Despite having a cattle population which is double the country’s population, Botswana is not self sufficient in dairy products and still imports the bulk of it from South Africa, said Boitumelo Rabasha, the Public Relations Manager of the Ministry of Agriculture.
She said that during the 2011/2012 season, Botswana produced 3 174 166 liters of milk, whilst the national demand for fresh milk is 62 million liters per year.
On the challenges facing the industry, she said there is shortage of quality feed and that the supply of feed in Botswana is characterized by significant seasonal variations. Dry seasons normally experience feed shortages, while during the rainy season crop residues may be available for use as stock feed. However, crop residue is generally of low quality and cannot satisfy the nutritional requirements of dairy cows.
Besides that, she said that ingredients for dairy feed are imported and are, as a result, expensive. She pointed out that, generally dairy cattle in the country are bought at prohibitive prices.
On what they are doing to improve the situation, she said that they train dairy farmers on good dairy management practices, like proper feeding, fertility management and herd replacement strategies.
She also said that dairy farmers are encouraged to grow fodder crops to produce feed locally, like growing maize to produce silage or grow lablab. She added that assistance is available through ISPAAD.
Rabasha noted that the government has constructed collection and pasteurisation centres in places like Serowe and Pitsane to receive and process milk from farmers.
Farmers are also encouraged to sell their milk directly to private milk processors, such as Clover Botswana, Sally Dairies, Delta Dairies, etc. The Botswana Development Corporation has been trying to set up a dairy production farm in the country to reduce dependence on importing dairy products but the efforts have so far borne no fruit.