COMMENT: Livestock farmers must take heed of expert advice

19 Nov, 2023 - 00:11 0 Views
COMMENT: Livestock farmers must take heed of expert advice Cattle

The Sunday News

THERE is a high appetite among local farmers to excel in their chosen areas, be it crop farming or livestock farming.

The amount of investment that has been put into farming by individuals and organisations into farming in recent years speaks volumes of the desire to do well. And the results have been there for all to see, with record-breaking yields in maize and wheat, among other crops. There have also been success stories in livestock farming, with some breeders fetching as high as US$9  000, US$18 000, and US$25 000 for a single top breed of a cow in commercial sales.

The Government, through the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development has also come in a big way to support farmers, both small and big, which is reflected in massive success stories in the farming sector.

This publication recently hosted a Livestock farming conference which was meant to bring together Government and other stakeholders to discuss the challenge of January disease that farmers in Matabeleland South face every year. The conference was well attended, and farmers were able to air their views, with Government officials and veterinary private sector players on the other hand offering practical solutions.

The Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development’s Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) chief director, Dr Josphat Nyika reaffirmed that victory was certain if all stakeholders come together and continue to fight the war against January disease. 

The January disease, also known as theileriosis is one of the tick-borne diseases that account for more than 60 percent of all cattle deaths recorded in the country annually. In Zimbabwe, January disease was common between December and March, however, cases are now being recorded throughout the year. Spread through the bite of the brown ear tick, the country has lost 500 000 cattle valued at about US$150 million, having died of the January disease from 2018 to 2022, according to reports.

Speaking at the conference Dr Nyika said agriculture was the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy, with livestock being the spine of agriculture. 

“Disease is one of the major limiting factors in any livestock production enterprise and without effective disease and pest control, there can be no cattle/livestock industry. No amount of supplementary feeding or genetic improvement of the herd can compensate for unhealthy animals as herd health is the cornerstone of a profitable cattle/livestock enterprise,” he said. 

He said in the country, the current epidemic started in 2017/18 and the Government, farmers and stakeholders have been fighting the disease since then and notable progress has been made in the fight. 

“Annual cattle mortality rates have tumbled from 12 percent, 9 percent and currently 6 percent. In Zimbabwe, it is specifically a disease of cattle caused by thelleria parva bovis while other circulating theileria strains include theileria velifera and theileria taurotragi,” he highlighted. 

Experts said challenges that were affecting the fight against tick-borne diseases included poor tick control in the A1 and A2 sector due to poor handling holes or lack of dipping infrastructure, inadequate dip chemicals, and homemade concoctions, while there was low cattle turnout at dipping sessions in the communal sector averaging around 78 percent, among others.

Farmers were asked to ensure that they dip their animals, as it remained the only practical solution against January disease. We, therefore, urge farmers to follow guidelines given by veterinary officers deployed by the government across the country. The expert advice from veterinary officers will help them to make sure that they do not lose their precious animals to diseases. It is such expert advice from other extension officers that will ensure that they also continue to record good crop yields.

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