Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Gwanda Correspondent
LIVESTOCK farmers have been advised to stock indigenous breeds to reduce losses related to depletion of pastures as a result of El Nino induced drought.
Matabeleland South provincial livestock production and development officer, Mrs Simangaliphi Ngwabi, said indigenous breeds such as Tuli and Nkoni were able to adapt and withstand the prevailing drought situation.
She stressed the need for the province to establish breeding centres for goats that could help improve the provincial herd.
“I recently attended a south region meeting on livestock genetics and it was recommended that farmers in Matabeleland South province have to focus on stocking indigenous breeds especially the trans-boundary ones because they are the only cattle that can adapt to the prevailing conditions. They can withstand harsh conditions as they were born here. They don’t require a special diet,” she said.
“The Tuli and Nkoni breeds originate from this region and if we can have such breeds and mix them with the breeds that farmers have, we can improve the state of animals. Most farmers now have the Brahman but it’s not performing well in communal areas where it’s dry. The Brahman is very sensitive when it comes to harsh conditions. If not properly fed or exposed to stress conditions, a Brahman can take up to three years without giving a calf yet we urge farmers to ensure their cattle give them a calf each year.”
Mrs Ngwabi said farmers also had to focus on small stock such as goats as they were resistant to drought. She said the large Matabele goat, which originates from the region, has been doing well without any genetic modification despite prevailing drought conditions.
She said there was a need to come up with breeding centres where goats especially bull goats would be kept and monitored and then sold to communities so that they could improve their breeds.
“As the department of livestock and crop production we are working on a way forward to alleviate the situation and avert drought deaths. In most areas the state of livestock is fair but we are fast running out of grazing land and drinking water. Our fear is that by end of this month, the situation would have deteriorated and we are expecting many cattle deaths if nothing is done,” said Mrs Ngwabi.
She said availability of stock feed was also a challenge as feed houses were struggling to manufacture feed because of inadequate raw materials.
“Farmers are advised to buy feed in bulk now if they have the money and store it for future use,” said Mrs Ngwabi.
The provincial livestock department recently revealed that more than 47 percent of the livestock in Matabeleland South province is at risk of dying due to drought.
Presenting a report on the livestock and crop situation during a drought relief meeting recently, Matabeleland South provincial livestock specialist, Mr Hatitye Zondai, said about 292 912 cattle were at risk of dying out of a provincial herd of 658 518. The department also urged farmers to cull their livestock to reduce losses.