Constraints on smallholder dairying in Swaziland : Manzini Region & surrounding areas.
Summary: Swaziland has long had a disparity between the supply and demand of milk. Even at present milk production continues to be less than the market demand. The quantitative contribution of smallholder dairy farmers to local milk production remains unknown because of poor record keeping. This study was aimed at attaining a clear understanding of the dynamics of smallholder dairying in Swaziland, including the identification and understanding of the constraints faced by farmers in dairying, with the hope of devising workable solutions to them. A sample of 118 smallholder dairy farms were covered in this study, with a total herd of 306 lactating cows, comprising mainly of Jerseys and Holstein Friesians, with some cross breeds. There were no significant differences in mean milk yield/cow with respect to farmer gender (P > 0.05) and Agro-ecological zone location (P > 0.05) of the farms. Milking frequency had a significant effect on milk yield, since cattle milked once a day had lower (P < 0.05) milk yields than those milked twice a day. The cattle had extensively long calving intervals i.e. 448 ± 166 days, ranging from 292 to 1082 days. Low milk yield and poor reproductive performance of cattle were found to be mainly due to poor nutrition, breeding practices and stock quality. These are primarily a result of insufficient farmer training and inadequate technical assistance, scarce availability of quality stock, lack of investment resources and market support that includes favourable milk prices for farmers to make money. This performance of the Swazi smallholder dairy herd was then evaluated by comparing it to the performance of a larger, well-managed herd of known pedigree. Lactation records from 252 Jersey cows and 108 Holstein Friesian cows were obtained from Cedara Agricultural Research Institute, covering the periods; July, 2002 to July, 2004 and November, 2002 to April, 2004, respectively. Cows were grouped by parity and calving season and the gamma function proposed by Wood (Y = An(b) e(-cn)) was used to fit standard lactation curves on group data. The curve parameters A and b increased with parity, while that of c and s (persistency of lactation at peak) decreased, producing standard lactation curves save for the Holstein Friesian summer calvers, which produced atypical curves. The R(2) values (goodness of fit) increased with parity. Animal parity and calving season were found to influence the peak and shape of the lactation curves and their parameter estimates. The performance of the Swazi smallholder herd showed a mean deviation of the observed daily milk yield of the Holstein Friesian breed from the expected yield to be - 3.47 (SD 6.052) kg and that of the Jersey breed was - 16.92 (SD 5.473) kg. The mean proportional deviation of observed milk yield from the expected yield for the Holstein Friesian breed was - 0.3 (SD 0.37) and that of the Jersey breed to be - 0.6 (SD 0.19). The proportional milk yield deviation of the Holstein Friesian breed can be explained using the equation Y = O.1322(SE = 0.1293) x - 2.3581 (SE = 0.20639), where x = expected milk yield and Y is the proportional deviation of the observed milk yield deviation from the expected milk yield. With respect to the smallholder Jersey breed, no relationship was found that could explain the proportional milk yield deviation. The smallholder herd was shown to be underperforming, considering the potential for higher milk yields of the two breeds. In the quest to gain a greater understanding of the dynamics of smallholder dairying, the sample of 118 farmers was further analysed using multivariate statistics to categorise them based on their herd sizes, herd structures, management and success perceptions in dairying. The analysis produced three clusters (categories): cluster 1 had the largest herd sizes and poor milk production efficiency; cluster 2 had intermediate herd sizes, the highest number of farmers and more efficient milk production per cow. This cluster, however, had the highest proportion of calf mortalities. Cluster 3 had the smallest herd size, the lowest calf to cow ratio and the second highest calf mortality. Record keeping across all clusters was very poor and the average milk yield per cow was generally low. Most of the farmers do not appreciate the importance of annual calving of their cows as an integral part of the success of their dairy projects and winter feed supplementation is very poor across all the clusters. There remains a great need for the enlightenment of the farmers on the importance of good nutrition, breeding, calf rearing and record keeping in successful dairying.
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