Traditionally the institute’s research efforts were centered on two categories of farmers, the commercial and the smallholder sectors. Currently with agrarian reform there has been re-definition of farmers through land redistribution and resource allocation. The new set up demands that livestock researchers orient themselves to the new farmer’s challenges as new entrants in the livestock industry. While livestock institutes were predominantly set up to carryout research, together with the country’s established breed societies, the institutes face the challenge of safeguarding animal genetic material. Furthermore active participation in distribution of animal genetic resources to farmers is conducted to restore depleted flocks and herds. The various challenges faced need a lot in terms of human and financial resource commitment and as such require that Henderson Research Institute reorient itself to meet these challenges.
The thrust of the institute’s research program has shifted focus from the large scale commercial sector to the smallholder farming sector. The advent of the Land Reform Programme has introduced new clientele, the A1 and A2 farmers whose requirements for support with technical information and knowledge are unique given the environment under which they operate. Therefore, the research and development efforts have been cognizant of these changing requirements with the aim of developing appropriate and sustainable technologies and management systems for this new sector.
Current Research Programmes
· Forage introductions and evaluation
· Investigating the compatibility of Velvet bean and Lablab with Bana grass as ruminant livestock feed.
Beef and Small Ruminants
· Effect of inbreeding on growth and reproductive performance in Sabi sheep of Zimbabwe
PREVIOUS RESEARCH PROGRAMMES
Some Research Trials conducted from 1948 to 1980
Screening of Grasses for Leys
Work was done to screen grasses suitable for ley in order to replace sunnhemp. Results indicated that Napier fodder produced bulk herbage but it was difficult to manage and plough under. Giant Rhodes grass was noted to be easy to establish from seed and could be easily plough out. This was also found to produce high yield and was palatable to livestock. Fertilizer requirements for optimal production were also established for Stargrass and adopted widely. It was also found that sub optimal fertilizer application rates results in the Stargrass pastures being invaded by Sporobolus. Ways of dealing with Sporobolus were also studied and practices recommended.
Studies were done to determine the best grazing system. The study concluded that increasing the number of paddocks beyond 6 was of no economic gain.
Bush Control and Stocking Rate
Studies, which were carried out, established suitable stocking densities for production comparable to animals supplemented with protein rich concentrates. A number of arboricides were evaluated and application rates recommended.
Irrigated Grass Pastures
The study indicated that although the yields were high it was not economic to irrigate Stargrass pastures, given the cost of irrigation and fertilizer.
Studies were carried out to incorporate legumes in grass pastures to reduce the amount of protein rich supplements to grazing animals.
Studies were done to establish suitable farming system for the smallholder sector. It was demonstrated that mixed farming was possible and profitable
Work on ruminant nutrition such as measuring seasonal changes that occurred in the chemical changes in the veld grazing, estimating the food intake by grazing animals and observing the reactions of grazing animals to different types of supplementary feeds. This work confirmed previous observation of deficiency of protein in the veld. Results show that not only could the body mass of the young cattle be maintained in winter by feeding small amounts on protein rich concentrate in adding to grazing but reconception rates in cows were increased from 50 to over 80%.
Mortality could be overcome by feeding cattle in yard with small amounts of food in yard to ensure their survival. Feed allowances of half to three quarters of maintenance sustained Afrikaner for a long time. Uses of low quality roughages supplements with protein rich urea containing feeds were adequate.
This research enabled recommendations on pen fattening 20% low quality roughage and 80% concentrate. It was also noted and recommended that it was not worthwhile feeding beef cattle with high concentrate diets for fattening when conversion rate falls below one kg of carcass gain for every 11 kg of concentrate. The Henderson protein concentrate was also developed and widely adopted in the beef production systems.
Studies done in this area lead to the development of the Henderson Early Weaning system, which is the standard that has been adopted in many commercial Dairy Farming systems. Although some changes have been made to suit individual producers the basic principles established by the studies have stood the test of time.
Studies were done on Beef cattle fertility aimed at improving calving percentage of the beef herd. Research also focused on estrous synchronization techniques, early pregnancy diagnoses by hormone assay and stimulation of endocrine activity by exogenous hormones.
