We have been ranching since we took over Darakuta Ranch in 1986.
In the very beginning we started with dairy cows, but quickly came to realise that it didn’t work out as well as we expected. The main issue was the Tsetse Fly, which transferred Sleeping Sickness to our Cattle. In addition to the Tsetse fly, various other vector-borne diseases, like heartwater, and other infectious diseases posed a serious challenge. In the dry season there was only dry grass available, which is far too poor a diet to support dairy cows. In the rainy season in contrast, the cows were standing in mud and susceptible to all kinds of fungus. All these circumstances posed great problems for the pure breed dairy cows, who were not resilient to these conditions and diseases.
Furthermore, the location of Darakuta Ranch was not favourable for the dairy business, as we were far away from our market and it took a great deal of effort and electricity to keep the cooling chain active that would enable transport of milk and other dairy products. In the rainy season it was impossible to deliver our products due to roads that became flooded and impassable.
For the above reason, we quickly realised that we had to change our strategy if we were to have a successful Ranch.
While we worked out a new strategy, our biggest goal was to get rid of the tsetse fly. Secondly we had to get a new breed of cattle that were more robust and resilient to the conditions on Darakuta. In doing so we discovered that the best strategy was to change our products from dairy to completely organic, grass-fed meat, which has the potential for a good market through Tanzania’s tourist industry.
We started with local Zebu cows. They were small in size and didn’t have a lot of kilos, but were extremely resilient. We treated them with a drug that would kill the tsetse fly when it ingested blood from a cow, and with this strategy were able to successfully eradicate the tsetse fly from Darakuta within 15 years. At the same time we had started to improve our breed to create extremely resilient cattle that were also large in size. Our main breed is now mainly Borana with some Zebu and Swiss Brown crossed in.