Neville Pinkney is well known and respected for his prime Brahman genetics and runs a successful farm near Mazabuka. Farming with his parents, he has a commercial cattle herd, breeds goats for the emerging farmers market and produces mutton, lamb and seed maize.
He has a lot of faith in Zambia’s agricultural sector. He believes while being landlocked has its downside, it does mean Zambia has seven countries as neighbours and potential export destinations.
“We must, however, find better market access to our neighbouring countries. The DRC alone could probably consume a large portion of what Zambia can produce,” he says.
Neville is the third generation of his family farming on the 900 ha Cisera farm in the Mazabuka district of Zambia’s Southern Province. His grandfather, Eddie Kirby, moved here in the early 1940’s, hoping for better water than what he had on his land just south of Lusaka.
Neville’s father, Ewen Pinkney, came south from Chingola in Zambia’s Copperbelt area. Ewen started working for Eddie and ended up marrying his daughter, Con. When her parents passed away, Con and her sister, Jill Hewitt, split the farm and Ewen and Con continued farming on their half. Neville, their son, now continues with the Brahman stud his father started.
They also run a commercial herd of about 150 cows. These are mainly Brahman/Angus and Brahman/Hereford crosses, which they bred from their own cows, or using semen imported from the USA and Canada.
“We also have bulls of each of the three breeds, but to constantly improve our genetics we have to import semen,” Neville says.
The same goes for the Brahman Stud.
But the Pinkneys weren’t always Brahman breeders. Grandpa Eddie preferred Afrikaner cows for his Sussex and Shorthorn bulls. However, it became difficult to find good Afrikaner heifers in Zambia, and in the early sixties, Ewen bought his first Brahman heifers from the late Alf Kotze.
In 1965 the Brahman Stud was started on the farm and today bulls from the stud are well-known and sought after across Zambia.
NOT ONLY CATTLE
Neville also has about 180 Dorper ewes, a subdivision his mother, Con, started in the early 80’s.
“We always had Persian types, but we bred them up with Dorper rams we used to buy from Zimbabwe and South Africa,” says Neville.
These days they also buy rams from Namibia.
Lambing every 8 months, the Dorpers ensure a healthy cash flow for the farming business. Though Neville does not select for twins, his ewes have to deliver three lambs in every two-year period to earn their keep.
Cisera Farm supplies lamb and mutton to a buyer in Lusaka every Wednesday.
There is also a Boer Goat herd on the farm, from which Neville provides breeding rams for the emerging market. He also sells lambs to a group in Mazabuka town.
The goats breed seasonally and while he tries to push them, Neville places more emphasis on good genetics, rather than the breeding cycle. He buys rams and semen from South Africa. Live rams originally came from Koenie Kotze and more recently from Theuns Botha.
For their Dorper stud, the Pinkneys originally bought stud rams from Dirk Buitendag in Zimbabwe, and more recently from Nuwerust Dorpers, Bennie Cronje and semen from John Dell and Koenie Kotze in South Africa. They also buy from Namibian breeders, among others Phillip Strauss, Danie Visser and Pieter van Schalkwyk.
The advantage of buying animals from Namibia, says Neville, is that one only has to cross one border.
“You don’t have to get in-transit permits for other countries.”
KEEPING ANIMALS HEALTHY
Animal health challenges for sheep and goat include pulpy kidney, Pasteurella and bluetongue against which he vaccinates. Neville also vaccinates his cattle against Brucellosis, Clostridial diseases, IBR, BVD and Lumpy Skin disease. Vaccines are mostly from Onderstepoort Biological Products in South Africa. But unlike South-Africa, Zambia’s Livestock Services Cooperative Society has the option of sourcing vaccines and medicines from all over the world when OBP cannot deliver.
Animal diseases in Zambia are reasonably well controlled and government tries to put more emphasis on agriculture as a sector the country can rely on, says Neville.
Foot-and-mouth-disease is as much of a concern in Zambia as it is in the rest of Southern Africa. Twice a year, in certain areas, the Zambian government runs a vaccination campaign against the disease. Neville makes use of this opportunity to have his cattle vaccinated. The country also has a movement permit system, whereby a veterinarian and the police have to sign off before cattle can be moved from one district to another.
In the summer his cattle get a phosphate lick and he supplies protein licks in winter. Neville mixes his own licks. He bulls his cows from December to February to have a calving season that stretches from September to November, coinciding with the rainy season.
Like many farmers, he is now considering postponing his calving season, as the rain seems to arrive later than it used to. Neville sells his weaners to various feedlots where his Brahman-cross calves are in demand. In Zambia, one sells direct, as the country has no auction system.
Neville’s stud animals are registered with the Herd Book Society of Zambia. Neville used to be chairman of the society (Zambia’s equivalent of Stud Book South Africa) and is a former breed director of the Zambian Brahman Breed Society.
A BIT OF GRAIN
Neville also produces seed maize on about 30 ha and makes silage from the male lines. He produces white maize seed for the maize company Seedco. He also produces soya which he sells to milling or feed companies and feeds the stover to his animals. The soya mainly serves as a rotation crop for his maize.
Neville buys fertiliser directly from Omnia.
“We can also get it through our local co-op, but we prefer to buy direct,” he says.
Neville’s 22 workers also produce their own crops on 30 ha of land he allocated to them. They plant maize, okra, cowpeas and soya. The area is well isolated from his seed maize in order to prevent cross pollination. The workers sell their produce to Kapinga Milling in Mazabuka and also to the Food Reserve Agency.
Stock theft and produce theft are major challenges in Zambia. Other challenges include dilapidated roads – farmers grade their own roads and split the cost. They usually hire a grader and grade the roads towards the end of the rainy season.
Neville, however, says disease is their biggest challenge. While he dreams of some day exporting livestock to all of Zambia’s seven neighbours, he says foot-and-mouth-disease severely hampers safe animal movement in the region.