MOYOSORE Olatunde Rafiu has proved that ranching is one of the cattle-rearing models that work.
He owns a medium-sized farm in Olara community in Iseyin Local Government Area of Oyo State. The farm sits on 80 acres of land and has a solar-powered borehole that provides water to the cows.
He has 25 cross-bred cattle and 32 indigenous cows.
Unlike several farmers who move their cows from place to place, Rafiu keeps his cattle on the farm, thereby reducing the cost of rearing them by at least 20 per cent.
He told The ICIR that his cows were healthy, producing more milk than those of farmers moving from place to place.
“When you move cows from place to place, you stress them. They are lean and can hardly please produce milk,” he said.
While those moving their cows get a maximum of one litre from a cow each day, each of his cows produces two to 10 litres of milk per day.
However, his advantage stems more from his style of rearing the cows.
For instance, his cross-bred and/or genetically-modified cows produce more milk than traditional ones.
According to him, each of his genetically-modified cows produces 10 litres of milk per day while traditional ones do one per day.
Rafiu is also regularly updating his skills in cattle rearing. He has gone to Kenya, Uganda and other countries of Africa to upgrade his skills.
Due to his style of rearing cattle, Friesland Campina WAMCO, a Dutch dairy firm, has helped him to grow, training him in modern cattle-rearing skills. On the other hand, he supplies raw milk from his cattle to the company, which uses it as an essential raw material. He makes N5,000 to N10,000 each day from supplying milk alone.
Rafiu told The ICIR that he was better off than most cattle rearers due to his capacity to cross-breed cattle and use modern methods of cattle rearing
“I am better than someone with 500 indigenous cows because I have cross-bred ones that are more productive,” he said.
Rafiu has grown pastures on the farm and does not need to worry much about the cost of importing pastures.
He told our reporter that the business was sustainable and profitable when done with the right model.
According to him, his vision was to be one of the best raw milk producers in the country.
“My vision is to have 300 cows that can produce enough milk so that I can get 15 litres from each of them,” he said
Nigeria’s first female artificial inseminator Deborah Atunbi told The ICIR that modern methods of cattle-rearing were helping the likes of Rafiu to produce sufficient milk and grow healthy cows.
She said cross-breeding was capable of boosting the genetics of the cattle and producing cows that could adapt to the Nigerian environment.
Cattle on guided grazing at L and Z farms in Kano
Rafiu is not the only farmer ranching in Oyo State. Isa Abdulahi is also another cattle farmer at Maya in Oyo State. He ranches, grows healthy cows and produces over 30 litres of milk used by FrieslandCampina WAMCO at the milk collection centre.
One of the advantages of ranching in Oyo State, according to Abdulahi, is that there are very few cases of farmer-herder crisis “because no one crosses the other’s path.”
Lawal Aminat is a university student of the Federal University of Lafia, but she assists her parents during holidays at Akele, also in Oyo State.
She explained that ranching had made it possible for her parents to pay her school fees while she made extra money.
“I hope to set it up myself after school,” she said.
Cattle on guided grazing at L and Z Farms in Kano
L and Z Integrated farms located in Fari Village in Kano State is another example of a company using a ranching model that solves several problems in the cattle industry.
The farm assists herdsmen to stay in just one place, feeding their cattle with pasture bought by the farm.
The farm puts the herders in a sedentary mode for guided grazing and provides them with the right nutrition. Their herders and their children go to school and produce healthy and more productive cows.
It also offers medical assistance to the herders and their families.
“L and Z has developed an out-grower scheme, in which it provides a hybrid dairy calf to the wife of each of its ten employees. Cows are provided on credit terms, that see deductions in the husband’s wages. However, L and Z provides booster supplements to encourage milk production and a ready market for the milk produced,” Richard Ogundele, an agribusiness consultant with insider knowledge about the L and Z operations, told The ICIR.
The venture aims, he explained, to grow L and Z’s dairy business through a three-pronged approach.
“It aims to increase smallholder milk sourcing at premium prices, implement an out-grower scheme, make dairy cows available to local families, and set up a plant to produce sweetened milk products to sell to poor consumers through a distribution network of independent entrepreneurs.
“This is a proper model that one can reference for defined management of the dairy session in the country. It is what we can call an assisted sedentary model, and we have a recycling model in our clusters to ensure that nothing is wasted from the animal. There is also fodder to supplement for the feed and the herders are assisted to have a life that is a departure from what is currently constituting a nationwide threat to open grazing,” Ogundele said.
