Silverlands brings a new experience to cattle farming as a business
Silverlands Ranching, an international agricultural equity capital investment company, embarked on a program to support smallholder livestock farmers in Zimba district of Southern Province.
With Musika's support, Silverlands in 2014 developed an information-based market for veterinary drugs and genetics services targeting smallholders living within a 5 – 35km radius of the ranch and company operations, on commercial basis. The intervention was aimed at benefitting over 800 smallholder farmers.
By utilising the market development capacities of Musika to bring down the initial risk of engaging
with the smallholder market, Silverlands initially established its presence in Chigobe, Siamazhila, and Siambula areas by developing livestock service centres for the local community.
Margret Chingobe, a committee member of Chigobe service centre, is one of the beneficiaries of Silverlands' initiative. The 65 year old widow and mother of five, has seen the remarkable difference that the weekly dipping and vaccination program has brought to her herd. She previously lost four of her animals to a tick borne related disease and had a good reason to place her remaining 23 animals on the Silverlands scheme immediately it was introduced in her community.
"My animals have increased by six bringing the total to 29 animals since I joined the scheme. I have never lost a single animal from the time we started paying for the spraying and vaccination services done by Silverlands vet technician," she observed.
With the training that she and other farmers continue to receive on basic herd health management and nutrition, Margret's vision is to increase her herd to 150 cows within the next two years, for as long as the scheme continued to run.
Margret explained that the benefits outweigh the minimal cost of K0.50 ngwee paid for dipping services for each animal. From the milk produced by her six cows, she is able to raise enough money to pay for the services in advance. However, when the cows are dry, Margret generates her income from vegetable gardening and goat sales so as to keep her animals on the scheme.
The overwhelming response from the smallholder livestock farmers utilising the company's services and the benefits that these brought to individual households encouraged Silverlands to invest in additional areas including Mantanyani, Kabulawo, Namadula, and Mukwalantila.
All the seven livestock service centres are manned by two Livestock Technicians providing dipping and spraying services, and information on herd health management to livestock farmers. In addition to improving the genetics within the smallholder herd by selling improved bulls and in-calf heifers to farmers trained under the scheme, Silverlands placed three bulls in Chingobe, Siamazila and Siambula in January 2015, in a bid to improve the local breed. In September 2015, the cows that had been serviced are expected to start dropping their young.
Mandalena Mwaami, 51, explained that since registering her 17 animals on the scheme she managed to increase her herd to 23 animals. The single mother of six observed that from the time Silverlands introduced the livestock service centres, there was a reduction in ticks and disease outbreaks resulting in an increased calving rate. Before joining the scheme, three of her animals had died.
"The knowledge that we have received from Silverlands staff has made us change our traditional style of managing our cattle. We appreciate the work that the Silverlands Manager Mr Wessels has done, especially that he leaves us the community to take the lead in all the programmes instead of telling us what to do," she noted.
Silverlands recently deployed two veterinary staff on motorbike to provide extension services, training, preventative health care services, and sale and distribution of veterinary drugs and other livestock products. To date, the company services over 5,800 cattle belonging to 474 smallholder households on a weekly basis.