Zimbabwe: Fattening cattle rekindles hope for livestock farmers 

| May 4, 2015

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Thuthani Moyo and many other livestock farmers suffered a major setback when nearly 13,000 cattle died in Zimbabwe during the 2013 drought. Mr. Moyo worried that his dream of becoming a successful livestock farmer had been shattered.

Mr. Moyo lives in Figtree, southwest of Bulawayo, in Zimbabwe’s drought-prone province of Matabeleland South. After the drought, Mr. Moyo and other farmers formed the Figtree Farmers Association. The Association decided to establish a communal feedlot for fattening cattle, in order to protect their livestock if pastures were exhausted in future droughts. The fenced feedlot fattens livestock on a special diet before they are sold.

Mr. Moyo can now quickly fatten his cattle to a good weight. He can also sell the cattle quickly. He says, “I have not looked back since I embraced the cattle fattening scheme last year.”

Farmers pay $15 U.S. per month to fatten each cow at the feedlot. Cows reach their target weight of 400 to 700 kilos in three months or less.

Mr. Moyo buys five cattle every four months and can fatten about fifteen a year. He pays about $300 U.S. for an 18-month-old cow. Once they are fattened, he sells the cows directly to butcheries for up to $900 U.S., depending on their final weight. He says, “A farmer can make up to [200 per cent] profit by just … taking them through the fattening diet.”

Cattle are a status symbol in parts of rural Zimbabwe, and many farmers are not used to selling them. They prefer to see their herds multiply rather than sell their cattle for cash. Thus, many farmers lose everything when drought strikes and their cattle die. But rural cattle farmers are starting to realize that they must sell their animals to protect their investment from drought.

Rodrick Mafume is the feedlot chairperson. He recognizes that, before the feedlot was introduced, too many farmers were losing their cattle to drought. Mr. Mafume says, “The program has been a life-changer for most farmers as they can now realize financial benefits from their livestock.”

Nothando Ncube raises livestock in Marula Mangwe, in Matabeleland South. At first, she was skeptical about the benefits of the feedlot. But after selling her first fattened cattle, she is happy that she joined the scheme.

Ms. Ncube received a loan of $1,000 U.S. to buy cattle. She explains: “I bought three cattle … and I took them for fattening. I sold them to butcheries and the returns were high … I managed to pay back the loan in good time.”

According to Mr. Moyo, fattening cattle has rekindled his family’s hopes for the future. He says: “I am able to take care of my family needs through this livestock business. I travel to other areas to buy cattle, put them through a fattening diet and then sell them to the butcheries.”

Mr. Moyo is happy that he is earning so much money. He is planning for the future and wants to buy a car with his profits. He says, “I [will] save some money and [buy] a second-hand vehicle from Japan … preferably a small van that can withstand the rough terrain in my area.”

Photo credit: Nqobani Ndlovu