OVER 22 000 drought-related cattle deaths were recorded between October 2015 and February 2016 due to poor pasture conditions countrywide in the cattle producing regions.
Reports indicate that in the southern parts of the country, pastures have not been able to regenerate, affecting cattle body conditions and livestock prices.
The Zimbabwe Food Security Outlook to September 2016 said half of these deaths were in Chiredzi and Chipinge districts in the south eastern parts of the country.
“These deaths are atypical for this time of the year. Government and partner agencies are promoting supplementary feeding of livestock because of the poor cattle body conditions. Due to water shortages, dipping activities are also being affected in some areas because some cattle are unfit for plunge dipping,” the report said.
Pasture regeneration is expected to be lower due to two consecutive poor rainfall seasons and record high temperatures. However, in the north, conditions are expected to be better than in the south, resulting in better livestock prices.
However, Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union president, Abdul Nyathi, said despite the poor pasture conditions, there was hope after the country received significant rains in most parts of the country.
“Despite the increase in the number of cattle deaths, pastures are expected to improve although there are a few areas that did not receive the rains that have been falling in most parts of the country.
“The conditions were poor in areas like Chipinge in Manicaland South, Masvingo, Midlands West, Matabeleland North and South, Muzarabani, Mtoko and Rushinga, but we expect the situation to improve as pasture conditions improve due to the rains received in the last five days,” Nyathi said.
He added that reports from the provinces indicated that rivers in some areas were now flowing and dam levels had improved significantly as reported by the Zimbabwe Water Authority (ZINWA).
ZINWA last week reported that dam levels in the Manyame, Gwayi and Mazowe catchment areas had improved, with some dams reaching 100 percent capacity. Nationally, 31 percent of boreholes are no longer functional due to low water levels. In some areas, most of the few dams with water are now reserved exclusively for livestock.
In Mtoko district, cattle have to move long distances of between 20 to 30 km to water points as the grazing and water situation in the area has deteriorated.
“Grazing is generally poor, affecting cattle body conditions. There are no livestock supplementary feeds on the markets and no stover or crop residue from last season. Some 20 percent of functional dip tanks in the district are not in use due to shortage of water. Distress sale of livestock is being reported, resulting in lower than typical incomes for households. Cattle prices have reportedly dropped from an expected US$350 to US$400 this time of the year to US$200 and US$300, with some cattle at one auction in mid-January selling for US$100 a beast,” the Zimbabwe Food Security Outlook report said.
“The poor performance of the rainfall season is expected to have a sustained impact on poor water and pasture conditions for livestock. Though cattle will experience some moderate recovery between February and April, it is expected most will be in poor body condition from May through September. This will affect potential sales and incomes. Distress cattle sales are expected to increase from July through September, reducing potential household incomes during this period.”
Already, up to 70 percent of crops have failed in some of the most drought-affected districts in the south due to prolonged dry spells and record high temperatures. In most northern districts crops are also being subjected to moisture stress at the critical reproductive stage.
Follow us on Twitter on @FingazLive and on Facebook – The Financial Gazette