The Sunday News
IN recent weeks the media in all its forms has been awash with stories about mysterious attacks on goats for Makwe farmers in Gwanda District, Matabeleland South province.
Such news is painful and scary owing to the voodoo nature of the attacks on the prized possession of these farmers. The issue is still to be demystified as to whether this was really an evil voodoo attack on farmers’ livestock or it was honest ruthless exploits of a nocturnal blood sucking predator whose identity is yet to be unveiled, at least to my knowledge.
Whatever the explanation is, scientific or otherwise, it is not in dispute that the community of Makwe has taken a lot of strain as a result of loss of investment and genuine fear that the mysterious predator may end up attacking humans in the same manner that it has been attacking their livestock.
However, my intention is not to discuss this alleged voodoo predator and its exploits but to discuss predator control methods for real predators. Livestock farmers generally lose their animals in three main ways, namely, predator attack, theft and poverty deaths.
The order of prominence of the avenue of loss will vary from one area to another, for example farmers in Chidobe, Ndlovu, Dopota and Mabale areas of Hwange District will lose their animals mostly to predators such as lions and hyenas due to their proximity to Hwange National Park, while farmers in Shanyaugwe, Buvuma and Guyu areas of Gwanda are prone to stock theft as well as poverty deaths. There are a few methods of preventing stock losses due to predator attacks. One such method is kraaling your animals at night. I know that many livestock farmers especially in Matabeleland provinces do not like to pen their animals at night especially during the dry season as they feel that this reduces the time for their animals to search for the scarcely available grazing.
Usually during the dry season animals wander away further into the veld as they look for grazing hence kraaling them at night one has to be walking the animals from very far afield back to the homestead. It is not only laborious but drains energy reserves for animals which are barely surviving because of a depleted grazing.
However, it goes without saying that as your animals wander further away from your homestead unattended, they become exposed to both predators and thieves and these both tend to be nocturnal in habit. A decision has to be made between giving your animals a blank cheque in the field and expose them to vices such as predator attacks and, theft or pen them at night and reduce their foraging time.
Another important aspect is to have a strongly fortified kraal that will protect your animals from attacks by predators. Some kraals that farmers build can best be described as lazy porous enclosures which provide easy access to those predators that visit your animals in the kraal.
Your goats should be enclosed in secure pens preferably fenced and with enough height to prevent predators jumping in and out of the pens. In areas with lions one has to make a kraal which has tall poles such that your animals will not jump out when they sense the presence of a lion. Ordinarily lions will not jump into your pens to attack your animals but rather their modus operandi is to frighten your animals out of the pens and attack them once they are out.
The lion will make its sounds as it approaches your kraal and your cattle will bolt out if the kraal is short and weak and once they are out, they are fair game! If the kraal is strong enough to hold its own and the animals remain trapped inside, they actually survive. Another important way of preventing predator attacks, is to have a few canine friends in your homestead. Dogs will not only alert you of the visit of an uninvited guest by they will also scare the visitor away and your animals may live to see their day of slaughter!
Gwanda goat farmers have been documented as using dogs to even herd the goats during their foraging time. These trained dogs are said to prevent both stock theft and predator attacks. Use of bells especially on calves have been proven by farmers to repel predators such as hyenas. I also welcome information on how other farmers are preventing predator attacks in their areas. This may be replicated in other areas with similar success results.
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