The Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources has ordered 70 percent of pastureland in the districts of Nyagatare, Gatsibo, Kayonza, and Kirehe, in Eastern Province, to be put under the cultivation of crops that provide cow fodder while 30 percent is set aside for cow sheds in a bid to enforce the zero-grazing system and increase milk production. Under zero grazing, cattle do not graze but are rather confined in a stall where feed and water are brought to them. ALSO READ: Why Eastern Province urgently needs zero grazing for livestock Eugene Kwibuka, the Agriculture Information and Communication Programme Manager at the Ministry, told The New Times that the four districts have a big size of pastureland compared to other districts. “The guidelines aim to help livestock farmers increase milk production by securing reliable forage and ensuring zero grazing,” he said. ALSO READ: Rwanda seeks to increase milk production by 34% in one year Crops to be cultivated using quality seeds and fertilizers on 70 percent of the pasture land include maize, beans, and soybean, under the crop rotation scheme. Other types of forage for cattle have also to be planted on the same land. “Keeping the cows in cow sheds will also ease the production of manure,” he said. Zero grazing, he noted, will help fight against livestock diseases. ALSO READ: Agriculture land ‘must be protected’ to feed increasing population “Livestock farmers have to separate their pasture into two parts using fences: one for zero grazing where cow sheds must be constructed and the other for growing crops that provide fodder,” says the guidelines. Farmers are obliged to have fodder storage facilities to help feed cows in case of dry spells. At least five cows, which must be improved dairy breed and or their crossbreeds, are allowed to be kept in cow sheds per hectare. ALSO READ: Farmers in east encouraged to adopt Jersey cattle breed As per the new guidelines, cows must be vaccinated against diseases and be covered by an insurance scheme. According to the Ministry, cow sheds must have water - obtained through rainwater harvesting or boreholes. Compost to produce manure is among the recommended practices. ALSO READ: Agric Minister outlines priorities as he looks to rebrand sector The pasture land must be used for its purpose even when it is sold or transferred to another owner. There is also a need for embracing artificial insemination, recordkeeping of milk production per cow, and its health status, the ministry urged farmers. One-year grace period The government has permitted a one-year grace period for farmers who have no financial capacity to implement the new guidelines. The farmers have been recommended to lease the land in case they cannot afford the required investment cost. Gahiga Gashumba, a livestock farmer in Nyagatare District, told The New Times that there is a need for electricity and water supply infrastructure in the pastures to comply with the new guidelines given that dams with rainwater are not reliable enough. “We need enough water in the pastures. In addition to water for feeding the cows, water to ensure hygiene and sanitation is another required investment cost,” he said. He said that while milk production will increase, farmers will need milking machines that use electricity. “The increased milk production again needs cooling machines that require electricity.” He also said that the production of forage from maize, beans and soybean will require chopping machines which require the use of electricity. “These by-products must be mixed with molasses from sugar factories yet we have only one factory in Rwanda. We need more trees to construct cow sheds yet the Province has few trees. We can use metallic materials but it also requires electricity. All these are additional investments which require enough preparation.” Rwanda needs to produce 1,250,000 tonnes of milk every year by 2024, so as to satisfy demand. The target also aims at catering for a milk powder plant under construction in Nyagatare District. As of 2022, Rwanda was producing 932, 951 tonnes of milk, per year.