March 31, 2022

Livestock farmers throughout the country, particularly beef cattle farmers are being told to meet certain requirements to be eligible for stockyard assistance.

This was relayed to Beef Extension Programme recipients in Vanua Levu and the Central Division by Minister for Agriculture, Waterways and Environment Hon. Dr Mahendra Reddy to incentivize these current smallholder livestock beef cattle farmers to work towards becoming large holding beef farmers.

Hon. Reddy said the Ministry would be distributing 260 beef fencing materials to individual farmers in the hopes that at least 50 per cent of these farmers make the successful transition to fully commercial beef farmer status.

"We’re challenging that if you’re successful, we will give you additional coils of barbed wires next year to successful farmers and we will establish a stockyard worth about $7,000 on your farms.

"But what we want to see is how many of you can live up to our expectation and be a successful farmer so you can receive these additional coils of barbed wire so you can establish additional paddocks and have a stockyard, fully funded by us," he said.

He elaborated on the checklist the Ministry would employ to determine the farmers' success under the programme.

"We will check whether you are regularly looking at the parameter and ensuring that the parameters of your paddocks are intact. We will check to ensure that you are undertaking pasture management, you can’t just herd the cattle inside the fence and think that the job is done, it doesn’t happen that way.

"Most of you are already established farmers, you understand, what are you doing to manage the in paddock pasture, are you weeding, are you establishing new pasture? Have you established a cut and carry pasture outside? Let’s see, along the parameter, did you plant some Gliricidia – live fencing plants?

Let’s see what kind of pasture management you did within, our officers will get all the records. We will see whether you planted cut and carry pasture, Juncao outside your paddocks on ¼ acre or ½ acre land.

"Are you looking at the herd situation, what is the quality, what is the health status? Have you established a separate account, an investment account? Are you accounting for every herd and ensuring that you are putting money in a separate account. These are some critical indicators that we will want to see this, what is happening to herd size, etc.," he said.

"There will be failure rates, that is to be expected but if out of these 260 farmers if we can get 100 good commercial beef farmers, then we’re willing to put in more resources to support them but again, it will not happen if you go and once you’ve received the fencing materials then you’ve got 3-months-time and in the 3rd month, you try and establish the fence, that shows how serious you are, it won’t happen if you just herd the cattle inside and leave them there and think that the job is done, it doesn’t happen that way.

Minister Reddy said it was the Ministry's goal to improve the stock herd in the country as continuous inbreeding of cattle had led to the loss of their original genetic makeup.

"We want to give you the breed that we have imported from Australia either through getting a breeder to your farm or through artificial insemination that we have started which is happening on the ground or through embryo transfer which will take a bit of time but we are ready with the first two."

"We have the breeders and we are doing line breeding as well and we are also doing artificial insemination that’s the kind of breed we want, look at the carcass content, not the one that we have now which is due to inbreeding, we have lost the carcass size so that’s the kind of investment we want to make but we don’t want to make this kind of investment and get our breeders to farms that are infected with Tuberculosis and where the fences are broken and there is no interest from the farmers, we don’t want to waste our time and resources on these types of farmers, we’ve got a limited stock of this Senepol breed that we have, so the ball is in your court now, if you want additional support and stockyard assistance etc then, show us your input.

Meanwhile, 55 beef cattle farmers in the Central Division and 16 farmers from the Northern Division received their offer letters from the Ministry this week.