Matopos Research Station was established in 1903. During the next eleven years, various agricultural trials and demonstrations were conducted involving a variety of crops, mainly irrigated wheat and Lucerne, cattle and veld burning. Subsequently the land was farmed commercially until 1922. In 1923 the Department of Agriculture took over the farm and an agricultural institution including a School of Agriculture was set up. In 1934 it became an Experiment station. Cattle were the main subjects of investigation, though some crop research was also conducted. Presently Matopos Research Institute comprises an area of 28 000 hectares leased from the Rhodes Matopos Estate. Matopos Research Institute is managed by the Head of Institute with the support of professional, technical, administration and support staff. Its organization is structured along the following sections:

1    Livestock nutrition

2   Cattle Production

3 Analytical Laboratory

4 Small Ruminant Production

5  Crop Production

6 Range and Pastures

7 Sorghum and Millet Research Unit

8   Crop Production Unit

9  Administration and Estate Workshops

Current Projects and Activities

Range and Pastures

Highlights of some studies are presented below:

Rainfall is the major determinant of production in semi-arid rangelands. Clear off-take strategies must be in place for drought years. Rangelands need time to recover after a drought and this can be achieved through phased restocking or resting the rangelands.

Grass cover reduces soil loss through reducing the concentration of sediment in runoff water and the volume of run-off. Although fires are effective in controlling bush, annual burns result in the replacing of perennial grasses by annual grasses, and consequently reduction in soil cover.

Herbaceous basal cover and livestock weight gains are higher under continuous than rotational grazing. Tree size parameters such as stem basal diameter and height, can be used to predict browse biomass.

Two fodder varieties (NG-1 and PN-1) suited for semi arid areas were released and seed of these varieties is available for sale at the station.

Up to 10 tonnes of dry matter per hectare of fodder can be produced by the best Napier and Bana grass varieties under dryland conditions. However, supplementary irrigation can increase biomass yields by more than 30 per cent.

Intercropping cereal forages with legumes substantially increases total biomass and quality compared with sole cropping.

Bana grass or sorghum and legume silages can sustain milk production of indigenous and crossbred dairy cattle.

Current work includes:

Recovery patterns after subjecting rangeland to various management impacts.

Studying livestock responses to spatial variability at an ecosystem level.

Use of modelling to predict rangeland production.

Testing rangeland reclamation techniques on-farm.

Forage sorghum evaluation.

Integration of forage tree legumes into the cereal/legume mixtures.

Evaluation of Cactus Pear as feed for livestock in semi-arid areas of Zimbabwe.

Livestock Nutrition

The use of feed resources has been investigated and highlights shown below.Intake and digestibility in sheep fed sorghum stover with groundnut hay.

Groundnut hay (g/day)                       0          240      % change
CP in diet (%)                          2.2       5.9       168
Stover intake (g/day)              413      458      11
Digestibility (%)                                31          42        35

 Dichrostachys. cinerea as a supplement to hay increased protein, hay intake and digestibility of diet by 581 per cent, 12 per cent and 66 per cent, respectively.A 1:1 mixture of Acacia karroo (AK) and Acacia nilotica (AN) leaves improved intake, digestibility of DM and nitrogen retention by goats when compared with individual species.

  A. karroo 3Ak:1An 1Ak:1An 1Ak:3An A. nilotica
Total DM intake (g/kgW0.75/d) 51 58 57 57 48
Browse DM intake (g/kgW0.75/d) 21 28 29 27 17
DM digestibility (%) 52 62 61 61 67
N Ret (g/d) 0.5 2.2 2.9 2.9 2.8

Sorghum can replace maize grain in feedlot diets. However, a 1:1 mixture of maize and sorghum is better.Quality of

stover stored under roof and on raised platform can be maintained longer than unprotected stover.Treatment of roughages

with urea can increase utilisation.Storage and baling of stover reduces bulkiness and loss of leaf and improves handling.

Goats showed a greater ability to adapt to grass and browse availability than cattle and were more flexible indicating a

greater capacity to cope in different environments.

 Performance of beef cows exposed to unrestricted breeding and offered 0 kg or 1 kg per head per day of a protein

supplement (PS) during the dry season from 1994 to 1997.

PS Initial live weight Dam post-partum weight Calf birth weight Calving Interval
0 kg 276 355 27.6 554a
1 kg 274 371 28.2 488b

a, b Significantly differ at p<0.05

Current work includes:

The use of ammonium nitrate as a replacement for urea for treatment of roughages.

Draught Animal Power

Some basic information on donkeys is shown below:

Four donkeys can plough for four hours without signs of fatigue and require about 11 days to plough a 3-ha plot.

This performance is comparable with that of two oxen of similar team weight.

Female donkeys of similar team weight are potentially capable of performing like male donkeys. However, their

performance can be compromised by pregnancy and lactation.

When selecting donkeys for work, live weight is more important than body condition.

If properly trained to work as a team, mixed cattle and donkey spans are effective, as the species appear to complement each other.