Nigeria has had it so rough with persistent herder-farmer clashes claiming lots of lives, which investigation shows could be solved with the right kind of approach from both the government and industry players.
There is a serious tension and mutual suspicion between the northern and southern regions of the country, including the heated argument of banning open grazing across the country.
Open grazing has not gone down well with several states in the southern region, as most of its governors have enacted legislations banning in their respective states.
The major reason is that open grazing goes with blood and sorrow. Amnesty International said 3,600 persons died between 2016 and 2018 due to farmer-herder clashes.
The ICIR’s findings have shown that a proper ranching system can provide appropriate defined growth mechanism of about 90 days and 27 per cent guaranteed return on investments for ranched cows.
Nigeria is a major producer of livestock in sub-Saharan Africa. Available records show that its cattle population is estimated at 20 million.
Investigations have, however, shown massive importation of milk in the country, despite several interventions in the dairy sector by the Nigeria’s central bank.
Africa’s most populous nation spends $1.5 billion annually on dairy importation, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
FrieslandCampina WAMCO attributes low milk production in the country to old cattle rearing methods such as the nomadic practice of herders.
Open grazing is an obsolete practice, risky for the cattle, the company says.
Findings show that the animals would not be healthy enough to produce milk after the long-distance trek.
To keep them stationery all through their lives come with the provision of amenities and support.
Kola Kuku, who owns a ranch in Ikorodu district of Lagos State and a consultant to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), told The ICIR during investigation in Lagos that the knowledge gap for herders was still a concern.
He noted that herders would be successful in their operations if they had the right knowledge to operate their ranch.
Return on investment
According to him, “my plot of land of 60 by 100 can at least accommodate about 45 cows. Forty-five cows in one plot of land can be bred, and in the next 90 days, they are ready for market.
“From experts’ and operators’ point of view, there is a guaranteed return on investment of 27 per cent. This enables the cow to be well-fed through a feedlot mechanism and proper veterinary services for maximum production. The advantage is that the cows would not roam about, and they get maximum health attention.
“The ranching house also shields them from the hazards that confront and attack their health, more especially the flies. This also helps the bodies of the animals to build up the mass of meat that is required.
“Conversely, the open grazing format does not afford the cows these opportunities. They grow so lean, and the grasses they feed on is half-hazard, and indigestion affects them.”
Cattle at the Ikorodu Ranch in Lagos
Rather than allow the cows to roam about and engage in transboundary migration, informed experts say ranching remains a better option.
Kuku further stated that “the Nigerian livestock industry is huge and could be likened to the breed industry in Australia, France, Newzealand and even Germany.”
Over time, in the past 50 years, there has not been any significant thing done to improve the lots of the industry when compared with other areas, claimed Kuku.
“When compared with other key sectors, for instance, there is more intervention in arable land and crop industry in the past 50 years. There have been series of interventions from the government. These interventions range from the introduction of fertilizers to input distribution, knowledge transfer, processing support and even extension services.
“It would surprise you to know that the last census conducted for the livestock in Nigeria was done in 1992. That was nearly 30 years ago. We counted the number of animals in this industry for the last time in 1992. If we do not know what we have, how do we manage what we have and even the crises associated with it?”
The cattle being fed at the Ikorodu Ranch in Lagos
“For instance, lands are acquired and are not gazetted for the industry and those lands have been encroached upon in various states. This has made it difficult for grazing.
“Animals move from one point to the other in search of access nutrients, foliage, and water. This is what makes them move around. The practice is somewhat cultural. However, experts knowledgeable about the sector showed that the method is obsolete.”
Kuku told The ICIR that Kenya, Botswana and SouthAfrica had been able to address concerns of open grazing and movement of animals from point A to point B reasonably, noting that Nigeria had numerous lessons to learn from these countries.
“For instance, in Botswana, a large chunk of an area in the Kalahari desert has been designated for the production of animals and is properly partitioned and allocated to operators in the industry. This has reasonably put to rest the concerns of open grazing.”
On the classification of the ranching industry, he explained that the industry was divided into three parts comprising the breeding parts, the backgrounding part and the finishing part.
The breeding part, he said, took care of the dairy industry.
Further investigation shows that Nigeria has various climates that would enhance the country’s livestock industry operations. For instance, the Guinea rainforest in the North and the tropical rainforest in the South.
Sudan and the Sahel area are up-North where rainfall is about 600 milimiters and below. Bauchi, the northern part of Adamawa are referred to as the natural savannah. That is the Guinea savannah, the Sudan savannah and the desert.
