Partnerships and Prizes: Improving Nutrition for Dairy Cows in Tanzania

January 20, 2021

people behind a counter at a store front

Smallholder dairy farmers face many obstacles to productivity, and arguably, access to nutritious feed for their cows is one of the biggest. The International Livestock Research Institute estimates that lactating cows in Tanzania suffer from a 30% nutrient deficiency, but when they are fed properly, they can increase daily milk production from six liters to 13 liters. Well-fed cows are also more disease-resistant and are more likely to reproduce regularly.

Understanding the Dynamics of Nutrition Challenges

Tanzanian dairy farmers face two main obstacles to good nutrition: First, farmers have historically used communal grazing lands and cut-and-carry livestock keeping systems, so they do not see the value in buying critical feed resources such as roughages (hay/fodder) and concentrates (standard dairy meal and molasses). As a result, demand for such inputs is low.

Second, even if farmers want to buy quality fodder and meal, there are logistical challenges. Supply of standard dairy meal and hay is low, and transportation costs drive up overall costs, limiting accessibility among farmers. Feed companies, meanwhile, have little incentive to produce dairy meal because of the small customer base, choosing instead to focus on producing poultry feed, which has a higher and more reliable return. These supply and demand dynamics build on each other, leaving farmers and dairy cows without quality feed.

Leveraging Prizes to Engage the Dairy Private Sector

Aware of these interconnected challenges, the AgResults Tanzania Dairy Productivity Challenge Project is encouraging private sector input suppliers to deliver high-quality inputs to smallholder dairy farmers. AgResults’ Pay-for-Results prize competition model uses monetary prizes to reward competing private sector actors – known as “competitors.” In Tanzania, competitors earn prizes for selling different bundles of inputs to farmers, along with providing extension services. The inputs include nutritious feed as well as parasite control, vaccines, and artificial insemination.

To win a prize for the nutrition bundle, competitors must supply fodder or hay and a nutritional supplement such as standard dairy meal, minerals, or urea molasses blocks. However, depending on the seasonal availability of hay/fodder and access to affordable high-quality standard dairy meal, this can be complex. By talking with their farmers, competitors learned that low access and high cost were forcing farmers to use locally available hay/fodder – often poor quality – to blend their own meal.

Connecting Partners along the Dairy Value Chain

Focused on overcoming this obstacle, AgResults looked for a way to better connect actors across the dairy sector. From the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries and NGOs such as the U.S. Grain Council and ANSAF, the project learned about untapped government farms and ranches that produce pasture as well as feed manufacturing plants that can be leveraged to produce standard dairy meal. This was a prime opportunity for competitors to capitalize on existing resources and supply the full nutrition bundle – hay/fodder and a nutritional supplement – to their farmer networks.

To facilitate these linkages, the project shared information on government parastatals with all competitors. The project also built on competitors’ existing knowledge on the importance of feeding dairy meal to lactating cows and its positive effects on milk production, linking them with potential feed manufacturers that could support the co-development and supply of high quality standard dairy meal.

Competitors worked with the government parastatals and feed manufacturers to develop several solutions to address these challenges. Some developed joint ventures to invest in a production plant for cost-efficient dairy meal for their farmer networks and to sell to competitors who could not access quality standard dairy meal. Others negotiated with government farms, parastatals, and private commercial farmers to supply hay/fodder to their smallholder farmers.

Vetfarm: A Closer Look at Partnerships in Action

Vetfarm, one of the six AgResults competitors, is one such case: With more than 19 years of providing consultancy services and training on animal management practices to farmers in Pwani and Dar es Salaam regions, Vetfarm was well-versed in supplying nutrition inputs. In 2019, they sold more than 35 tons of minerals, vitamins, and urea molasses blocks. However, when joining the AgResults competition, Vetfarm acknowledged that it would be difficult to fulfill the nutrition bundle requirements due to unreliable and insufficient sources of hay/fodder as well as lack of access to standard dairy meal.

Vetfarm chose a hybrid approach, forming a partnership with IDACOS, a dairy cooperative union, to produce dairy meal and collaborating with Vikuge, a government farm, to procure 1000 bales of hay, each weighing approximately 20 kg. Vetfarm complemented these efforts by providing streamlined advisory services to its farmers, focusing on the importance and correct use of hay. Through this coordination, Vetfarm increased farmers’ access to hay and standard dairy meal with sales of 9,618 kg and 988 kg, respectively.

Looking Ahead: A Sectoral Shift in Cooperation

However, these successes are not limited to Vetfarm. As of December 31, 2020, the AgResults project has recorded 760 sales transactions of improved roughages and concentrates amongst all competitors. Of the customers who purchased improved inputs, 391 received advisory services on the importance of improved feeding during the dry seasons to ensure an adequate milk supply. Farmers are more interested in procuring these inputs, and competitors are working to meet the growing demand – now with the necessary public-private linkages in place.

Driven by the unique structure of the Pay-for-Results prize competition, these partnerships will ensure that farmers can access high-quality and cost-effective nutritious feed for their cattle year-round. Such collaboration along the value chain bodes well for the future of Tanzania’s dairy sector.

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