By Chipo Tachiona
Cattle fattening is a method of raising livestock that minimizes animal mobility, allowing animals to gain weight more quickly. Larger animals produce more meat, which can be sold for more money on the market. Many people throughout the world are gaining money by engaging in livestock farming, focusing on cattle fattening.
Although cattle fattening is a lucrative industry, there are a few crucial steps farmers must take before starting a feedlot operation. Farmers must first choose their target market, location and the number of animals they want to keep per cycle. The target market size and the quantity of capital at the farmer’s disposal have an impact on making decisions. Farmers can always start small and expand their feedlot operation over time if they don’t have money. Additionally, there is need to conduct market research (to whom are they intending to sell the beef or cattle?) and put pen to paper. Before starting, develop a feedlot business plan (at what price) and document the strategy.
Cattle for fattening
There are some cattle that are better suited for fattening than others. In order to increase live weights and improve degree of finish and better grades at the abattoir, cattle must be fed for about 90 days or so under confinement where they are provided with a protein-balanced and high-energy diet.
Farmers need sufficient understanding of effective pen fattening procedures such as cattle fattening techniques, good management abilities and a good business plan to develop a successful and sustainable feedlot operation. Farmers can either use cattle from their own herd or buy animals from others, whichever is convenient to them. Before embarking on cattle fattening cycle, due diligence must be taken because wrong choices can leave the farmer in the red. There is need to assess the potential for beef fattening of various cattle breeds in relation to the market price of various beef grades when purchasing the animals. Age, gender, maturity type and breed of cattle are all important considerations. This is due to the fact that different breeds react differently to fattening.
Cattle fattening location
Making the right choice of the location of cattle feedlots is crucial for ensuring the financial sustainability of the project. When choosing land for a feedlot, important things to take into account are the availability of inexpensive labour, accessibility to the market and to supplies of feed, climatic conditions, as well as good road networks. Other factors to consider tare whether the land is suitable for building cattle feedlots, availability of water, whether there is a low risk of flooding or veld fire and whether it is far enough away from residential or industrial areas to prevent noise and dust pollution in those areas.
Equipment for cattle fattening
Feeding and drinking facilities are necessary for cattle pens used for fattening. They could potentially take the shape of mobile self-feeders that can be moved around the pens or fixed concrete units which are possibly more cost effective in the Zimbabwe scenario. Feed bunks/feed troughs are fixed and built near to the edge of the cattle pens. For convenient access to food, the feed troughs typically span the length of the cattle pen. No matter what kind of equipment the farmer employs, make sure that cattle have easy access to feed and water. The price of the necessary equipment should be included in the feedlot business plan.
Feed and nutrition
It is crucial that the cattle are fed with the appropriate amount and kind of grain. The ability to successfully fatten cattle hinges on the capacity to get them to put on weight and produce high-quality beef. The caliber and volume of the feed have an impact on these variables. Right feeding methods will guarantee that the cattle thrive, utilize the grain effectively and yield high-quality beef. If farmers fail to correctly feed cattle, they are likely to suffer losses in the form of feed wastage or failure to reach the desired slaughter weights and meat grades.
There are businesses that sell feeds for fattening cattle. These comprehensive, balanced meals are intended for up to 90 days or so of feedlot fattening. The stock feeds are high energy fattening meals that are nutrient-rich and ideal for ad lib fattening of cattle in pens. Farmers can also make use of homemade feed for beef fattening. The amount of feed that the cattle will eat each day will vary depending on their live weight and age.
The cost of the feed, the pricing margin, feed margin, the feed conversion efficiency ratio, and the unit cost per kilogramme when selling affect the profitability of the cattle feedlot operations.
Cattle fattening is in line with the government’s Livestock Growth Plan, whose aim is to make Zimbabwe’s livestock sector a US$1,9 billion industry by 2025. The key pillars of the Livestock Growth Plan include animal nutrition, genetics improvement programme, among others and cattle fattening comes in handy for the achievement of this plan.
Chipo Tachiona is Farmyard Investments director.
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