By James Muonwa, Mashonaland Correspondent
PLATINUM mining conglomerate, Zimplats has invested over US$500 000 in refurbishing dairy milk infrastructure meant to train animal husbandry students at Gwebi Agricultural College in Nyabira, Mashonaland West province.
The move is aimed at reviving Zimbabwe’s collapsed dairy sector by churning innovative graduates, who are able to run successful dairy milk farming ventures of their own.
Speaking at the commissioning of a refurbished milking parlour at the institution Thursday, Zimplats chief executive officer, Alex Mhembere said the facility will enable the learning institution churn students meeting current industry standards.
“As Zimplats, we believe in creating and sharing values with communities where we operate. The facility will provide a source of income for the college through access to training on herd health and on the concept of commercialising rural cattle. This aligns with our strategy of creating shared value and investing in a better future for our key stakeholders,” said Mhembere.
The mining firm upgraded the milking parlour by installing a 16 point milking machine that has the capacity to milk 64 cows per hour and 300 cows per session.
The project scope, he added, also included installation of a 5 000-litre capacity tank, an automatic nipple drinker system that results in improved hygiene, greater efficiency and disease control in the calf house.
Part of the US$500 000 was also used to build resting sheds for cows, where they feed thereby reducing heat stress which is essential for dairy cows.
Two boreholes were sunk and equipped to provide facilities for backup water to the milking parlour.
The scope of refurbishment included upgrading ablution facilities, the spray race and milk collection facility, and fencing the area.
Agriculture Minister, Anxious Masuka, who was representing guest of honour Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, underscored the need to revive the dairy sector to its former glory days when the country produced 262 million litres of milk annually.
“The dairy sector has been growing, but at a sluggish pace. At peak in 1990, we produced 262 million litres of milk from a dairy herd of 105 000, then we were milking about 53 000 cows,” said Masuka.
There is an estimated 40 000 dairy cattle herd, of which half are being milked with each providing an average of 15 to 18 litres daily in the commercial sector, while in smallholder farms the cows give between 7 to 8 litres daily, he told the gathering.
Masuka said there was need to increase milk output while cutting on cost of animal feed and other overheads.
“We need to be self-sufficient in milk production. We are currently producing somewhere in the region of 80 million litres annually against a forecast demand of 125 million litres, and with the plan that the industry has, we will be able to produce about 125 million by 2025,” he said.
The high cost of animal feed, Masuka reiterated, needed to be tamed as it was driving the cost of a litre of milk production by between 70 and 80 percent.