The Sunday News
Judith Phiri, Farming Reporter
ZIMBABWE’S livestock condition has been viewed as generally fair to good across the country due to the good and well-distributed rains received across all provinces that resulted in improved grazing conditions.
The National Livestock Statistics have shown that the country’s national beef cattle herd increased by 0.64 percent from 5 443 770 in 2019 to 5 598 982 in 2020, the national goat population increased by 2.7 percent from 3 868 402 in 2019 to 3 974 707 in 2020 and the national sheep population increased by 27 percent from 547 696 in 2019 to 697 910 in 2020.
According to the First Round Crop and Livestock Assessment report 2020-2021 presented to the Cabinet Committee on Food Security and Nutrition, the country’s livestock production was on a positive trajectory due to the rains received for the 2020/21 rainfall season.
“Livestock condition is generally fair to good across the country due to the good and well-distributed rains received across all provinces that resulted in improved grazing condition. However, Livestock in some communal areas is still in poor condition despite the good season as a result of poor deworming and overgrazing. The low body condition scores are due to poor deworming practices and poor quality of the veld,” read the report.
It also noted that the grazing condition was fair to good in all districts across the country and improved livestock production and productivity is expected in the current season due to improved grazing quality and availability.
The assessment report highlighted that however, grazing area continues to decrease due to encroachment by human settlement especially in communal areas and the rangeland was severely degraded and eroded in most communal farming areas as a result poor soil and water conservation.
“Water is adequate for all livestock species as most perennial and seasonal water sources are above 80 percent capacity. The good rainy season has resulted in the rejuvenation of the water table hence boreholes are now high yielding. However, heavy siltation levels in most water sources have reduced their water carrying capacities.”
Part of the assessment report highlighted that incessant rains received across the country have resulted in muddy kraals for both cattle and small ruminants and the result was that the kraaled animals spend the night standing in mud and only rested in the morning when they are opened for grazing.
According to the report this has resulted in livestock also being at risk of foot problems such as foot rot as a result of wet conditions in the kraals.
Meanwhile, the total milk production dropped by four percent from 79 898 234 litres in 2019 to 76 697 177 litres in 2020 against a national target of 150 million litres.
The report attributed the reduction in milk production to the 2019/2020 drought impact, unstable exchange rate regime during early 2020 when some farmers dried their animals due to unviable prices and reduced demand due to Covid 19 restrictions.
The report highlighted an estimated 23,000 cattle succumbed to theileriosis/January disease in 2020, however, the number decreased from 50 000 that was reported in 2019. While, districts affected by the disease increased from 14 in 2019 to 25 districts in 2020, no reports of theileriosis have been made in the Matabeleland provinces.
The report recommended that Government should avail veterinary drugs at subsidized prices, prioritize financing of local acaricides production to minimize mortalities by tick borne diseases.
“Institute livestock production support schemes for vulnerable households and long-term financing schemes for commercial livestock producers. Also, promote the establishment of pasture green belts and livestock fodder banks to reduce livestock mortalities and improve productivity.”
The assessment report noted there was need to expand livestock genetic improvement through use of artificial insemination to avail affordable good genetic quality animals and support local production of vaccines for three tick-borne diseases (including January disease) and Newcastle disease.
The Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement conducts four National Crop and Livestock Assessments every year. For the 2020/21 season, the First Round Crop and Livestock Assessment data collection by field staff was undertaken from 28 January to 10 February 2021, verification exercise by national teams took place from 10 February to 23 February 2021.
The overall purpose of the First Round Crop and Livestock assessment is to provide early warning information on the progress of the cropping season in relation to national agricultural and food security targets.