Living for livestock

Baitshepi Sekgweng
ANIMAL LOVER: Ditshwenyego
  • Lending farmers a helping hand

In Botswana, owning livestock has long been a deep held ambition for many locals.

Indeed, in recent years, interest around Agriculture and Pastoral Farming has swelled to new levels.

However, although the interest is there, the know-how is often lacking – and that’s where 34-year-old Toopiwa Ditshwenyego and her revolutionary business, Livestock Management Agency (LMA) come in.

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A new phenomenon in Botswana, LMA offers a number of services, amongst them: animal breeding, animal nutrition advisory and research and development just to mention a few.

Kindly introduce yourself?

I’m 34 years old and I was born and grew up in Letlhakane. I hold a BSc in Animal Science and Diploma in Pharmacy Technology.

Take us through the services and products LMA offer?

We provide an array of services which include: livestock management consultancy, health and welfare (administration of vaccines, medicines, anthelmintic, dipping), business review and business management, records management, animal nutrition advisory, animal breeding- (embryo transfer and oestrus synchronization), research and development, convenience feed and veterinary medicinal store amongst others.

Wow, an array indeed! So what inspired the agency’s formation?

I was inspired by my mother, who is a single mother. She kept livestock to take my siblings and I to school. She managed to pay for our education and put food on the table by selling goats. As a woman, I wanted to follow in her footsteps to be one of the leading women in entrepreneurship, who also helps solve other women problems and eradicate poverty.

With that said, LMA was formed because women are the backbone of pastoral farming therefore they need someone with the skills, knowledge and qualifications to hold their hand through their journey in this male dominated industry.

Living for livestock

Are you a farmer yourself?

I was born in a family of farmers, I am a farmer at heart and in the field. I have goats at home in Mosu still under the care of the woman who inspired me. Through my experience and education, I have helped devise and experimented proper livestock management techniques that have significantly increased quality and numbers in my kraals, making it profitable.

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The service you offer is not common in the local landscape, how have Batswana responded to your business?

Most Batswana have received our services very well – we have clients all over the country as far as Tsabong, Ghanzi, Gumare, Maun and Palapye. We currently have 25 farmers on contract and have impacted over 700 farms in the past three years.

LMA provides factual information in relation to livestock management to show farmers that they need to engage qualified personnel to help run their farms. We still encourage farmers to involve scientific technologies such as the use of weight belts and thermometers to prevent under and overdosing of medicine, quantity of feed to be given and disease diagnosis in order to produce high quality carcasses that are not harmful to the general public.

That’s quite a handful…..

Through our herd health programmes, we have guided farmers to carry out scheduled husbandry activities that need to be performed in their farms. We also offer vaccination and treatment services where we still continue to advise Batswana about the importance of using disposable syringes and needles for hygiene, handling of vaccines as well as animal welfare practices when handling animals to avoid stress.

What are you doing to reach clients and who are your major customers?

We use social media mainly our Facebook page and Tiktok for outreach by placing posts relevant to the current farming systems and the engagement by Batswana has been amazing. Majority of our clients are subsistence farmers who want to introduce science in their farming methods and operate cost effective businesses. We offer free training occasionally to assist small scale farmers to improve their farming systems, achieve their desired animal productivity and make money.

What challenges does LMA face?

We currently face financial difficulties as well as acquiring new clientele because most farmers are reluctant to practice proper livestock management. Livestock farmers in Botswana lack knowledge about livestock management because livestock farming is biased to only animal health and disease control.

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Farmers need to know that nutrition accounts for 90 percent of all problems in their farms and if they were feeding right there would not be many diseases associated with nutrition.

Living for livestock
MD ON A MISSION: Toopiwa Ditshwenyego

Three years since starting, what highlights can you look back on?

LMA is the first of its kind in Southern Africa. We have opened a convenience store in Phakalane Industrial where we distribute LubernVoere feed and medicinal supplies.

We have also hired six Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN) graduates. We have successfully hosted our first Farmers Day which has created a family between our team, our clients and other attendees.

And what difference has LMA brought in the local landscape?

It has helped Batswana livestock producers realise that farming is a lucrative business. Through our consultancy services, we have improved farming by introducing innovative strategies and records keeping which encourages accountability and made money for our clients.

We have changed the narrative of traditional farming methods and made it more practical and conducive to livestock breeders. As LMA, we want to help Batswana farmers attain food security for Botswana by producing high quality meat and other animal products.

Batswana like doing things for themselves, especially when it comes to livestock, how do you convince them to let you help?

As LMA we give our clients facts when we interact with them during our consultations and advisory. We give authenticity to the clients when we provide assessments in their farms and advise on what to change in their farming style as well as during our course training which we normally make free in order to equip them with the correct information.

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Are subsistence farmers able to afford your services?

Our services are aimed to assist subsistence farmers in Botswana. We have made the services affordable so that these farmers can raise their livestock for market or breeding using progressive techniques such as weight belts to know how much animal feed they need to buy for their animals to attain a suitable weight.

The feeds we sell are economical to allow each and every small scale farmer to fatten their animals to reach commercial scale. We offer free trainings to small scale farmers occasionally.

How has Covid-19 affected your business?

LMA grew more during the pandemic as a result of trading restrictions during this period. Batswana began to recognize the importance of self reliance as a country therefore start up farmers, as well as farmers who have been in the industry for a while, engaged us.

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Batswana started livestock farming as an extra source of income and produced high quality livestock to meet the demand of Botswana and also international markets while being mindful of public health.

Tell us a bit more about your Farmers Day in November, how did it go?

As LMA we have achieved networking between experts in livestock farming as well as established farmers and potential farmers. Our event covered majority of aspects in animal science in order to inform farmers about the importance of livestock management.

This event made farmers aware about animal welfare which is one of the neglected aspect in livestock management but plays a key role in animal production.

How was the turnout?

We are more than satisfied with the turnout as we had 55 participants which was more than we expected.

This event taught those 55 farmers to practice better livestock management that is economical for the whole family therefore raising their standards of living.

The 55 attendees included some of our regular clients who came and gave testimonies of the services we offer them on almost a monthly basis and how their businesses have improved since working with LMA.

Where do you want to see LMA in the next years?

My dream is to open branches all over Botswana and hire more BUAN graduates. Our aim is to open a Reproduction Center where we assist Batswana farmers in artificial insemination, oestrus synchronization and embryo transfer.

LMA wants to help many subsistence farmers to commercialize their farms to help them improve their standards of living and alleviate poverty.

LMA is growing everyday and we’re going to have a launch very soon about new services to be introduced. LMA encourages all farmers in Botswana and beyond to learn more and invest in livestock management to increase quality and numbers in their farms.

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