Zimbabwe: Rise of Ngubra Cattle Breed

Patrick Chitumba — Midlands Bureau Chief

When others see a cow, they think of beef or draught power.

But for this family, when they see a cow, they see an opportunity to make thousands of US dollars from breeding.

To many, cattle breeding has been the privy of mostly commercial white farmers and one of the most common breeds in Zimbabwe is the Brahman, an American breed. It was bred in the United States from 1885 from cattle originating in India, but imported from the United Kingdom and Brazil.

Coming back home, there is a farm some 50km from Gweru in Somabula area called Makate Ranch.

Bought around the 1990s by a black family, the ranch is now synonymous with beef cattle breeding under the name Vincent Animal Breeders.

The farm has 450 quality cattle but that is not their pride. Their pride lies in the name Ngubra, a beef cattle breed from pure Nguni and Brahman breeds.

Nguni cattle are a sub-type of the African Sanga cattle associated with the pastoralist cattle culture of the Negro/Bantu people of Africa.

What is certain is that they have been shaped by natural selection in the African environment for thousands of years.

On the other hand, the Brahman are intelligent, inquisitive and shy. The breed is medium in size with a tendency to later maturity, so carcasses of young animals tend to be lean.

The Brahman is suitable for cross-breeding, giving excellent hybrid vigour in the progeny

Now at Makate ranch, they pride themselves with the new Ngubra breed which is said to possess qualities and traits of the pure Nguni and Brahman breeds.

An added advantage is that this is a strong type of breed that can go for over four months without being dipped but can fight off any cattle diseases.

The brains behind this breed is Mr Vincent Mhanga a father of five.

He said after being given a piece of land on this ranch by his parents to utilize, he has been busy trying to make life easier for himself, his family, communities around him and the country at large.

Mr Mhanga said coming up with a rare variety of breeds – which are proudly Zimbabwean – is one of the best moments in his life as a farmer.

“My father bought this ranch in 1993 and in 2004, he gave me 800ha to utilize and I started small until now when I own 450 head of cattle. My mother still does farming on the other piece of the land. I have passion for good, quality cattle and I have been to South Africa and Zambia looking for breeds to make better cattle. After failing to satisfy my curiosity I them decided to breed pure Nguni and Brahman cattle and we now have the Ngubra,” he said.

A good breed can fetch from US$3 000 while some can be sold as high as US$20 000, making cattle breeding a lucrative business.

Mr Mhanga, who employees about 20 people who also have their own dependants, said his line of work is assisting the community at large.

Mr Mhanga said he has other breeds such as the Simbra which is the cross breed of a Simentau and Brahman.

“I also have the Stud, Red and Grey breeds. This is just to show the world that we can do it as black people. With the land all things are possible. One has just to be determined and dedicated to what he or she believes in and at the end of the day if we all work on our pieces of land, this country will prosper,” he said.

Mr Mhanga said on June 9, some of his breeds will go for auction in Gweru where he expects to make thousands of US dollars.

“When I see land, when I see cattle, I see opportunities; I see business. Here we produce everything we eat on this land. We have milk, meat, fresh produce you name it, from the land. I encourage other farmers to tap on the land for the benefit of the country,” he said.

Mr Nhanga, who is also into hay bailing, called on fellow farmers to look after the land by putting fire guards to protect their property against veld fires.