I am Muhammad Azher Bhatti, 28, a veterinarian from Pakistan, doing postgraduate studies at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU).
I currently work as a researcher on a Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) project Livestock Value Chain, Food Security and Environmental Quality: Transforming rural livelihoods through Community-based Resilience and Indigenous Livestock Management Practice guidelines in Malawi.
This project is a collaboration between Norwegian Veterinary School (NVH) and Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), Lilongwe Malawi. Previously, I worked for the Pakistan–Australia Agriculture Sector Linkage Programme (ASLP) Dairy Project for three years, as an area Advisor.
Malawi is located in southeastern Africa. It has two distinct seasons: rainy season and dry season. Rainy season lasts only for four months while dry season last for eight months. During dry season, cattle face severe fodder and feed shortages. This shortage not only reduces milk production but also reduces immunity against certain infectious and non-infectious diseases. Worm infestation reaches its peak during rainy season.
After getting three years of work experience with Pakistani smallholder farmers, and now working with smallholder farmers in Malawi, I strongly believe that smallholders are lacking all kinds of very basic facilities.
Without the provision of these facilities, smallholder farmers cannot adopt scientific methods to improve health and productivity of their cattle. Being a veterinarian, it was hard to believe for me when I first saw that the majority of Malawian smallholder farmers are still unaware of dewormers, vaccinations, etc.
Previous research shows that Malawian zebu cattle peak parturition occurs in the dry season and newly born calves also face severe feed shortage, resulting in higher calf mortality. In the same way, cows get pregnant in rainy season and calved in the dry season. The main reason for getting pregnant in the rainy season is the surplus fodder availability.
In this pilot project, 40 smallholder farmers are registered, having Malawian zebu cattle in milking stage or freshly parturated from District Rumphi, Malawi. All the registered farmers’ cattle are ear-tagged and divided into two groups (control vs. experimental) on the basis of:
- Distance from water source
- First milk progesterone reading
Throughout the study, 16 Gliricidia sepium bushes have been planted per household. These provide leguminous leaves as additional feed during the drought. However, previous experience indicates that the bushes will first be ready for harvest after two to three years, such that we need to purchase dried leguminous leaves for the intervention study.
Hopefully, this will also motivate farmers for taking care of their bushes and adapt the feeding management when their own production of leaves is in place: 1 kg dried leguminous leaf/cow/day + 2 kg maize bran in addition to pasture throughout November and December (dry-season months).
Additional leguminous leaves (G. sepium) have been provided to one group of cows in the dry season to make them pregnant so that calving can occur in the rainy season. On this basis, we can shift the calving from dry to rainy season. All the animals (n=216) are screened for the infectious diseases by blood sampling three times on bi-yearly basis.
In the pilot project, we have restored water reservoirs ensuring that a number of villages are ensured short distance to water throughout the driest months, which are November and December. Another group of villages with longer distance to water sources will also be recruited such that there will be two groups of farmers differing in respect to access to water.
Progesterone assessments: we have sampled a total of 100 cows for progesterone from calving until pregnancy or cessation of milk production. To end up with 100 complete lactations, we had recruited 108 cows. Also observations of heat are recorded.
Malawi zebu cattle are kept free (un-chained) at all the times. So restraining Malawi Zebu cattle is really a very hard task. These cows need to be restrained for any kind of medical treatment and pregnancy diagnosis or for artificial insemination. Currently, these rural communities do not have a single crush for retraining purpose. Building crushes at certain focal points is necessary for both farmer and cattle safety.
In Malawi, cattle are reared on grazing in mountains and are kept free all the time. Animals are kept together and are always under attack of Tsetse fly. So, construction of crushes at certain points and deworming of the entire herd is very important and beneficial for the pro-poor smallholder farmers.
Most of the work has been done in the pilot project, below budget plan will be addressing key deworming and crush building inputs. The $5000 money will be spent on:
Dewormers-Broad spectrum (USD 250 for 200 cattle)
Sprayers against Tsetse fly (USD 250 @ 4 bottles of 16 litres each for 250 cattle)
Dips construction (USD 800 @ 400/dip)
Construction material for three crushes, labour, and transportation of poles (USD 3,700)
Blogpost and picture submitted by Muhammad Azher Bhatti (Malawi): mailto:muhammad.azher.bhatti[at]nmbu.no
The content, structure and grammar are at the discretion of the author only.
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