very slow. We should also keep a closer eye on the emergent or weekend farmer class, as they are a node (policy leverage), giving us the biggest potential impact to transform the livestock sector, as perhaps they can be encouraged to go into fulltime farming. Youth engagement is at an emergent farmer level, however, does not mean neglecting the traditional livestock farmer, whom we should incentivise to move into an emergent farmer class.
It should also be noted that it is much more economical to restock on a “herd by herd” basis, which means that it makes more sense to give out animals in batches of “15-20 heifers with a bull” rather than give out animals in groups of “2” or “5”. We have seen based on experience, that “hand-outs” of a single cow to a family do not provide long-term solutions (as the animal is immediately either converted into cash or relish once the “donors” are out of sight). Again, the reason for this is simple economics. For example, almost all treatments for animals generally come in a minimum of 20-50 dose bottles, which means a farmer who only has two animals still has to purchase a large number of doses to get the medicines needed to treat his stock. He also needs to travel huge distances, at great cost, to buy these remedies. This is hugely uneconomical and means that these smaller farmers often forego many treatments because they are just too expensive. It all comes back to economies of scale, and it is imperative that restocking is done on a “herd” basis, in order to make the care of those animals much more viable.
In addition, we would also recommend that every recipient of livestock should be provided with a standard laminated “District Herd Health Program”, which should detail, month by month, which treatments they need to provide. This easy to use checklist will ensure that the stocked and restocked livestock will have the best possible chance of thriving and giving the farmer a return. Areas chosen for livestock restocking programs MUST also have a concurrent investment in the local animal production and veterinary care system by ensuring that the camp assistants in those areas are present/employed, and have the capacity and resources to help the farmer or farmer groups, to deal with any problems he/she/they might face.
A novel model worth exploring under the stocking programmes should be in disease-free areas of Muchinga, Luapula and Northern Province through the importation of farmers from Southern Province using an industry capital relocation programme. A programme of this type facilitates young ambitious producers leaving animal production in a particular location to another. The programme would attempt to facilitate the movement of capital and labour into other agricultural locations. For example, these funds might be used for technical training to assist farm labour in relocating to another location. For a start, we can move five farmers to each of the three animal disease-free provinces. The stakeholders should give the farmers all the assistance to establish these farms and run them as practical livestock demonstration farms. These farmers can run as breeding centres and only sell livestock to farmers in the area who have developed interest, passion and skills to run livestock farming as a business. This will solve the issue of the lack of role models, in these areas, in the form of commercially-orientated livestock farmers.
We believe that these and many other interventions, much like the cattle wealth management programme being practiced by the Presidential Special Assistant on Public Policy Ms Chipokota Mwanawasa, will be an impactful and sustainable way of stocking and restocking, instead of the unsystematic way of distributing livestock (like sweets), as practised by previous governments.
This idea still needs a lot more work to develop a complete written action plan, but we are confident that the technocrats in the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock could easily take it up and run with it, if all stakeholders agreed that these ideas could form a workable concept. We, the authors, stand ready to assist the process in any way possible. In the next article, we will unpack how artificial insemination can be implemented.
Chisoni Mumba (PhD) is Senior Lecturer of Livestock/Animal Health Economics at the University of Zambia, School of Veterinary Medicine. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Mobile: +260977717258
Amy Cantlay-Kingdom (BVSc) is a Private Veterinary Practitioner and Commercial Farmer in Mkushi, Email: email@example.com, Mobile: +260966898910