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Crossbreeding boosts milk production in Zimbabwe

Ajs Kirk is making a real difference in Zimbabwe's dairy industry, helping improve food security. Using the VikingGoldenCross, he has healthy cows that produce more milk.

Zimbabwe has a dairy cow population of over 30,000 dairy cows. Holstein is the primary breed, but there are also Jersey and Red cows and some local breeds in Zimbabwe. Crossbreeding is also very common and works well for those who practice it. Dairy businesses are growing; however, milk production needs to be higher to meet the rising demand for dairy goods, putting pressure on food producers.

“Zimbabwe has good possibilities for the dairy industry if the political situation allows it to happen,” says Ajs Kirk, herd manager of Red Dane Farming, VikingGenetics’ distributor in Zimbabwe. Originally from Denmark, Ajs moved to Zimbabwe almost 50 years ago with his family. His father, Wolle Kirk, was a Danish farming pioneer in Zimbabwe that many still remember.

“Local milk production is too low compared to the consumption, and that’s why there is room for new dairy herds. Milk can be produced in an intensive system as we do or in an extensive system, which we also have on our farm,” adds Ajs.

Crossbreeding VikingGoldenCross Zimbabwe Ajs Kirk

Crossbreeding makes the difference

All of Red Dane Farming’s cows are crossbred, and Ajs has exclusively used semen from VikingGenetics bulls for many years, giving him high production and excellent results. The largest herd – Bhara Bhara – has the highest milk production in Zimbabwe, at approximately 27 kg milk/cow/day.

Bhara Bhara is made up of 700 VikingGoldenCross dairy cows in an intensive system. The VikingGoldenCross is a 3-breed rotational crossbreeding program that combines VikingGenetics’ three breeds – VikingHolstein, VikingRed and VikingJersey.

This way, Ajs gets healthy, fertile, easy-to-manage cows with a higher lifetime production. His cows also benefit from heterosis – an extra benefit for favourable traits on top of the parents’ average.

Excellent milk quality is essential for Red Dane Farming, so udder health and good milk solids are the herd’s main breeding goals. Udder health is excellent in the VikingGoldenCross cows, with an average somatic cell count (SCC) below 200.000 and treatment for mastitis has not been needed.

“Crossbreeding works very well in this country. We want productive, healthy, and fertile cows, and over the years, we have got excellent results with crossbreeding. VikingGenetics bulls work very well in this,” says Ajs. “The three VikingGoldenCross breeds complement each other well and compensate for their strengths and weaknesses,” he adds.

Crossbreeding VikingGoldenCross Zimbabwe Ajs Kirk

Products and solutions to thrive

Besides selling VikingGenetics semen to local farmers, Red Dane Agri-Solutions also sells a wide variety of equipment for dairy and beef breeding. Calf pens called Mobile Animal Rearing System (MARS) are their best-selling item among them. The pens provide enough space for ten calves and are equipped with wheels, so farmers can easily move them.

“The most important part is to give a good beginning for calves,” says Ajs. “The benefit of having pens with wheels is the ease of movement. Farmers can move the pen every day, so calves always have a clean area to eat, drink, play and rest,” he explains.

Bhara Bhara also has an extensive herd with more than 300 grazing cows, which are partly crossbreds of commercial breeds and partly between VikingGenetics bulls and Zimbabwe’s local breeds. Milking is done outside, using the Extensive Bush Dairy system (EBD), which incorporates a trailer as a milking parlour that can be easily moved to different grazing areas. The cows are also fed stockfeed, and some concentrate during milking, with yields varying between 13–20 kg milk/cow/day.

All the milk produced at Red Dane Farming, about 24,500 litres/day, is used in their own dairy factory, where they make cheese, yoghurt, and ice cream. However, because of the growing demand, the milk produced on-farm is not enough for the dairy factory; due to this, the decision was made to purchase milk from other local farms, helping Red Dane keep up with the market while supporting other local producers in Zimbabwe.

Learn more about VikingGoldenCross
Crossbreeding VikingGoldenCross Zimbabwe Ajs Kirk

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