Enhancing Beef Production in Zimbabwe through Calf Fattening Ventures

Enhancing Beef Production in Zimbabwe through Calf Fattening Ventures

Calf fattening is an effective method for increasing beef production by raising young cattle in controlled farm environments. 

This venture involves feeding calves, particularly males between 12 to 18 months old, a nutritionally balanced concentrate ration or Total Mixed Ration (TMR) over a period of 90-100 days. Properly managed, calves can achieve a substantial weight gain, significantly improving the yield and quality of meat.

Daily Weight Gain and Feed Quality

Calves can achieve daily weight gains ranging from 700 to 850 grams depending on the quality of feed provided. Farms can be established in locations with easy access to fodder and water. While there is a consistent market demand for well-fattened cattle, demand spikes during special occasions like Eid-ul-Adha, providing opportunities for higher returns.

Recommended Breeds for Fattening

For optimal results, it is advisable to select local cattle breeds known for their robustness and meat quality. In Zimbabwe, breeds such as the Mashona, Tuli, and Nkone are well-suited for fattening. These breeds are adapted to local conditions and show good growth rates when provided with adequate nutrition. For premium meat production, cross-breeds like Brahman, Angus, and Charolais may also be considered.

Housing and Management Practices

Effective housing and management practices are crucial for the success of a calf fattening venture. Key considerations include:

  1. Initial Weight and Age: Calves should ideally weigh between 180-200 kg at 12-18 months of age. Even slightly underweight but fully grown calves can respond well to fattening diets.
  2. Housing Conditions: Facilities should be well-ventilated, comfortable, and dry to ensure a hygienic environment. This setup aids in the easy drainage and removal of waste, preventing health issues.
  3. Environmental Protection: Housing should protect animals from extreme weather conditions, with structures oriented to maximize sun exposure from east to west.
  4. Future Expansion: Planning should accommodate potential future expansion to increase production capacity as needed.
  5. Water Supply: Continuous access to clean drinking water is essential, with each animal requiring 15 to 20 liters per day to maintain optimal production levels.
  6. Feed Management: Animals tend to consume more water when fed TMR and salt, highlighting the importance of a balanced diet to promote weight gain.

Health and Record-Keeping

Maintaining the health of the herd through proper veterinary care and record-keeping is vital:

  1. De-worming: New batches should be de-wormed shortly after arrival to prevent parasitic infestations.
  2. Vaccination: Timely vaccinations against infectious diseases act as a prophylactic measure to minimize mortality rates, which should not exceed 2-3% per annum.
  3. Identification and Monitoring: All animals should be ear-tagged and recorded, noting breed, initial weight, age, and date of purchase. This helps in tracking progress and identifying any issues promptly.
  4. Regular Culling: Periodically cull animals that become uneconomical to maintain the overall efficiency of the operation.

Calf fattening presents a viable opportunity for enhancing beef production in Zimbabwe. By selecting appropriate breeds, ensuring optimal housing and management practices, and maintaining rigorous health protocols, farmers can achieve significant weight gains and improved meat quality, meeting both local and international market demands. Implementing these practices will not only boost profitability but also contribute to the sustainable growth of the beef industry in Zimbabwe.


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