SACAU co-hosted the regional dairy platform meeting with We Effect from the 29 to 30 October 2018. The meeting has become part of key annual activities aimed at improving production and productivity of the members of dairy associations at farm level.
The proper management of dairy farm activities is the starting point in ensuring that our countries and indeed the region can be competitive and become globally significant in trade of dairy products. The meeting, which was held in Johannesburg, South Africa drew participation from eight countries in the region. Apart from presentations of country situations from the dairy associations and national farmers’ unions that were represented at the meeting, presenters that came to present on specific dairy sector related topics were organised.
The focus areas were: dairy sector outlook, climate change, intra-regional and global trade of dairy products, technological advances in the dairy sector and the schools feeding/milk programme. The presenters were drawn from organisations with expert knowledge of the sector and they provided insights on current trends based on research findings.
The associations raised concerns on challenges negatively affecting their production among them, access to finance, the low farmgate price of milk, milk producers being price takers, policy matters, and their own capacity constraints. The presentations and deliberations also highlighted a number of key issues of importance. The dairy sector remains a highly risky business and milk producers need to be vigilant and know how to harvest the highs and manage the lows.
The measurement of inputs and the outputs will assist the milk producer to do a proper assessment of the viability of the dairy business therefore recordkeeping becomes imperative. The smallholder dairy farmer is operating on the margin, efficient use of resources is unavoidable if the farmer is to sustain the business. The unit of production, in this case, the dairy cow is the most important asset the dairy farmer has, and the farmer must ensure that the animal is well looked after for it to be productive.
The agricultural sector and the dairy sub-sector specifically are now a science, knowledge, data and technology driven business, so the farmer needs to progressively adopt affordable modern methods of production to avoid being left behind. The dairy farmers should be involved in initiatives to promote the consumption of milk such as
the schools milk programme as it presents opportunities for smallholder dairy producers to enter mainstream formal markets.
Climate has been changing over time, it is only now that we are beginning to see the impact of unfavourable weather patterns on agricultural production systems. The dairy farmer should therefore use a multi-faceted approach such as use of drought tolerant feed plant species, for instance the spineless cactus and many other types available.
The level of youth participation in the dairy sector was a bit worrying and the regional dairy associations should be devising ways of promoting the involvement of a young generation of dairy farmers.