Following last year’s poor rains and the resulting depleted pastures and dry water sources, smallholder cattle farmers close to the border with Mozambique are now taking their livestock to the neighbouring country to access grazing land for a fee.
The 2019-2020 drought affected most parts of Manicaland. However, the problem is reportedly severe in Chipinge, where 13 wards are affected.
In that district, the most affected areas include Kondo, Maronga, Dumisayi, Masimbe, Chibuwe, Maunganidze, Manesa, Rimbi, Mabee, Chisuma and Maparadze.
Farmers in Buhera, Chimanimani and Makoni districts are also singing the blues.
According to statistics from the Department of Veterinary Services, 599 cattle were reported to have died from debilitating conditions associated with poor grazing and the shortage of water in Manicaland since the beginning of this year.
However, the department’s provincial epidemiologist, Dr Innocent Chabanga, said some of these deaths had multi-factorial causes, with some beasts succumbing to a combination of poor feed, disease, pregnancy stress and worm burden. Chipinge District livestock officer, Dr John Mwandifura described the situation as dire and called for all stakeholders to intervene to save the situation.
Dr Mwandifura said desperate farmers risk being duped of their cattle in Mozambique.
“Farmers in the district are camping in Mozambique to graze their cattle. Each household is being charged a beast by the Mozambican community leaders for the pastures. The farmers are now grouping themselves into five or more households so that they can pay using one beast after being considered as one household.
“Besides losing their cattle, the farmers are facing a plethora of challenges ranging from theft of the livestock and foodstuffs. They are also exposing their lives to water borne diseases as the water they are drinking is not safe for human consumption. Then there is the risk of contracting Covid-19 and spreading it back home,” said Dr Mwandifura.
He also said the farmers are exposed to robbers who are taking advantage of their desperate situation as illegal migrants. Dr Mwandifura went on to applaud the interventions being made by some companies in saving the provincial herd.“Montana Meats is promoting a feeder finance scheme where farmers are provided with a pen fattening meal to feed their cattle.
“When ready for sell, Montana Meats will deduct the cost of the feeds and pay the farmer the remainder so that he or she will buy the feeds to save their cattle.
“The Food and Agriculture Organisation has also promised to give stock feeds to 400 beneficiaries in Ward One,” he said. Dr Mwandifura urged farmers to de-stock to avoid huge losses.
Dr Chabanga urged farmers to use supplementary feeding using maize and molasses.
“Some farmers buy baled hay. Feed supplements are also available at most feed distributors. However in communal set-ups, people tend to venture to grazing areas that are further away. Salt blocks help increase appetite and digestibility of dry grass.
“Vitamin injections help improve body condition and resistance to infections. Deworming also helps in getting rid of the worm burden. Worms are responsible for aggravating or causing poor body condition, in particular liver flukes.
“Tick borne diseases are also the major cause of cattle illnesses and deaths. The most common are January disease, Gall sickness, Heartwater and Redwater,” said Dr Chabanga.
Zimbabwe is expected to receive normal to above normal rainfall for the 2020-21 season, with grazing conditions expected to improve. Region 1, which includes parts of Manicaland, will receive normal to above normal rains from October 2020 to March 2021.Region 3, which includes southern parts of Manicaland, will have normal to above normal rains from January to March 2021.