Sokoto — The Sokoto State Government has initiated a regional cattle ranch to ease the lingering clashes between herders and famers in the country. The N3 billion project would initially cover 1000 hectares with capacity to cater for 10,000 cattle.
The project is coming against the background of recent farmer/herder clashes and debates over grazing reserves, cattle colonies as well as anti-open grazing laws enacted in some states.
Our correspondent, who was on a guided tour of the project site in Rabah ,as well as related offices in Sokoto said the project will improve the low milk Sokoto Gudali breed and also have for sale cattle embryos and semen with capacity to turn around the quality of animal husbandry in Sokoto state as well as neighbouring West African countries
The ranch scheduled to commence in May, involves milk yielding breeds from Brazil as well as the beef yielding species from Argentina. It will commence at the cattle breeding, milk and meat project located at Rabah, Sokoto state.
The project also aims at realizing N2bn annually and will raise the states IGR.
Divided into three phases one of the critical sections is the first one being the technical transfer, which has to do with the training of staff that will maintain the project.
Six local technicians were sent for foreign training in Buenos Aires, Argentina.They were trained in genetics and breeding, embryo transfer, artificial insemination and invitro fertilization. Huge agricultural machinery such as combine harvesters are already in Sokoto and will soon be moved to Rabah, where there is a huge Pivot, which can water sixty hectares in one hour.
There are boiling machines, rakers, sprayers, mixers and planters, in addition to other equipment, seen by Daily Trust during the tour of the project site.
Dr Adamu Abdulkadir, Director, Veterinary Services, Sokoto State, and Coordinating Director overseeing the Sokoto cattle breeding project, said "We are expecting that in the first week of March, the semen and embryo will arrive Nigeria, flown directly from Buenos Aires to Sokoto.
"We want to improve the genetic build up. As it is, the Sokoto Gudali will only give you three to four litres of milk per day. By the time you improve the genetic build up, it can give you twelve to eighteen litres a day. This immediately means more money to the owner. The Brahma and Brambus breeds from Argentina and the Girolando species from Brazil will arrive in the second week of May. These also will be flown directly to Sokoto from Argentina and Brazil.
"When the state government embarked on this project, the idea was to improve the genetic makeup of our local breed, by cross breeding. We want to orient our people on new technologies, and methods of cattle rearing in the state."
According to Mohammed Alkali, Commissioner for Animal Health and Fisheries, "There's a value chain. People will be employed, and trained in a modern way. They will be in a partnership. All equipment bought will be given to cluster farmers and there will be thirteen cluster farmers in the state, spread across the twenty three local governments. The idea is that the project is not just going to be managed and administered by the state itself. It will also be managed by the cluster farmers, who will be indigenes of the state."
On the current physical weight of Gudali, Abdulkadir said "Now, it weighs between one hundred and fifty to two hundred kilograms. But when you improve the genetic build up, in one year it can give you two hundred and fifty, or three hundred kilograms, meaning more meat to the buyer and butcher. This means more income to him. You are improving everything about it; the milk production, the meat production, the quality, not only the quantity. It's going to improve."
Dr. Sale Ibrahim, a citizen of the state with media background and interest in animal husbandry said, "This is a package on pastoralism which will give the state government revenue, and which will enhance the economy of the state. The cows will yield more milk which the state government will be using to repay the loan. In short they are giving them a loan, and they are transferring knowledge. The state is trying to raise pastoralism to another level. It is a model scheme that other states should emulate. It will generate employment which will give the state better internally generated revenue."
Abdulkadir explains that "This project is going to have positive economic impact on the populace of Sokoto State and beyond. It's a revolution. We require semen and embryo even more than the live animals. You know most of these live animals that will be brought are heifers, pregnant heifers. If they are bringing one hundred, it means that's two hundred. Technically, semen and embryos are very important as far as this project is concerned. When the AI centre is ready, it will produce millions of straws of semen for people to come and buy, just as we are buying from Argentina. By 2019 people will be buying from us, instead of buying from Argentina. This is what we have been praying for a long time. We have been doing livestock business in the traditional and local way for long. We didn't take it to be business, and that's why we are having problems. But now it's going to be more commercial".
On the implications of the project for Nigeria, he said "We are now having an answer to farmer/herder clashes. On this ranch, we are going to produce feeds, soya beans, maize, sorghum, essentially to feed animals, and we will also grow a lot of pasture. It's going to be produced in excess, such that the Fulani can come and buy. Also, we have another two thousand hectares that we are going to clear. With this the herdsman does not need to travel anywhere, that's why we are saying people should come and see what we are doing."
Read feature on the Sokoto ranch project on Tuesday, February 13.