Those areas are known as the natural savannah. The natural savannah is what exists up-north, and cows do very well there, experts say.
Conversely, the tropical rainforest, which Nigeria has in the South, has its challenge. The animals would be affected by ‘food and mouth’ disease because the environment’s moisture and humidity will be hard for the breeding herd, experts further say.
Experts explain that they would be subjected to respiratory tract infection because of the humidity.
“If a line drawn from Sokoto straight to Maiduguri is dryland, and that carries the large population of our animals, the drylands in Sokoto and Maiduguri incidentally carry the largest population of our cows because they love the climate,” Kuku said.
“The drylands in Sokoto and Maiduguri areas are good for breeding because the grasses are savannah, and the cattle love the climate.
“Beyond the grasses and the lovable climate is the fact that there is waste from sorghum, maize, millet, and cowpea branches that are dried. It helps the milking animals as they are not exposed to diseases as such.
“Also, when you get to the southern part of Kano, and northern Kaduna to Niger, Kwara, Benue, and southern part of Adamawa, that gives you the Guinea savanna. It is a serious production area in cereals, sorghum and does well in tubers and millets.
“These areas are good in the backgrounding for the young male cattle, and they grow fast in those areas. The advantage is that it gives more resources to the breeding animals. On the other hand, our cows remain with their mothers for longer periods, which diminish the resources available for the mothers. It brings competition for mating among the animals.
“The staying longer with the mothers weakens the ‘herd productivity’ because the young calf struggles to mate with their mothers at some point.”
Ekiti State’s Ikun diary model
Ekiti State has Ikun Dairy Farm at Ikun-Ekiti where herders rear cattle at an expansive plot of land.
Like those in Oyo, Ikorodu and Kano, cows are placed in farm sheds to ensure they do not roam.
THE ICIR interacted with the Ekiti State Commissioner for Agriculture Bode Olatoyi, who explained how the state ran the public-private partnership model on its Ikun Dairy Farm.
Jesse brown breeds from Texas for cross-breeding at Ikun dairy ranch in Ekiti
Olatoyi told The ICIR that the Ikun Dairy Farm was established and the ranch was the first of its kind in Ekiti state.
“It’s sitting on 1000 hectares of land.
“The Ikun Dairy Farm was established during the Shagari era and was abandoned for 40 years.
“The government looked at it and said, ‘let’s revive it for wealth creation,” he said.
Milk being extracted from cross-bred cow at Ikun Dairy Farm
“We commenced a public-private partnership model with the Ikun Dairy Farm. We partnered with Promasidor, the makers of Cowbell. In that partnership, we gave them 70 per cent, and the government took 30 per cent.
“We provided the land and cleared the land for them as our own contribution. Ikun Dairy Farm was put up in a PPP venture model.
“However, we wanted to showcase to Nigerians that it’s possible to keep thousands of cows in a place and they are proficient and productive, and the entire value chain is going on there.
“Presently, we do two things there. First, we have our indigenous and white Fulani or Bororo that we are cross-breeding in order to showcase that we can improve our local gene.
“The white Fulani or the Bororo only produce one litre of milk at most.
“However, if you cross-breed it with the Jesse Brown that we have imported from Texas, the United States, which are 400 in number, you can get more.
“The first multiplication and cross-breeding we are doing genetically is targeting 10 -15litres,” he said.
He explained that for the Jesse Brown, “we do copulation for them, introducing semen to give birth to more fertile females since that female is what can do more multiplication for us.”
Richard Ogundele of JMSF Agribusiness Nigeria and an operator in cattle business, who spoke with The ICIR during this investigation, said there was still a knowledge gap regarding how proper ranching could be done using feedlots.
“The knowledge to do it is not yet out there and the infrastructure to enable people to get into it on time is not out there. However, we have huge markets because there are 15 major markets up North where the cattle is sourced.
“They call it Trans Sahara, and cattle are sourced into those markets from Nigeria, Chad, and Mali. You have those markets in Sokoto, Jigawa, Kano, Bauchi and Adamawa. These are the markets that feed the southern markets of cows,” he said.
He noted that these had shown that Nigeria was not doing enough and hence the influx of cows from other parts of Africa into the country.
Richard, however, noted that open grazing caused lots of damage and conflicts.
“However, when you ranch, you create employment along the various ranching value chain, and they are many,” he said.
Other experts call for more education of Fulani herders to ensure they embrace ranching and reduce tension in the country.