|Over 200 000 cattle to succumb to starvation|
|Saturday, 09 June 2012 22:44|
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Senior Business Reporter
OVER 200 000 cattle in Matabeleland South province might succumb to starvation if urgent intervention is not taken with regards to expediting the provision of supplementary feed to the drought-prone area, as pastures continue to dwindle.Once the cradle of cattle ranching in the country, Matabeleland South’s livestock population has continued to dwindle over the years owing to a myriad of catastrophes such as recurrent drought and a spate of diseases.
There are now calls from various stakeholders to declare the loss of pastures in the province a national disaster so as to enable Government to expedite a rescue plan.
The loss of pastures has resulted in most of the farmers selling their beasts for a song with prices reaching an all-time low of between US$200 and US$300 a beast while some transporters have taken this opportunity to make ends meet through transporting hay from some parts of Matabeleland North province to various areas in Gwanda.
Some farmers have become desperate to the extent that they are now feeding their cattle with chaff while others go to the extent of pruning tree leafs to feed their animals.
According to statistics obtained from the Department of Livestock Production and Development (DLPD), the country has an estimated population of 5,2 million cattle of which 398 200 are in Matabeleland South. meaning that the province contributes about 7,8 percent to the national herd.
“Some farmers are getting used to this scenario (lack of pasture) and will be prepared for any eventuality. Some are resorting to buying stock feed from National Foods while others are in search of grazing land at nearby A2 farms. Basically those that have an understanding of appropriate cattle rearing expertise have no problems except those from poor households that are even struggling to fend for themselves and these are mostly communal farmers.
“The situation is really bad but there are two things which one has to take into consideration, the first one being the issue of overgrazing over a long period or over utilisation of land which means no matter how much it rains there are areas that won’t have new vegetation and this is experienced among communal areas in some parts of Beitbridge and Gwanda South. The other situation is the depletion of pastures due to low germination resulting from low rainfall,” the chief provincial livestock specialist, Mrs Simangaliphi Ngwabi said.
She said during the second crop and livestock assessment programme carried out in the province, the assessing team managed to rate the cattle according to their needs for feed.
“During our crop and livestock assessment programme in all the province’s wards we came out with a rating whereby we categorised cattle by their need for assistance in terms of feed and the categorises ranged from bad, poor and good and during this rating we came out with a total of 208 250 cattle that required supplementary feeding for survival. Though others have since been moved to farms with pastures, this movement of cattle also raises fear of disease outbreaks,’’ Mrs Ngwabi said.
The Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Mr Seiso Moyo, said Government’s main priority was to curb the resurgence of diseases due to movement of cattle from one place to another in search of pastures.