Dairy Cattle nutrition
Work was done to determine optimal protein levels in dairy cow diets and recommendations were made which were used for practical feeding of Dairy cows during that time. Feeding systems were also compared and it was found out that the budget feeding system simplified management of the herd.
Studies were done in order to investigate the causes and recommend ways of reducing the incidence of retained placenta. It was concluded that injection of selenium and vitamin E prior to calving reduced the incidence. Such finding became a basis for future research in mineral supplementation.
Some Research Trials conducted from 1980 to 2005
Plant Introduction and Evaluation.
The project was initiated in order in increase the number of adapted forage grasses and legumes available for use in specific environments and seasons. This was after survey results had indicated that the main constraint found to be affecting development and widespread use of forage based livestock production systems in the country was the shortage of adapted forage plants for various environments and utilization systems. The work resulted in a number of forage grasses and legumes being selected for different environments. Performance of different legume and grasses on either Redveld or sandveld was also studied and yield recommendations, which are of practical significance.
Beef and Milk Production From Stargrass Pastures
Beef production studies were also done and have shown potential live weight and carcass weight gains of 1000kg and 500kg respectively. The effects of stocking rates, level of nitrogen application and supplementation on live mass gains of various classes of livestock were also studied. Following the research at Henderson Research Station, fertilized Star grass No2 (Cynodon nlemfuensis) dryland pastures gained prominence as a complement to range grazing in the commercial sector. They were used extensively in dairy and grass fattening systems, especially in Natural Regions II and III. These studies came up with recommendations on fertilizer applications and stocking rates that are in practical use today.
Cynodon Accessions Screening and Evaluation.
There has been on-going work on screening and evaluation of Cynodon accessions found to outperform the traditional CV no 2, in terms of yield and quality. A number of accessions have been studied. From 88 accessions in the late 1970s four have been selected after over 15 years of study, such promising accessions include G1260, G1280 and G1256.
Pasture seed agronomy studies were conducted to provide information on the management of pasture plants. Studies were done to investigate the compatibility of cereals and legumes with regard to herbage yield and nutrient quality. Such studies yield positive results. Work was also done on the use of manure in place of organic fertilizer in fodder production. Result indicated that manure could be used in place of organic fertilizer in fodder production.
Mixed Crop Silages
These studies were aimed at investigating compatibility of cereals and legume in mixed silages. Incorporation of legumes in cereals increased protein content and therefore nutritional value of silages. Some smallholder dairy farmers have used such information to produce high quality silages. Work in this area is on going
Screening Maize Varieties For Silage
The study was initiated due to the rekindled interest in silage making. The purpose of the study was to characterize the available maize varieties for their suitability for silage making. The study was terminated prematurely so it could not provide conclusive recommendations.
Smallholder Dairy Project
The project involved baseline surveys to characterize dairy cows in the smallholder sector and factors affecting their production potential. Studies established least cost rations that could be used in the smallholder sector. Use of ram press sunflower cake and other crop residues in dairy cow rations was studied and recommendations applicable to the farmer were established. The same studies also established that feeding ram press sunflower cake reduced methane production from ruminant animals. This had a positive significant impact on smallholder dairy production. It also established the potential of crossbred cows in milk production in the smallholder dairy sector. The section was also involved in crossbreeding programmes that has managed to provide crossbred progeny for use in the smallholder dairy projects.
Indigenous Cow Project
The station pioneered on farm research on indigenous cows between 1985 and 1988. This provided comprehensive information on of productivity of indigenous cows under traditional and improved management systems. This yielded invaluable information on milk production potential and response to improved feeding as well as reproductive characteristics if indigenous cows. This baseline information was used to develop other projects aimed at developing the smallholder dairy production.
Dietary Crude Protein Levels
This project was run over three years (1987- 90). The study indicated that the high yielding dairy cows in early lactation responded positively to increasing dietary crude protein levels up to 20 %. Prior to this study the recommended levels was 16%. This information is currently being used in practical feeding of high yielding dairy cows.
