Herders, butchers, traders, pharmaceutical companies, transporters, and many of those involved in the cattle trade are now happy, for Bayelsa’s ranch gives promise of not only an exciting economy, and a transformed agricultural system, but the nurturing of quality breeds. The value chain of the activity here is huge stretching from drug marts, cold rooms, biogas to dairy products, bone and blood meal etc which can uplift other sectors of the economy. This means that there will be jobs and jobs for many.
The state government plans to establish one such ranch in each of the three senatorial zones, and this has capacity to turn around both local and regional economies if properly done. Each butcher at the abbatoir wears a white coat, rubber boots and a cap. This is new and the butchers are about fifty in number, and are drawn from many other slaughter slabs recently closed down by the government. There is a lairage within where cows are housed for 12-24 hours before they are slaughtered, and a Veterinary Clinic as well as ample ground for grazing. A tricycle (Keke Napep) which has been specially rebuilt with a bigger boot, functions at the abbatoir, and it is used to convey meat to different parts of the capital, rather than on ordinary motorcycles, which is still the common practice in many parts of the country.
Meat delivery vans
Aboro Odoni drives one of such meat delivery vans across Yenagoa. He spends 45 minutes doing deliveries each morning. Daily Trust is told that very soon the tricycle will be refrigerated and that discussions are on with the leaders of the union, so that its members will key into the idea of using the vehicle to convey meat to customers. All these form part of the cattle ranch being set up by the Bayelsa State government, and it is officially known as Bayelsa Palm. The very front of the ranch which is quite extensive is the cattle market. Already, the first few cows have been brought, and Mohammed Usman, the driver of a trailer who has put 30 years into the work, anticipates that the spot will be brimful with cattle not too long from now when large trailers laden with cattle begin to arrive from different parts of the country. Usman says “ The place is very good for all of us involved in the cattle trade. Formerly, we used to rent a place to keep cattle in town when we arrive from the north, but now we have a place to use in a very controlled environment.”
Meanwhile, Baba Othman Ngelzarma, General Secretary of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) applauds the ranch project of the Bayelsa state government, and says that it will help to reduce or stamp out farmer/herder conflicts.
Saleh Momale, Acting Executive Director,The Pastoral Resolve (PARE) salutes the idea of the ranch “I welcome the development. It is not just a political decision, a professional decision was taken in which people have been consulted,and the development needs of the various actors were taken into account. This is quite useful and valuable.” He explains “Considering the small population of pastoralists, as well as the small population of commercial livestock producers and suitable ecology and high rainfall,the interest of the state government, and the involvement of stakeholders along the value chain,all these contribute to make it a viable project.”
Dema Awumade, is the Acting Chairman, National Butchers Union, Bayelsa State chapter, and he compares the new abbatoir with the ones previously in operation in the state capital “The difference is that the others were ordinary slabs on the ground. But this new one is well built. Also, in the former place we use river water, and the environment is not hygienic. Then, there was no inspection of meat, but here we have a Vet and a clinic and an adequate supply of water. If cows die here, they are buried, but at another abbatoir due to be closed down, a dead cow will be slaughtered and sold to the public.”
‘All cows will graze here’
Doodei Week, the Commissioner for Agriculture, tells Daily Trust “The state is of the view that cattle business generally has to be under its control. We are aware of the clashes between herdsmen and farmers,and we want to stop them, in fact prevent such from happening in Bayelsa. We think that it is only through getting the structures in place, and working with the people in the business, that we can put a stop to it.” Week opens up on the ranch “The ranch itself, apart from being a business place, would also serve as the place where all the cows coming into the state should be housed, such that there should be grasses provided for them, and if grasses are provided for them it means they won’t just go and graze in places where they are not supposed to go and graze. The cattle ranch is situated in the Bayelsa palm premises. The total land mass is expanding to almost 2,000 hectares, out of which 1,100 is fully planted with oil palms.” He adds “It is a global practice that you can have a ranch in a palm plantation and this is already happening in Malaysia and Indonesia. There is some symbiosis, because the droppings from the cows will be a source of manure to the oil palm, grazing also prevents grasses from growing. We intend to import some breeds from Holland, and other breeds that are adapted to temperate environments, or environments that are cooler than the tropics.”
