Lessons for Lesotho’s dairy from Botswana


. . . one-on-one with a Motsoana business director


MASERU – Botswana, one of the largest beef exporters to Europe, continues to face challenges in dairy farming, leading to significant imports of milk. In an interview, Kealeboga Pifelo, the Director of Business Development at the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN), discussed the hurdles facing the dairy sector. “The volume of raw milk produced domestically is far below the consumption needs, necessitating imports of pasteurised milk from South Africa,” he said.

Pifelo highlighted the stringent measures Botswana adopts concerning animal product imports. “If there’s an outbreak of any disease in South Africa, for instance, we immediately impose a ban on all imports, including animal semen,” he said. Since the 2019 foot and mouth disease outbreak, Botswana has banned the importation of cloven-hoofed animal meat from South Africa.

“Consequently, we have been unable to import cows from South Africa in recent years, and we are still seeking alternatives as we do not know when the ban will be lifted,” said Pifelo. He also said that the government supports dairy farmers in various ways through extension services.

“Ministries inspect, advise and test the milk from local farmers because the dairy industry is extremely sensitive. If the milk is contaminated or if the cows suffer from mastitis, it will affect the quality and, consequently, the price that farmers can fetch,” he said.

He added that the Botswana government operates an artificial insemination centre (AI), where farmers can purchase semen at a nominal cost due to heavy subsidies. “The Botswana government established milk collection centres throughout the country years ago. Although they initially functioned well, they eventually became unsustainable due to poor management and a decline in the dairy industry over the years,” Pifelo said. He explained that currently, the major players are large-scale farmers with herds ranging from 200 to 1,500 cattle, primarily supplying the main processors.

“We have three main processors: Glover, Sefalana, and Lactalist — formerly known as Parmalat. These are the primary consumers of milk. Of course, there are also individual customers who buy milk for home processing. Additionally, we have a large community, especially among Muslims, that uses milk for baking. Primarily, our dairy at BUAN caters to individual consumers and significantly to the Muslim community,” he said.

Pifelo emphasised that the critical aspect of dairy farming is the economics involved. “Between 70% and 80% of the costs in dairy farming are feed-related. If you don’t produce your own feed at the dairy farm, you won’t succeed. You must produce at least 50% of your feed and minimise imports, as you cannot produce everything locally, depending on your geographical location.”

He explained that a dairy cow requires a specific formula containing protein, energy, and fibre to achieve maximum milk production. “One must manage the dairy business such that while some cattle are pregnant, others are producing milk. It needs to be done in stages; otherwise, you’ll face periods without milk production as all the cows are pregnant, leading to cash flow problems that could end the business,” he said.

BUAN operates under BUAN Enterprises (PTY) Ltd., which manages various enterprises run by selected university graduates. These enterprises include dairy, valued at two million Pula, solar energy for 25 million Pula, horticulture for 1.5 million Pula, mushrooms for 200,000 Pula, a piggery for 1.2 million Pula, layers for 1.6 million Pula, and broilers for 1.8 million Pula.

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