Livestock condition improves in Matabeleland, sustainability still an issue

The condition of livestock in Matabeleland, which had deteriorated last year owing to a devastating drought, aggravated by delayed and erratic rains, has since improved due to availability of pastures.

In the runner-up to and during the first half of the 2019/2020 agricultural season farmers in the drought-prone region battled to save their cattle whose condition depreciated as a result of drought.

In Matabeleland South, which was the hardest-hit, farmers in districts such as Bulilima were literally hunting for the grass on hilltops to save their starving animals.

The province lost over 15 000 cattle to the drought heightened by climate change effects.

When it rained late November, cattle did not immediately pick-up as farmers continued to report some deaths.

However, following some showers late December cattle condition in most parts of Matabeleland normalised.

“Our cattle are strong indeed and they look very good indeed, thanks to the rains that we received on December 28 last year,” Insiza farmer and auctioneer, Jonathan Nsingo, told CITE Monday.

However, the farmers’ joy could be short-lived with the country likely to experience one of the worst droughts in a decade.

The looming drought will require that farmers put in place strategies to ensure that they minimise further cattle loses.

Nsingo said farmers were busy trying to harvest some hay and stalks to be fed to cattle in the event another drought strikes.

“We are trying by all the means to ensure we gather as much straw as we can for safekeeping and drying so we can have some feeding for the animals,” said Nsingo.

“For now, water is there as most dams are still full.”

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU) executive member, Irene Maphenduka, advised farmers to destock to minimise future cattle losses.

“I have a different view altogether,” said Maphenduka.

“Farmers should destock their livestock. They should look at the available water and pastures and then destock accordingly and that way cattle loses can be minimised.”

Cattle have traditionally been valued as a symbol of wealth in Matabeleland, with Matabeleland South, in particular, has been in the past considered the Brazil of Zimbabwe because of the province’s quality beef.

However, over the past years, recurrent droughts, aggravated by climate change effects, have seen the region continue to lose livestock and the just-ended year 2019 has not been an exception.

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