‘Pharmaceutical companies will partner with us’
Dr. Simon Akhaine is the Head, Veterinary department of the ranch. According to him “The clinic is to provide services to livestock generally. Those animals that will graze at the ranch will have opportunity to benefit from the services of the veterinary clinic. A lot of nutritional supplements can be given to livestock that will graze here. The clinic provides services to the abbatoir itself in terms of physical inspection, inspection of animals that are to be slaughtered, and services are also provided at the point of slaughter. There are procedures that are going to be carried out here eventually, and surgery will also be part of it over a period of time.” Akhaine, a 1989 graduate of the Ahmadu bello University, says “We are also looking at getting pharmaceutical companies to partner with us, so that people can access poultry drugs ,and other livestock drugs here.There are diseases we look out for at the point of physical examination, at the point of slaughtering, but we are more concerned with zoonosis,and diseases that are transmissible from animals to humans. For instance, tuberculosis, anthrax, brucellosis.’
Esemekumo Arerebo argues “We are saddled with the mandate of taking charge of all the activities taking place in the ranch. The ranch itself consists of forage crops, livestock market, and an ultra-modern abbatoir.” Arerebo who is the Ranch/Abbatoir Manager, also comments on the state of abbatoirs in Bayelsa “We have twenty slabs in the state, but they are being operated under deplorable conditions. These are dangerous conditions that are far from standard. Therefore, government deemed it necessary to approve the construction of this ultra-modern abbatoir. It is a standard for other states to follow, and to keep that position we have to emphasise hygiene. This starts with the cattle that are brought in from the market. The Vet doctor and his team inspect the animals at the market, and as they are brought into the lairage we start serious observation and inspection, so that we can eliminate those that are not supposed to be there. This is so that we can quarantine the infected animals. The lairage is kept clean so that all animals that are there are devoid of any infection until they are slaughtered.”
‘Value chain is huge’
Akhaine makes an additional comment “There will be the utilization of by products from slaughter houses. For example, bone can be crushed to form animal feed, blood meal is significant for fish farms as well as livestock feed. When we talk of the value chain, we refer to what we derive from the product itself, which are the byproducts. Waste can be useful for energy production, biogas, agricultural farming,and the multiplicity of activities that comes as a result of slaughtering itself. A lot of people will come in here, food sellers, transporters, those who will provide support services, like recharge card sellers. The cold room business will come. A lot of activities will take place here, and this will affect the general public.”
‘Ranch will become a regional hub’
He anticipates “In five years time the ranch will become a hub of commercial activities. There will be a transformation of cattle business and rearing. Because of the ranch, and the abbatoirs there will be an upsurge in cattle rearing here. This will attract rearers from other states, and they would have found a place that is peace loving, and where they can actually carry out their activities. With the upsurge in cattle rearing around this place, we do hope it will draw research institutes that are into breeding, because eventually we believe that some researchers such as NAPRI Zaria, will come here. They can come and participate in sourcing good quality breeds of cattle, since we are going to have an aggregation of cattle from different places, and they may also insist on certain procedures like artificial insemination. In five years we expect a lot of activities, not just at the level of slaughtering or just grazing, we expect that other custodians of livestock will all come to participate to make this place great. We expect improved technology in the area. We anticipate that some procedures can be carried out here for livestock, and we expect that the ranch will attract development partners who may take interest in further raising the standard of the ranch, with a focus on breeding and rearing.” He points to the significance of the ranch project “It is a preventive measure in terms of clashes between the herdsmen and farmers. It attempts to develop the livestock sector as a form of diversification. Finally, it also raises the level of animal protein available to the public.”
The commissioner speaks on capacity building “There has to be some type of capacity building that the Fulani and some other herders can give to local people, so that Bayelsans can also take advantage of that.We will encourage forage crop production, so that people who have forages will cut and come and sell in the market. But the main operators that will be seen there, will be the butchers, cow dealers, cow market mongers, herdsmen and rearers.” He adds ‘Because it is now a business based in a particular place, there will be a lot of employment, because we are talking of,in the short term, 250 hectares. As we move on it will reach 500 hectares. By and large it will amount to 2,000 hectares.”
On the future of the ranch,he opines “Five years down the line, we expect to see a private sector led Bayelsan cattle ranch at Bayelsa palm,and also some other ranches under the control of the state government. Bayelsa is one of the states where cattle herders and communities have not had clashes that are beyond control. There has not been any known casualty here. In five years we will maintain and sustain the peace that has existed in the industry.”