Source: Sell one or two and save the rest! | The Herald 04 FEB, 2020
Obert Chifamba Agric Insight
Common sense decrees that you do not stand and observe a stone that is about to strike you.
The most logical thing is to duck or run!
It seems cattle farmers have always been found short of this logical thinking year- in, year-out and lose cattle to the same problems – drought and diseases.
Their alibi all the time is that Government has not provided enough chemicals for dipping or vaccinations for the control of diseases, while they have also shot themselves in the foot when they allow or start numerous veld fires that wipe out pastures.
To date, farmers in the country’s dry regions have lost thousands of cattle to drought, while diseases have taken their toll in almost all the country’s provinces.
What farmers should realise is that their wealth is usually measured by the number of cattle they have and, as Africans, we attach a lot of value to cattle.
Cattle can be sold to meet critical expenses.
This time I will exclude the Government from the matrix and leave the ball in the farmers’ court.
They need to be proactive and take care of their cattle and not leave the entire responsibility to Government whose hands are tied.
Once a farmer notices cattle starting to show signs of malnutrition, the wisest thing is to sell some to secure feeds for the remainder.
In most cases, farmers who hold on to their cattle for sentimental reasons have ended up losing all to drought or disease.
Farmers need to be alive to the fact that signs of imminent natural disasters like droughts or diseases must not be taken lightly, but mitigated before they get serious.
Simple things like dams that hold the water that is expected to nourish the cattle are usually rendered redundant through siltation because of poor agricultural practices, the effects of which can always be mitigated through de-siltation of the dams or just adopting safer farming methods.
In some cases, farmers may need to team up and do land reclamation through planting grasses or even trees.
The wave of illegal mining activities countrywide has brought about its fair share of problems to cattle farmers.
Panners cause environmental degradation, yet farmers seem to lack the guts to report to responsible authorities such as the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) or the police.
Illegal miners in some cases use poisonous chemicals which later find their way into nearby water bodies that cattle drink from and get poisoned.
The cattle may either die instantly or later, but the loss comes back to haunt the farmer who did not report the illegal mining activities taking place on the farm or nearby.
Cattle farmers can also help their cause by taking out insurance policies that cover and protect them in case of losses due to natural disasters or even theft.
Such an initiative does not require the Government to instruct anyone, but is part of the business approach that farmers are always talking of when carrying out their activities.
Cattle rearing is no longer done for the purposes of bragging about the large numbers, but the revenue being generated from the activity, hence the need to protect it jealously.
It is exciting to note that parliamentarians are pushing for stiffer custodial sentences for those found guilty of starting veld fires.
These fires have in recent years wreaked havoc across the country.
Veld fires have accounted for hundreds of thousands of hectares of pasture and even crops, while some people have lost their properties and lives.
Farmers need to be actively involved in stamping out this vice by forming watch groups that work with law enforcement agents.
I have seen farmers in Beitbridge taking their cattle for grazing on farms far away from their homes where the cattle get both grass and water with ease.
While this option has worked and saved thousands of cattle, it has its own shortcomings that farmers should note.
Relief grazing entails movement of cattle from one place to another, which means that if they have diseases that are communicable or pests such as ticks, they can easily carry them to the relief grazing areas.
Farmers in problem areas should learn to rely on localised resources, which they can manage for safety.
This is possible through planting their own grass during the wet season and harvesting it for later use.
It is also crucial for such farmers to adopt paddocking as a way of preserving grass because paddocks allow controlled grazing.
Good pasture management is needed to ensure that the available grass is not put to waste. Grass can also be cut and baled for later use.
Those farmers situated in areas where there is abundant grass can also take advantage of the unavailability of grass in other regions by cutting and baling it for sale. This will help them generate income as well as create jobs in the process.
Those farmers in places where grass is not readily available may also need to form groups and jointly seek the cattle feed to cut on transport costs.
It is also prudent for farmers to make use of crop stova for survival feeding during the dry times of the year.
Wise farmers do not just whine over crops succumbing to drought every time, but check if the crop can be harvested or cut to be used for silage- making.
Those in areas like Chiredzi can take advantage of the availability of molasses from sugar cane to get cattle feeds.
On the diseases front, farmers must be prepared to sell a beast or more to buy vaccines, veterinary drugs and dosing medicines for their cattle.
They should not wait for Government programmes that do not always coincide with the farmers’ time of need.
They need to buy acaricides for the control of ticks and dip or spray their cattle regularly to control the spread of tick-borne diseases.