Whole Oilseed Project.
The project was undertaken to determine the maximum safe inclusion levels of whole oilseeds (soyabean and cottonseed) in lactating dairy cow diets. Results indicated that 3kg per day was the safe maximum inclusion level. This recommendation is the standard currently used in Zimbabwe.
The studies were designed to develop strategies to increase reproductive efficiency in dairy cows. Notable achievements include development and implementation of early pregnancy diagnosis scheme for commercial dairy farmers and new recommendations that healthy dairy cows could successfully be bred prior to 60 days postpartum as a strategy to reduce the calving intervals.
The section was also involved in research aimed at testing technologies that had proved successful in other parts of the world for their applicability locally e.g. effect of bovine somatotrophin on milk production in indigenous, crossbred and exotic dairy cows, use of yeast culture supplementation on milk yield and composition and effect of silage additive ‘Siloguard II’ on silage fermentation and nutrient preservation.
Beef and Small Ruminants Research Section
Use of whole oilseeds in pen fattening rations
Studied were to do investigate the possibility of using whole oilseeds (sunflower) in pen fattening rations. Results indicated that there was a possibility of increasing dietary energy density in pen fattening rations using sunflower thus reducing the amount of maize grain.
Use of ram-press sunflower-cake in small ruminant diets
The study showed that sunflower cake could be included to up to 5 % and anything above that depressed intake.
Use of low quality crop residues supplemented with legume.
The study was aimed at finding ways utilizing of utilizing low quality forages by in sheep production. Results indicated that intake and nutrient utilization by increased by supplementation with legume hay. The same study was carried out in goats and positive results were obtained.
Milk from Saanen does and their crosses
Milk production from Saanen goats and their crosses was studied. The project managed to establish the milk production potential of these animals as well as feeding levels for optimum production.
Fry Production Techniques.
The project was aimed at determining optimal breeding ratios and stocking densities. Results indicated that breeding ration of 3-5 females per each male was the optimum breeding ratio. A stocking density of 3 fish per square metre without supplementation was found to be the optimum, which can be increased to more than 10 fish per square metre with supplementation. This information is the standard used in fish production currently.
Use of livestock Manure, Agro-Industrial by-products as Pond Inputs to promote primary pond production and as direct fish feed
This programme was done to determine to optimal manure quantity and quality for optimal primary pond production and to determine the most appropriate manure application techniques. The studies led to adoption of several integration systems of fish with other livestock.
Control of Precocious Breeding in Tilapias
Results of the work led to the current recommendations that inclusion of predators e.g. catfish will reduce the possibility of pond overpopulation which result in stunted growth caused by precocious breeding.
Monosex Culture Techniques
The study showed that administration of the hormone methyltestosterone produces an all male culture, which has better growth rates than mixed culture. All female cultures are thus made possible.
Comparative Studies On Different Tilapia Species
Results showed that it is possible to have mixed cultures. This is possible because of different feeding habits of different species.
Nutritional Requirements of Fish species
The study was aimed at determining optimal feeding levels and frequency. This study yielded results, which are in practical use today in terms of feed levels and frequency 3 to 5% body weight per day divided in two portions.
The section tested the possibility of floating pellets suitable for cage culture in collaboration with SAFCO. This study yielded results, which are currently being used.
Use of Irrigation Schemes as Fisheries
The section assisted in establishment of fisheries in irrigation schemes.
ü Testing of the locally produced animal and plant proteins as complete or partial replacement for fish meal
ü Effect of mycotoxins on growth and egg production and the addition of carotenoids materials that may affect the colour of the egg yolk
ü Evaluation of sunflower cake as a potential protein supplement in broiler and layer diets
ü Evaluation of white and red sorghum as potential energy substitutes in broiler and layer diets
ü An evaluation of broiler response to varying quantities of broiler starter diets
ü Effect of induced stress and the possible response to its alleviation by sugar dissolved in water on broiler performance
ü Monitoring and evaluation of the productivity of village chickens
ü Development of the hay box brooder
ü Evaluation of the best egg and meat specialist strains
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