How Nigeria Can Harness Livestock Potential — Basheer Bala-Wunti – The Whistler Newspaper
The crisis of farmers and pastoralists in Nigeria is one of the concerns that has tainted the benefits of animal husbandry and resulted in multiple losses to the economy of the country.
It’s a factor that prompted Basheer Bala-Wunti to devise a ‘zero grazing’ approach to help Africa’s largest economy harness the gains from livestock.
In an emerging and developing country like India, livestock represents 4.11% of gross domestic product; contributes 25.6% to total agricultural GDP and employs 8.8% of its 1.4 billion inhabitants.
But in Nigeria, where there are more than 20 million cattle, the livestock sub-sector is worth just 2.1 trillion naira or $5 billion in 2020, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
Basheer thinks the subsector can grow beyond its current limits.
During a TEDx talk, Basheer spoke about “sustaining the livestock system in Nigeria through revitalizing the business approach”.
He said, “Over time, cattle grazing has become a problem in Nigeria, which has led to a security risk, in terms of sanitary standards and agricultural production.
“There is a need to create a sustainable farming environment that will benefit ranchers, farmers, businesses and therefore consumers. Solving the grazing crisis requires the adaptation of several modes of grazing in conjunction with free grazing. The first is the repurposing of vast open land for security purposes necessary for this to work.
“The next method of grazing I suggest is zero grazing which involves using quality feed formulations to meet the nutritional needs of the livestock, less spaces if needed here, and the speed at which the natures of the livestock increase.
“These methods, I believe, will play a huge role in ending the herding gang crisis plaguing the country. I’ve covered production a bit, now moving on to sales specifically for livestock used for meat across the country we sell meat to consumers. This is not the case when it is not they who buy but the consumers.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, Nigeria’s population of over 200 million is expected to reach 400 million by 2050.
Basheer argued that it would not be viable in the long term to practice open grazing for the more than 20 million cattle spread across the country due to rapid population growth.
He added: “As I mentioned earlier, the loss of roads is the main factor why open grazing has become a problem in the country. These lands will be restricted, allowing herders to go far without worry and within their limits.
“Herders can pay rent, tax, in a win-win way, once this is in place, the loss of pasture will now become the major issues. This can be through adapting these grazing patterns, with grazing done in plant sequences or street grazing where movable electric fences are overridden to allow enough forage over a short period of time.
Another area that Basheer proposes to reform is the question of the scale used by breeders and other market players.
“The need for standardization of scales in the market has great potential and that is why the industry needs standardized use of scales.
“Some techniques used to measure the weight of cattle include the cockchafer formula and the rondo method. It doesn’t require scale, which I realize can be a bit costly to implement without government oversight.
“The Rondo method, for example, is a tape used to measure the weight of cattle. It is based on the measurement of the heart of cattle, which would be strongly correlated to the body weight of cattle,” he said.
Basheer believes the method is important because “these measurements are crucial for livestock keepers as it defines the amount of feed rations that must be provided to an animal to avoid underfeeding or overfeeding.
“The dosage of the drug, the approximate market value of the live animal before sale and the whining period of the animal.
“Furthermore, reliable information is the foundation of sound management and should be the basis upon which government policies regulating the livestock industry are formulated and development priorities are set.”
He felt that measurement techniques should be used to determine the condition in which livestock are bought and sold in the market.
“The butcher knows how much he will pay for the animal and the shepherd knows what he will receive for his cattle. The rancher raises and feeds the cattle at a specified rate class, providing the necessary nutrition and ensuring that he gets his money’s worth, as do the butchers and, overall, the end consumers.
“Price is necessary because neither the buyer nor the seller can accurately estimate the weight of a cattle with consistency. To judge the fairness of the price, the industry will need to develop a comprehensive system that determines the price of cattle depending on market conditions.
“Livestock at market outlets were traditionally bought and sold according to the price negotiated by buyer and seller, as the weight of the animal was an unknown factor that everyone estimated before negotiating the price.”
According to him, the ease and convenience of using the price scale would attract potential buyers, thereby avoiding the risk of price inflation.
Additionally, Basheer thinks it would inject confidence into the estimated earnings weight.
He added: ‘And no standardized livestock grading system linked to performance or consumer acceptance. It is also important for livestock managers and farmers to acquire training in basic business management practices to motivate building up the economic implications of all their farming and livestock farming methods.