Cattle poverty deaths go up
THE prolonged dry spell prevailing in the country has culminated in a number of farmers in the drought-prone Matabeleland region losing their cattle due to depleted pastures.
Although official statistics of the cattle that have died due to poverty could not be immediately obtained, Matabeleland South provincial crops and livestock officer Mrs Simangaliphi Ngwabi said a substantial number of cattle in all the districts in the province had succumbed due to lack of adequate pastures with most of the animals being in bad condition.
“I don’t have official statics of the cattle that have died due to poverty, but the situation is very bad. We are in the process of compiling data to come up with an official position to ascertain how many cattle have died. Over the past few weeks I was involved in the land audit process and was moving around the province that’s when I managed to realise that the situation, especially in Mangwe was becoming dire as most of the cattle were in bad shape while others had died due to lack of pastures,” she said.
The searing heat has not only led to significant negative impacts on forage but culminated in water sources drying up.
Water is the most important nutrient for cattle. It accounts for 50 to 80 percent of an animal’s weight and is involved in every physiological process. Mrs Ngwabi said the number of cattle deaths could increase if sufficient rains are not received as soon as possible.
“In the past farmers used to rely on commercial feed for supplementary feeding but currently there is shortage of stock feed at most retail outlets and in some cases the prices are exorbitant and as such most farmers can’t afford to buy enough to feed their animals,” she said.
Department of Veterinary Services Matabeleland North provincial officer Dr Polex Moyo also confirmed that a number of cattle in his area of jurisdiction had died due to poverty but could not also provide figures.
“We have recorded a number of poverty death cases but we are still in the process of compiling statistics to find out how many cattle have died and hopeful by Wednesday we will have official statics,” he said.
Dr Moyo said farmers should introduce their cattle to supplementary feeding regime to guard against losing their animals due to the effects of drought.
“We are, however, encouraging farmers to supplement, there is no two ways about it. It’s high time they introduce their animals to both survival and pen fattening feed so as to improve their condition. They should, however, avoid using feed mixed with urea because in the event the feed gets damp the urea tends to turn into a lump and when an animal consumes it, it dies. They should feed their animals with stockfeed made out of cotton and sunflower cake or seed,” he said.
Dr Moyo, however, lamented the price of stock feed stating that: “It’s becoming difficult to source the feed as the prices are on the awkward side and this might have catastrophic effects on livestock production.”
Matabeleland region used to be the country’s prime cattle producing area but recurrent droughts since 1992 reportedly killed about 60 percent of the provinces’ herd.