WATCH: Research initiatives with practical use…LSU becomes leading light in agriculture

The Chronicle

Oliver Kazunga, Senior Reporter
LUPANE State University (LSU) is implementing research initiatives to improve different breeds of livestock and crop varieties, a giant leap in improving production in dry regions.

Some of the projects that the university is undertaking through the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences include the goat, indigenous chickens, cattle projects.

In an interview with Chronicle during a tour of the institution’s agricultural projects at the main campus in Lupane yesterday, LSU projects and technical manager Mr Boart Jamela Sibanda, who is also a lecturer at the university, said: “As a university, our mandate or focus is agriculture and most of the programmes that we offer at the university are to do with agriculture, mainly crop science, animal science and agriculture economics.

“We have got a number of projects that we are doing with students, researchers, collaborators, at the university.”

On the livestock section, the university is running projects on cattle, poultry, piggery, fish farming and small ruminants, particularly goats with a view to promote dry land agriculture by farmers in dry regions such as the greater Matabeleland.

Fish ponds at the institution

In addition, the university is promoting the production of suitable breeds by undertaking research on the animal breeds.

At the small ruminant section, the university breeds indigenous goats as well as cross breeds of Matabele and Boer goats.

“We are promoting the rearing of goats in Matabeleland region, the reason being that the goats are actually resilient animals, they are very hardy and they don’t require a lot of feed. So, they are able to graze for two hours and are able to sustain their body requirements.

“We are growing our goats to a population of 2 000 by end of the year, and currently at Lupane State University we have more than 200 goats. Our agenda is to commercialise the goat harvesting chevon (goat meat), as well as milk which we will process into cheese and other by-products.

“We also have, in the same way as the objective of the faculty, a programme where we have got exchange and outgrower schemes,” he said.

Under the exchange and outgrower schemes, LSU identifies farmers who have a passion for keeping dry land goats and they are given a certain number to keep.

When the animals reach a certain number, LSU takes the original goats leaving the farmer with the offsprings born out of the initiative.

Mrs Elizabeth Ncube feeds the indigenous chickens kept at the institution

Mr Sibanda said his institution was improving the farmers’ capacity to venture into goat farming without necessarily spending substantial amounts of money.

The goats at LSU graze in the bush and are tended by herders.

“During the breeding season, we have a number of bucks around and we screen the bucks according to their type, where we want to keep the Matabele or the Matabele cross, the Red Kalahari or the Boer, then we keep them in such a pronounced nucleus.

“By and large, these goats are also used by students who are researching. We have got research that is ongoing now in which a student who is doing Masters is studying artificial insemination of goats.

“We collect semen for inseminating goats and in that case, we reduce the cost of keeping the bucks. We are also going to allow farmers to access our semen after it has been screened and evaluated for its efficacy and viability, then the farmers can be trained through workshops on artificial insemination of goats,” he said.

Artificial insemination in livestock is a technique by which semen from a male is artificially introduced into a female’s reproductive system for the purpose of conception.

The indigenous goats that the LSU is promoting

As part of promoting and sustaining dry land goats, LSU is also producing stockfeed by harvesting acacia pods (Amawohlo or Umtshatsha) which is then mixed with bush leaves as well as chicken litter.

The feed is used to supplement the goats during the dry season.

At the fish section, the university has four functional fish ponds where a diverse species of fish is kept. The fish ponds include the breeders’ pond, where tilapia brims and other fish are kept for commercial purposes.

“Each pond measures 10 by 10 square metres and the stocking rate for fish is eight fish per square metre so the fish that are in this pond are more than 800 and we grow the fish up to six months where each fish will go to about 300 to 500 grams. The fish are sold at between US$3 and US$5 per kilogramme,” he said.

The fish farming project, he said, is easy to do and can be undertaken by smallholder farmers.

At one of the fish ponds at the university, the fingerlings were secured from Bubi-Lupane Lake.

Mr Sibanda said they were doing integrated approach of livestock and crop production and thus they were feeding the fish using slurry or excreta from pigs.

“And then we supplement the fish from the fish pellets and finisher fish pellets. We also feed the fish using earthworms which we dig from the slurry that is deposited from the pigs,” he said.

At the piggery section, the university has pigs such as the large white, landrace and duroc and the institution is in the process of developing different breeds of pigs.

At present, LSU has over 80 pigs of different types; six sows that have farrowed down with 14 piglets, while one has 12, and five are pregnant and expected to farrow down not less than 14 piglets.

The objective is to produce as many pigs as possible for commercial purposes.

At the livestock section, the university has the Nguni breeds which are small statured animal and drought resistant that are able to survive in dry regions.

“We also have the crosses of the Nguni and Brahman to produce the Ngubra. What we have discovered with these animals is that they are able to give us a calf every year.

“Our future plans is to actually collect semen and have a sperm bank of the Nguni animals so that farmers come and buy semen and use this semen for breeding their animals,” he said, adding that they have above 50 heads and are targeting to reach 200 in the next few years.

On the poultry section, the university is rearing indigenous chickens as well as over 500 layers.

“Every day we are collecting more than 10 crates of eggs, the birds that we have are 24 weeks old and they have just started laying. At Lupane here the market is not a challenge, what are challenges are the volumes of the produce.”

Mr Sibanda said at the agro-industrialisation and innovation hub, LSU has embarked on a project in small grain production where traditional grains which include sorghum, millet, finger millet and many others are planted.

He said Lupane is a region with low rainfall averaging 400mm per year and the institution was practicing climate smart agriculture fostering Pfumvudza/Intwasa agricultural system.

“In the place we call the innovation hub plot, we have got 30 plots of small grains which comprises three plots of maize and 27 plots of sorghum of different types.

“The reason why we are promoting small grains is that small grains are drought resistant and are resilient to harsh climatic conditions.

This resilience is an advantage for farmers who are in the dry regions because they are assured of harvesting something to feed the nation,” said Mr Sibanda.

He said from the 15ha innovation hub, 3ha were this season planted under traditional grains and maize.

“We are expecting appreciable yield of the small grain. The other reason why we are promoting different types of small grain is that as a university we are highly involved in research and we have collected a number of varieties of small grains from different regions.

“We have screened them in terms of their yield potential. Those which are good and those which are yielding well we promote them, bulk them and increase them so that the farmers can access the grain from the university,” said Mr Sibanda. [email protected]

Article Source: The Chronicle

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