By Derrick Silimina
Since market liberalization of Zambia’s economy in the 1990s, the Dairy sector has made tremendous strides.
Although production has been steadily increasing, dairy farmers and processors are unable to meet the growing demand for milk and dairy products.
Dairy farming offers a huge investment opportunity in Zambia due to the country’s abundant water, a good climate for crop production and pasture for animal feed.
In the past, milking a cow was done at a subsistence level and it involved a stool, a bucket and patient hands for domestic consumption.
Today, dairy farming is a viable business venture and farmers have mechanical aids to help speed up the process of milking and animal care.
The dairy sector requires enough resources and capital if it is to realise tangible returns to farmers. These include adequate land for keeping the desired number of animals with enough pasture to feed the animals.
Since the rains are over, planning is important for a profitable dairy business by procuring animal feed requirements on time.
The farmer is also expected to preserve excess fodder or silage and also budget well to ensure there is enough money to buy concentrates, mineral licks, vitamins and drugs to maintain the animal’s health.
According to the Ministry of Livestock, it is estimates that 450 million litres of milk is produced by small scale farmers annually but only about 50 million litres gets to the market while the rest goes to waste.
And the Dairy Association of Zambia (DAZ) says milk production in the country is far below the installed capacity of 182 million litres per annum.
But during the rainy season, milk production normally reaches peak levels more especially among small scale farmers.
However, it is observed that during this high production, most farmers fail to maintain the milk quality levels often reached during off season as the high moisture and temperature conditions favour high bacteria production.
On the other hand, issues such as lack of support for locally produced milk and lower market price for the commodity is affecting the Dairy industry in the country.
Eugene Haakalima 65, a small scale dairy farmer of Mapepe area in Chilanga district said in an interview that his desire to join the sector is due to his passion for the industry.
Mr. Haakalima, a trustee of Mapepe Dairy Cooperative Society since its inception commenced milk production with one animal but is now a proud owner of four dairy animals.
“I joined Mapepe Dairy Cooperative Society in 2005 and i started with only one dairy animal but now am milking four animals. In terms of milk production, the four animals that I am currently milking give me 25 litres of milk per day,” Mr. Haakalima said.
However, Mr. Haakalima noted that he is not satisfied with his current production rate citing lack of adequate pasture in the area.
“It’s not a good production at all because I have not been feeding my animals well. Maize bran and molasses hasn’t been enough to feed my animals hence i need to invest more in feed so that i produce more litres of raw milk,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Mr. Haakalima added that the dairy industry has a number of challenges which needs conceited effort from both government and the private sector to resolve if the sector is to grow.
“The major challenges we face as farmers is the high death rate of animals and also in terms of feeding, most small scale farmers depends on the income realised from the sale of milk. Lack of good management skills has also been a stumbling block to realise the growth of the sector,” he added.
And Mr Haakalima has since appealed for an upward adjustment of prices milk buyers being offered to farmers as the current rate is too low for them to break even.
“Looking at the current price (Milk processors) is giving us, is quite lower but from their explanation, I get an impression that it is fair because we don’t produce as much as the commercial farmers produce. But if they increased a bit to K5 per litre or so, it will help us meet the high cost of production,” Mr. Haakalima stated.
*For any comments, clarifications or contributions, kindly feel free to get in touch with the author via email: email@example.com