THE MOKHOTLONG community’s hopes of self-sufficiency and viable income generation have been boosted as a M5.5 million commercial dairy project funded by Letšeng Diamonds nears completion.
The project by the 29-member Liphamola Dairy Farmers Association (LDFA) aims to supply pasteurised and packaged fresh milk initially to the Mokhotlong community with plans to expand into other districts.
The project started in 2011 with contributions by members to purchase five dairy cows and these have since increased to 15.
LDFA also received funding from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Global Environment Fund (GEF) to purchase land to set up the farm.
LDFA Deputy Chairperson, Thabo Moleko said they rehabilitated a dump site at Sheep Stud to expand the farm to accommodate 50 cows.
“We have fenced the farm, erected a holding pan and are currently constructing a milking parlour,” Mr Moleko said, adding they would soon be using state of the art machinery instead of manually milking the cows.
He said the funds from Letšeng Diamonds would be used to acquire 30 fresh Brown Swiss dairy cows to increase the farm’s production capacity, as well as financing the construction of the milking parlour, administration block, and milking, pasteurising and packaging equipment.
Mr Moleko said they opted for the Brown Swiss breed which was well-known for being hardy and able to withstand cold conditions giving a good yield of milk for up to ten years.
Project Manager, Retšelisitsoe Lesane said, “this will be a one stop facility where we milk the cows, pasteurise and then package the milk”.
Mr Lesane said eight animals would be milked at the same time in the milking parlour.
He said they since they did not own ploughing fields, they had teamed up with community members to engage in share-cropping on an initial 160 acres of land to produce maize silage and oats for feeding the animals.
Mr Moleko said they would also engage individual dairy farmers to augment their milk output to meet demand, “and to ensure that we get high quality milk we will introduce to them to appropriate animal husbandry practices”.
He added that as part of efforts to ensure uniform quality of milk, they would provide artificial insemination services at the farm at a cost to smallholder farmers. He said each cow was expected to produce 20 litres of milk per day.
He said they would give first priority to the local community when selling calves in order to boost milk production in the district.
The project is expected to break even in the next four years.
For his part, Letšeng Diamonds Corporate Social Responsibility and Investment Administrator, Tšepo Hlojeng said they had chosen to invest in the project because it had the potential to be sustainable and therefore improve the lives of the community.
“The mine employs only 1300 people, but it can impact on more lives by financing sustainable projects like this one,” Mr Hlojeng said.