THE ravaging drought that has seen pastures depleted and water sources drying up has so far wiped out nearly 5 000 cattle in Matabeleland South Province only while thousands more are at risk if no immediate action is taken, Sunday
News has learnt.
The situation is almost similar in most southern parts of the country with farmers enduring the agony of watching their investments and source of wealth being wiped out.
Statistics obtained from the Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services in Matabeleland South showed that 4 539 cattle have died with the most affected district being Beitbridge where 1 057 cattle have since succumbed to drought.
The second most affected is Insiza where 918 cattle have died while 600 have been lost in Gwanda.
In Matobo, 524 have died and 498 succumbed in Mangwe while the least affected is Umzingwane where 330 cattle have been lost.
Matabeleland South provincial livestock specialist Mr Hatitye Muchemwa said more cattle could have died as the figures represents only the reported incidents.
“Compared to last year, the figure represents nearly 500 percent increase as by this time we had only recorded 1 000 cattle deaths,” he said.
The province has a herd of 658 518 cattle.
Statistics from Matabeleland North could not be readily obtained, but the Department of Veterinary Services provincial officer Dr Polex Moyo told Sunday News recently that cattle in the province were also being affected by the drought.
But it is farmers in Matabeleland South who have suffered more with some saying the situation was unbearable as a majority cannot afford the prices of stock feed while water sources have dried up.
They said everyday they are watching helplessly as their prized wealth is being wasted away.
The chairman of Livestock Farmers Trade Union, Mr Sifiso Sibanda, said while the loss of livestock might be viewed as a loss to individual farmers, it was the national herd that is taking a knock.
The country’s herd stands at slightly more than five million and Matabeleland region used to be the country’s prime cattle producing area but recurrent droughts since 1992 reportedly killed about 60 percent of the provinces’ herd.
“It has been the national herd that has been affected. We have a situation whereby livestock is dropping like flies. In Matabeleland large numbers of animals are dying while this is the beef basket of the country.
No one is doing anything to help the farmers and after this season farmers will be left impoverished and they won’t be able to recover,” he said.
Mr Sibanda said the drought was also inflicting further pain on farmers who have already lost some of their cattle to tick-borne disease which started last year.
Most of the farmers are not only grappling with sourcing stock feed but dipping chemicals have gone up beyond the reach of many with most veterinary shops selling chemicals for as high as $400 per dose.State media