Meet the Emerging Farmer: Ishmael Rupanga

Monday, September 3, 2018


Ishmael Rupanga is a Zimbabwean dairy farm manager based in Victoria, Australia. He got started in farming by helping out on his grandfather's cattle ranch in Sanyati and then studied for a Diploma in Agriculture at Rio Tinto Agricultural College after high school. He has a degree in Agricultural Management from the Zimbabwe Open University. He has also taken courses in Dairy Husbandry and Production (New Zealand) and Rural Business Management (Australia).

Since leaving Zimbabwe in 2004, he has worked in New Zealand, U.K, Canada, Mauritius and Australia. He currently manages the farm operations of a dairy herd of 400 dairy cattle in Australia. He is also a partner in Greenside Ranch in Darwendale, Zimbabwe.


Introduction

Milk production in Zimbabwe does not currently meet local demand. The deficit in production is filled primarily by imports from South Africa. The government has set targets to reach 70 million litres of milk per annum by 2019. To reach its production targets for milk production there is a need to revitalize the dairy industry through improved farmer training, access to improved breeds and financing.

With increased urbanization and a growing population, the demand for milk, which is still very low compared to the rest of the world, will continue to rise as people consume more animal protein.

Our interest in dairy farming prompted us to reach out to Ishmael Rushinga to learn more about his experience in dairy farming and his advice for current and aspiring dairy farmers.


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EF: Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into farming.


I'm a dad of two, a girl aged 10 and a boy aged 7. I come from a farming background, my grandfather owned a farm in Copper Queen, Sanyati. I would go there every school holiday to help out on the farm and I developed a passion for cattle. My dad received a farm in Darwendale through the resettlement scheme where we currently keep some cattle and do cropping: 70 ha under maize, soya beans and sugar beans. After I finished my O'Levels in 1997 I joined Rio Tinto Agricultural College in Zhombe where I studied a diploma in agriculture and graduated in 2002. I then joined 3 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) before moving to New Zealand in 2004.


EF: How did you decide on dairy farming?


Having decided to move to one of the best dairy farming countries in the world i.e. New Zealand it was a no-brainer that I had to join the industry. It’s the biggest agriculture industry in New Zealand and the most rewarding.


EF: How many cows are you currently managing?


Currently, I manage 400 cows of a 4500 herd for the Dairy Group which are milked over 6 farms.


EF: Do you have any suggestions on top milk producing breeds?


Yes. But in terms of breeds decisions are based on contractual agreements with suppliers. Some companies will pay per litre produced raw and some will pay per kg of milk solid produced. If you looking into more litres Fresian is the best breed but if you looking for high solid content i.e protein and fat you should be looking at acquiring Jerseys or Ayrshires.


EF: The dairy business is very intimidating for many farmers. Can you outline the top major costs that a farmer would need to invest in?


The dairy industry is a very volatile but a rewarding industry if the basics are done right. The major costs include but not limited to the:
  1. Purchase of the cows themselves: this is the biggest cost as it involves getting the right breeds and importing them into the country,  they can be losses during transportation
  2. Feed Costs: depending on the supplier, feed costs can be very high and if one can produce their own feed this will reduce their feed bill.
  3. Veterinary Costs: dairy cows need proper attention and veterinary costs can be challenging especially during calving times.
EF: What are some challenges you have encountered as a dairy farmer and how did you overcome them?


Dairy farming is a complex but interesting industry and when the basics are done right things can fall in place. There is a lot of problems or challenges involved.

The major problem we face is getting the right and qualified labour force as most people don’t like working on farms. The hiring of backpackers or holiday workers helps short-term shortages but still need for more permanent staff for consistency and growth.

Other problems are:


Disease outbreaks: consultation with the vets for vaccines.


Feed costs: sourcing and locking in contracts when wheat or barley prices are reasonable.
Droughts: this is a natural phenomenon and can come unannounced so it's always good to have feed reserves handy on the farm.

Flooding, and finding a source of funding when starting a business.


EF: What is the best way to reach you for those who would like to get your consulting advice and services for their dairy farming businesses?


I’m available on email ishmaelrupanga@icloud.com or via WhatsApp number +61429222720  

* Some of these responses have been edited for clarity.











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