Mixed spans often perform better than donkey-only spans. Donkeys tend to work better with lighter ploughs, scotchcarts and cultivators which are now available on the market.

A modified Breast band harness was developed at the station. Donkeys can maintain feed intake levels even after 3 days without water and are able to minimize water losses from the body.Working donkeys require at least 8 hours of continuous grazing a day or should be provided with energy-rich supplements when to meet their daily energy requirements.

Donkeys can consume more of a good than poor quality hay.Donkeys consumed more hay when offered maize bran and molasses.Donkeys in Zimbabwe are phenotypically similar to those in the region and other parts of Africa. There are no major differences in body size between male and female donkeys.

Heart girth can be used to accurately estimate live weight of donkeys. Other body measurements are less accurate. Indigenous chicken research

Three strains of indigenous chickens ie the necked neck, barred (spotted) type and the tailess (francolin like) type are being evaluated. These strains have demonstrated to be highly prolific with the necked neck being the best followed by the barred type and the tailless type. Performance of the two strains is as follows: Naked necks

Strain performance information

Reach maturity at 160-180 days

Mature cocks weigh 1.9 kg to 2.0kg

Mature hens weigh 1.5kg

Lays eggs in excess of 15

Eggs weigh 56-60g each

Other important characteristics

Are heat tolerant and can survive harsh environments

Are good mothers (aggressive to predators!)

Have 30% less feathers.

Produce the same body weight with less feed compared to fully feathered chickens

Can be used for dual purposes

Barred (spotted) type

Strain performance

  • Reach maturity at 160-180 days
  • Mature cocks weigh 2.0 kg to 2.4kg
  • Mature hens weigh 1.7kg
  • Lays eggs in excess of 15
  • Eggs weigh 56-60g each

Other important characteristics

  • Are adaptable to feeding on household produce
  • Prolific egg producers
  • Have a big body frame so they are good brooders
  • Are dual purpose chickens
  • Are used for cross breeding programmes for commercial layers
  • Sex of chicks is easy to determine

 Cattle Production

Performance of pure and crossbred cows (production of crossbred calves)

Dam Genotype calf mass (kg) at:
  Weaning 18 Months
Brahman 222 321
Brahman x Afrikaner 222 319
Charolais x Brahman 223 316
Charolais x Afrikaner 225 314
Afrikaner x Brahman 218 313
Nguni 201 297
Tuli 195 287
Mashona 185 278

 When crossbred and indigenous cows were offered low quantities of supplements (mixed crop silages or 2kg/day of commercial dairy feed), crossbred cows had: Higher milk yields of 1000 to 1500 litres per lactation (270 days) than indigenous cows 460 to 670 litres (210 days).

Good milking temperament. Earlier postpartum cycling and higher oestrus detection rate than indigenous cows in the same environment.

Earlier production of first calf at 27 months compared with 36 months for indigenous cows.For the line-environment interaction: There is evidence of a line – environment interaction for female fertility. Direct and indirect selection responses have been quantified for fitness traits.

 Goat and Sheep Production

The performance of grazing goats offered 200g/d pods of Acacia nilotica (AN), Dichrostachys cinerea (DC) and a 1:1 mixture for 30 days before and after parturition are shown below. Birth weights (kg), weaning weights (kg) and average daily gains (g) of kids born from goats supplemented with Acacia nilotica (AN) and Dichrostachys cinerea (DC) pods and those not supplemented (NS)

Birth weight (kg) 2.9 2.9 3.0 2.8
Weaning weights (kg) 10.1 10.1 10.7 10.1
Average daily gain (g) 60.3 61.3 64.7 61.2
Kid mortality % 32 25 15 58

 A study conducted to evaluate the effect of milking and supplementation with Dicrostachys cineria pods on the productivity of does showed that: Supplementation increases kid growth rates, weaning weights and milk production. Milking stimulated higher milk production and consequently higher kid growth rates.

When kapaters were fed either a commercial feed or a home-made mixture of cottonseed meal and crushed maize grain (1:3) for 154 days:

Average daily gains ranged from 51g to 63g and 80g to 106g, with the home-made diet and a commercial feed, respectively. When indigenous goats were milked once a day for 20 weeks:Goats produced between 0.5 to 1 litre/day.Peak milk yield was achieved between 4 to 8 weeks of lactation.There is diverse genetic variability in indigenous goat types in Zimbabwe. Two types have been identified as distinct: “Iminwe” and “Blue goat”, and their production traits are being assessed.

The main research focus on the indigenous Sabi sheep is to characterize, conserve and improve the breed through selection. The Sabi sheep have the ability to maintain good levels of production in semi-arid environments. Genetic conservation of the indigenous Sabi sheep, which is now endangered, is in progress.



Matopos Research Station

P B K 5137



Tel: +263 (0)383 327 or 264/5.

Mobile : 0712 629 537/ 0774 320 489

Fax: +263 383 289

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