Grasslands Research Institute
Grasslands Research Station (GRS) is one of the four Livestock and Pasture Research Stations in Zimbabwe in the division of Livestock Research, Department of Research and Specialist Services (DR&SS) under the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development. The station is located 67km South East of Harare at an altitude of 1200m, along the Harare-Mutare road. The farm is 2700ha in extent subdivided into 300ha arable, 2200ha grazing and 200ha of woodland, roads, buildings and wasteland. Mean annual rainfall is in the range of 600 to 900mm with about 80% falling between November and March and is usually reliable to support intensive mixed crop-livestock production. Soils are predominantly acidic (pH 4.5) deep brown, fine , loamy kaolinitic thermic derived from granite. The vegetation is wooded shrub land with Terminalia serica and Burkea Africana, in association with various Combretum and Acacia species. Brachystegia boehmii may occur in places. Grasslands are dominated by species of Hyparrhenia.
History and development
Grasslands came into being in 1929 when Government bought three farms which were consolidated into one farm in order to satisfy the growing demand for agricultural research in the high rainfall sandveld region. The main research focus was on dairy, beef, sheep and pasture production and research. The remaining part was farmed commercially for demonstrations. The station’s main dam was built across the headwaters of the Hunyani River in 1954 and this made work with irrigated pastures possible. Studies on lamb production started in 1956 and on dairy work in 1966. Future success was largely dependent on the outcome of work with pasture legumes.The thrust of the station research program has since then been re-oriented from focusing on the minority large scale commercial farmers needs to focusing on the needs of the majority and previously neglected communal, small scale and emerging A1 and A2 farmers for improving both livestock and pasture production in Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe, beef and dairy cattle play a significant role in the livelihoods of the community through provision of meat, milk, draught, and financial security. Exports of beef to the EU market make a significant contribution to foreign currency of the country. According to a nation, wide survey conducted by ARC in 1999, the major constraint to livestock production has been singled out as shortage of feed especially during the dry season. For high intensive production systems, such as dairy and beef fattening, the cost of bought in concentrates has become prohibitive and beyond reach of most farmers. In addition the change in farming systems through the land reform program, has seen an overall reduction in farm sizes in the form of A1 and A2 schemes. As a result, available grazing for cattle has become limited in both quantity and quality. Therefore there is need to promote research that continuously evaluates and develops cheaper alternative sources of feed such as use of crop residues, use of industrial by products and use of home grown feeds. There is also need to improve pasture production, which is the cheapest form of livestock feed especially in areas where beef in solely produced off the veld.
Facilitate increased animal production and productivity through sustainable research-based technologies and information dissemination.
Core Functions (Terms of Reference) for Grasslands Research Institute:
- Research, develop and conserve animal breeds, pastures and forages adaptable to Zimbabwe’s five agro-ecological zones
- Conduct research for development of appropriate and sustainable animal production technologies for farmer support
- Package and disseminate new technologies and relevant information on animal production
- Conduct farmer training on appropriate animal production technologies and best farm practices
- Mobilize farmers for animal production.
- Characterize and conserve plant and livestock genetic material for future breeding and other purposes
- Provide testing and advisory services on animal feeds and animal management technologies
- Create linkages and smart partnerships with stakeholders in the animal industry
Grasslands Research Institute conducts its research in collaboration with other organizations through consultations, partnerships and joint planning and execution of programmes and information exchange. The station’s research partners include farmers, farmer organizations, extension and livestock development service, other local research institutes, non-governmental organizations and international research centres. The main research areas are:
Livestock Production Research
Develop dairy, beef cattle, goat and sheep feeding and husbandry systems through evaluation of locally available feed resources and management systems.
- Improve the utilisation of crop residues and poor quality roughages as ruminant livestock feed as an ongoing exercise.
- Develop cost effective maintenance and pen/veld finishing diets for dairy and beef production systems.
- Provide livestock feed evaluation (metabolism trials) services to farmers and other sister institutions.
- Advisory service and training to farmers and students on sustainable livestock and pastures production systems all year round.
- Enhance cooperation with other institutions in animal nutrition research for the benefit of Zimbabwean livestock production.