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Cattle In Mat South At Risk

Farmers struggle with rain-related cattle diseases and cannot afford the medicines and drugs needed to save their livestock. Image by Informa Magazine

BY AMANDA NCUBE | @The_CBNews | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | MAR 5, 2021

After a dry spell in the previous rainy season, excessive rainfall and prohibitive costs of medicines threaten to wipe out livestock in Matabeleland South.

GWANDA (The Citizen Bulletin) — While rains improve grazing pastures for livestock, excess rains spell trouble for livestock farmers who have to grapple with endless rain-related cattle diseases yet many cannot afford the medicines and drugs needed to save their animals.

This is the predicament facing livestock farmers in Matabeleland South Province where cattle have traditionally been valued as a symbol of wealth.

Cattle farmers are coming from a difficult season where they lost thousands of their cattle due to recurrent drought, aggravated by climate change effects and diseases.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not made the situation any better as many have been forced to sell their livestock at low prices.

Matabeleland South just like many parts of the country has been recording persistent rains resulting in the outbreak of diseases.

Owen Nkala who is a medium scale commercial farmer also known as an A2 farmer from Mkashi area in Ward 23 Gwanda says the heavy rains have caused an increase in tick-borne diseases as well as an outbreak of foot rot, botulism, lumpy skin and blackleg diseases.

“My kraals are damp and wet which is causing foot rot on the hooves of my cattle and if I don’t do anything soon the rot will spread from the hooves up to the legs and they will eventually die.”
Owen Nkala, an A2 farmer in Gwanda

The rains have also caused an increase in tick-borne diseases which means I have to dip my animals regularly now but I don’t have the money to buy the dip chemicals,” he says.

Hand spraying of tick control using a mixture of chemicals. Image by Agri Info

Nkala owns a herd of 50 cattle and he has to ensure that he buys medicine for all of them and have them dipped every week. He says he also has to vaccinate the cattle against botulism, lumpy skin and blackleg but he cannot afford the costs.

He says he needs about US$80 to purchase vaccines. He also needs about US$10 a week in order to buy dip chemicals which include triatic dip concentrate and tick grease.

Gift Moyo, a communal farmer from Garanyemba in Ward 13 in Gwanda, says in order to protect his cattle against foot rot he has to erect roofed kraals to ensure that he keeps them in a dry place.

“The cost is too high especially considering the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought on us as livestock farmers.
Gift Moyo, a communal farmer in Gwanda

“The demand for meat has remained low because of the lockdown and this has affected our market. We really need assistance from government because at this rate we might lose our animals as we are incapacitated to effectively care for them,” says Moyo.

The government last year launched a National Livestock Blitz Tick Grease programme in the province. Under the programme, only communal farmers receive tick grease for free monthly. However, the high demand for tick grease because of increased tick-borne diseases has resulted in a shortage of medicine.

Matabeleland South provincial livestock specialist, Hatitye Zondai says severe rains cause an outbreak of diseases and farmers must ensure their animals are protected.

ALSO READ: Wild Animals Destroy Good Cropping Yields In Mat North

“To address tick infestation farmers must dip their cattle on a weekly basis, for foot rot they must house animals under dry roofs and frequently bath the hooves in copper sulphate, they must also set up fly traps close to the kraals in order to fight insects and flies. They must also vaccinate their animals,” he notes.

Matabeleland South provincial veterinary officer, Dr Enat Mdlongwa says dip chemicals received from the government were not enough to cater for all farmers which meant that they had to buy their own.

He has encouraged farmers to dip their animals weekly up to April saying ticks have a severe impact on animals as they cause a lot of abscesses on cattle if not controlled.

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