The government is in the process of introducing rapid-growing, high nutrition grass varieties from Brazil to develop prolific pastures that allow farmers to keep more cattle on a small piece of land.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development (Livestock), Paddy Zhanda, was in Brazil last month to facilitate the importation of these grass varieties before he took a delegation of Zimbabwe dairy farmers to Zambia where some of these Brazilian grass types are already being used to develop pastures to see the benefits for themselves.
The pastures are being introduced as part of the government's livestock version of command agriculture.
"Pasture is not just grass that we see growing with our eyes, but it is about the feed value in it... the nutrient content in that grass," said Zhanda, who noted that protein content was important for any grass used for stock feed.
"Feed is about feed content and feed content plus genetics is (good) food conversion ratio," Zhanda told cattle farmers in Harare a fortnight ago.
He said the type of grass that he and his delegation had seen at some pasture farms in the South American country -- the same grass varieties already being used to feed livestock in Zambia -- would ensure that livestock farmers prosper, with cattle growing faster because of the high protein content compared to locally available grass varieties.
"With these grass types, they cut between 40 to 50 tonnes per hectare three times a year (and) the protein content is between 14 and 16 percent. These grass types are perennial and you may need to buy new seed after more than ten years. After harvesting, all you need to do is to add a bit of fertiliser and irrigate it," Zhanda explained.
He said with such high yields of up to 150 tonnes per hectare per year, farmers in Brazil were able to adequately feed up to 10 cattle on a hectare of land instead of the ratio of one animal to ten hectares of grazing land that is considered optimum in Zimbabwe.
Zhanda said in Brazil, pasture farming is big business, and some farmers do not own any cattle but just concentrate on producing pasture which was sold to cattle farmers.
He said the commercial pasture method reduces a farmer's costs by 50 percent, something that also removed pressure from maize, which he said should be produced for human consumption, not stock feed.
The deputy minister said the government had already ordered enough of these hybrid seed varieties from Brazil, which has almost similar climate as Zimbabwe, to cover 100 hectares of land and pilot plots of five hectares will be planted this coming farming season in different parts of the country.
He said cattle farmers would be able to experience what the grass can do to their livestock.
He said those farmers interested in introducing these exotic grass varieties on their farms would then be able to order the grass seed through local seed houses that were also part of the government delegation to Brazil.
Poor nutrition is one of the factors that the Division of Livestock Production and Development has indicated is contributing to high mortality and poor reproduction within the livestock sector.