The Sunday News
WE are getting into the winter season and temperatures are dropping, it’s getting colder every day. The winter season comes with a lot of positives regarding livestock management but it also comes with challenges.
The most prominent positive is the reduction of pest load in the natural environment as conditions become less favourable for multiplication. Consequently, you will notice a drop in tick load for example because the grass is dry and the temperatures have dropped.
As a result even our dipping sessions become spread out and we now dip every fortnight. Wounds heal much faster and easier during this time of the year and hence the advice that we should do all our wounding operations such as hot iron branding during this time of the year.
You will need less wound attention if you do all your operations that cause injuries during this time of the year, as wounds are a lot less likely to become septic. There are, however, disadvantages of the winter season that a livestock farmer should be ready to address. The major one is the decline in forage availability as well as the quality of the forage nutrient wise. The grass becomes drier and with less nutritive values.
Consequently, your animals will drop in body condition scores and will need to be supplemented to maintain a proper body condition that allows for reproduction to take place in cows. Water sources dry up especially in the Matabeleland region which has very few perennial rivers. Drinking points become far and wide apart requiring animals to troop for some kilometres to the nearest drinking point.
This further deteriorates their condition as they expend more energy going to and from water sources. The paradox in most rangelands is that grazing lands during the dry season could be up in the forest where your animals largely pick browsable feed such as pods and leaves as well as grazing on the scarce grass available. However, the forests are usually on the upside of the terrain with no rivers, which then forces animals to occasionally troop down the slope to the drinking points.
This is usually an insurmountable challenge, but stockpiling feed at home and providing drinking water serves your animals from going deeper into the forest searching for feed. Managing your animals closer to home, helps you to be able to respond timely to any situation that may arise. Shelter wise, cold winter temperatures presents its on challenges.
The harsh temperatures may be too much to bear especially for goat kids. You may lose kids to cold weather, hence it is important to construct a goat housing that provides shelter against the cold weather. Usually, a three-sided goat housing facing away from the general wind direction should provide adequate shelter.
You can also provide clean dry bedding if you can. Feed wise, goats will require more energy during winter so that they can be able to maintain the body temperatures. Also, pregnant goats, especially those in late gestation or those in lactation will need more energy. It is thus important to provide energy rich feed during winter. The goats will also require roughage which can be provided as hay. Salt and mineral sources should be provided to the goats to balance intake of trace elements. Lastly, you will need to deworm your goats to control internal parasites.
In summary winter management of animals especially goats means providing adequate drinking water, mineral supplements, high energy feed as well as roughage. It also means having appropriate housing to protect against harsh weather conditions which may cause mortalities especially in kids. Uyabonga umntaka MaKhumalo.
Mhlupheki Dube is a livestock specialist and farmer. He writes in his own capacity. Feedback [email protected]/ cell 0772851275.