To clear the air on the Federal Government’s proposed establishment of cattle colony in the country, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh , has said that the administration will not collect any ancestral land from anybody for that purpose.
The minister , who described cattle colony as areas carved out for any species of animal, whether by nature or by human design found in a large community sharing the same terrain are referred to as colony also, said: “We have big colonies in certain areas”.
Speaking with the Governors of Plateau State, Simon Lalong and his counterpart from Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, in his office on Wednesday in Abuja during a courtesy call, Ogbeh said: “If you go to the West Indies, crocodiles and alligators are bred in colonies where they harvest them for shoes, belts and ladies’ handbags; so a colony is a much bigger thing than a ranch.
“They are basically about the same kind of thing, but we are talking of colonies because 20, 30, or 40 ranchers can share the same colony. A ranch is usually owned by an individual or a company with sometimes very few livestock.
“Some have more than 200 or 300 cows. In a cattle colony, you could find 30,000 cows owned by different owners. The reason we are designing the colony is that we want to prepare on a large scale, on economy of scale, a place where many owners of cattle can co-exist, be fed well, because we can make their feeds. They can get good water to drink. Cows drink a lot of water. We can give them green fodder”.
The Minister revealed that a team of Professors visited the Ministry on the production of cattle feeds that will make the cattle reproduce better.
“A team from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria was here with one of the professors producing cattle feed seed. The different kind of seed will go for cattle. We will grow this on a large scale, harvest and feed the cows. We will give them veterinary services and, above all, protect the cows against rustlers. By a special design, we have to make sure that rustlers can’t cross into the ranches and steal cows and walk away. That’s what we mean. We think that between governments, it’s cheaper to do this for herdsmen and others who want to rear cattle than for individuals to go and invest money because we know many farmers have difficulties raising bank loans. So, between the ranch and the colony, it’s simply a definition of size and scope”, he said.
According to the Minister, the Plateau State governor has started it and the smaller ranches are working in the state.
“We intend to lend a hand to Plateau and the 16 other states which have expressed interest by helping them to develop their colonies.
“We want to emphasise that you don’t have to be a Fulani before you keep cattle. If anyone decides that you have some small space and keep 10 milk cows and feed them well, look after them, you don’t need a job. If you are doing 20 litres of milk a day from a cow and there’s an off-taker processing the milk, it is very good money.
“Once the colonies begin, we are also going into large scale artificial insemination to improve the breed of cattle so that the yield of milk can increase. As at today, our cows deliver just about one beer bottle which is a litre of milk a day. In East Africa, cows do 15 litres of milk. In Europe, they do averagely 50 litres of milk a day. So, we are a long way from achieving the target which other countries have achieved.
“The idea is not to go and take anybody’s land. We are not doing that. We don’t really want to take anybody’s land to give anybody. It’s just a biological term and we’re not after taking land from anybody to give anybody. But indigenes will find that keeping cattle is profitable, keeping goats is profitable, keeping pig, sheep, just like keeping chicken, is profitable,” the minister added.
In his earlier remarks, Governor Lalong said that his state was ready for the new Agricultural policy.
He said, “When the issue of ranching was introduced, the first request was that it was not compulsory but for people who have lands in their states or for government who had lands to give for the implementation of the programmes. Many states said they don’t have lands. But for us in Plateau State, I called the people and told them, after a lot of consultation and explanation, there was no party that disagreed with the policy. Now we have more than two portions of land that were offered for the purpose of this agricultural policy. So even for this colony, we already have two settled. One belongs to the state government and the other donated by the people themselves”.
Governor Bello on his part said: “Of recent, we had a peace and security meeting with some Fulani herdsmen in Kogi State. Our communities, traditional rulers, youths, farmers and the herdsmen that live amongst us: we have agreed to live in peace. And to be able to permanently live in peace, we must look for permanent solution which is ranching. While we are on that, we are aware that the Federal Government, especially the Ministry of Agriculture is coming up with what we call Cattle Colonies Programme which we want the state to pilot”.
Tom Okpe, Abuja