WE are moving into the deeper ends of the dry season and soon we will be in October and any livestock practitioner is hesitant to go into the rural areas because of the sorry and pathetic state of the livestock condition obtaining during this time of the year. This is the time you meet severely emaciated animals which can hardly walk to the dry river bed to seek for water.
The sad thing is that despite the protracted efforts that are made by the extension officers in educating farmers on how they can prevent livestock losses during the dry season, farmers do not seem to listen.
However, it is in good keeping to still encourage farmers to prepare for the dry season so as to avoid unnecessary livestock losses especially against this year’s drought background.
It is not yet late to take one or two animals to the market and buy stock feed to bridge the dry season gap for your livestock.
If farmers can work with at least 3 kilogramme/animal/day for at least 90 days for the survival feed such that it translates to about 270kg of stockfeed per animal for the whole dry season.
This is equivalent to almost six bags of survival meal per animal and these will cost about $78. This means for 15 animals one needs $1 170 which can be easily covered by just disposing two oxen from the herd.
Speaking of the market, this pen wishes to implore relevant ministries and departments to do something about developing and formalising small stock markets.
The situation where goats and sheep are just haphazardly sold does not help the farmers at all.
It is about time we start treating small stock with economic respect realising that it is a significant economic driver within the livestock reliant regions of this country.
Honestly why is it so difficult to have formal organised markets such as auctions for small stock?
For example is it forbidden for farmers to bring their goats for auction during a local authority organised livestock auction sale?
I doubt that this is illegal, so why have farmers not been doing it and why have extension officers on the ground failed to assist farmers to utilise this platform of livestock sales?
I will venture to say it is mainly because of the narrow and provincial minds (as Dambudzo Marechera called it) of many livestock players including extension workers and local authorities.
However, if we carefully apply our minds to it we will realise that if we want to increase levels of disposable incomes among our small-holder farmers we need to develop the small stock markets.
Two reasons jump out immediately, firstly small stock especially goats are hardy than cattle and tolerate droughts better than cattle.
It is common knowledge that an average drought which can wipe cattle may record zero mortalities in goats.
This means farmers can easily build their herds in terms of small stock while cattle numbers may be going down due to recurrent droughts.
Secondly it is uncontestable that it is easier for small-holder farmers to make a decision on whether to sell or not sell goats than it is for cattle.
This is even more important in Matabeleland region where the majority of husbands are working outside the country. Their wives can easily sell some of the goats if a need arises without enduring the family bureaucracy because in some families the decision to sell one beast in terms of cattle is a clan responsibility.
Many clan members have to be consulted. It is my argument therefore that if we organise and formalise small stock markets, small-holder farmers can have easy sources of disposable incomes resulting in improved management of other livestock forms and the general family livelihoods.
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