"A perfect 10" – participants rate study tour experience and insights gained on how to be a successful dairy farmer

Dr Penny Back From Massey University Discusses The Importance Of Pasture Quality And Management To Dairy Cow Health And Nutrition

Dr Penny Back from Massey University discusses the importance of pasture quality and management to dairy cow health and nutrition.

Twelve current and future leaders of the Zambian dairy industry travelled to New Zealand to soak up knowledge and inspiration and understand how “dairy as a business” has grown in the country from the 1800s to today.

Dairy farmers and industry leaders from Zambia travelled to New Zealand this past March to learn about the small Pacific nation’s dairy sector and associated value chain. The 10-day tour, organised by the New Zealand-funded Zambia Dairy Transformation Programme (ZDTP), visited a range of organisations and working farms in New Zealand and highlighted similarities and differences between the two countries’ dairy industries.

"It left me with a greater determination to commit and succeed at my dairy business by employing some cost-effective practices that worked for New Zealand and could be adapted to our country too."

Mrs Caroline Lubinga, who has been dairy farming since 2013, rated her study tour experience “a perfect 10” and said she returned home with big plans for developing her business.

Led by Dr Benson Mwenya, the Permanent Secretary of Zambia’s Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock (MFL), the study tour delegation visited and engaged with several New Zealand government ministries and agencies, teaching and resource institutes with responsibilities in the agriculture sector, working farms and organisations supporting disease eradication, animal tracing and training of industry personnel.

These included the Ministry for Primary Industries (the New Zealand equivalent of MFL), Massey University, AgResearch, DairyNZ, the Dairy Women’s Network, Federated Farmers, the Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC), Farmlands, OSPRI and the country’s Primary Industry Training Organisation.

Delegates also shared feedback on how they thought the policy environment could be improved in Zambia, based on what they had learnt on the tour. Ms Jedrine Mushili, a veterinary assistant with MFL, said she hoped the Government of Zambia might invest money in research that would help breed an animal genetically suited for the environmental conditions of Zambia.

Ms Mushili was impressed with New Zealand’s farmer-owned cooperative Livestock Improvement Corporation, or LIC, which has provided genetics expertise, information and technology (i.e. high-grade sperm for use in artificial insemination) to the dairy sector for more than 100 years.  

Mr Mulusa agreed the Government had a role to play in Zambia.

“There is need for political will towards supporting the dairy industry. It’s clear that – if done properly – dairy farming could contribute significantly to the country’s GDP.”

The ZDTP is being implemented by Prime Consulting International Ltd in partnership with NIRAS International Development. It is funded by the New Zealand Aid Programme. For further information on the programme, please visit zambiadairy.com or contact Programme Country Manager Tania Thomson on tania@primeconsultants.net or +260 96 456 4206.

Study tour participant Mrs Caroline Lubinga started farming chickens, ducks and crops after taking early retirement from the banking sector after 23 years of service. She had no intention of venturing into dairy. That all changed in 2013 when Mrs Lubinga and other smallholder farmers in her area were encouraged by an extension officer from milk processing company Parmalat to form a dairy cooperative. “People were enthusiastic at first but failed to actualise it. Out of frustration, I decided to go it alone.”

Mrs Lubinga started off with three dairy cows and has since built up her herd to 60 animals. On average, she milks 15 animals per day which produce 200 litres between them. She is also chairperson of her local dairy cooperative.

Mrs Lubinga has prepared a huge workplan for developing her farm since returning home from the Study Tour to New Zealand, which she said had left her with a greater determination to succeed at her dairy business. Her plans include rewiring fences, building better animal shelters, separating paddocks for rotational grazing, planting new crops to reduce the cost of production through silage making, introducing milking machines, using Artificial Insemination from a good breed of dairy cow and creating a programme for the proper management of calves.

Mrs Lubinga said she would invite her fellow cooperative members to follow her journey so they could learn together. “I am open to the idea of using my farm for dairy management training, targeting dairy workers for on-the-job training and agriculture students that require work on attachment,” she said.

“Overall, the picture I drew of New Zealand was of a country [that is] self-sufficient through employing its resources for competitive advantage. Rome was not built in a day, but if we commit and work together, we too can make our mark on the world market.”