All eyes on Botswana for livestock rebuilding

November 15, 2013 11:35 AM

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WINDHOEK – Live exports increased by 150 percent from January to September 2013 compared to last year January to September. Up until September this year, 222 206 cattle were exported to South Africa and Angola on the hoof. Meatco slaughtered 98 392 cattle while independent abattoirs and butcheries slaughtered 34 286 cattle. Further, about 63 percent of all cattle marketed during this period were exported, according to information from Meatco.

According to Meatco’s Executive for Policy Innovation, Stakeholder Relations and Corporate Affairs, Vehaka Tjimune, this year’s poor veldt conditions and the cattle markets outside the borders are the main factors that affect the high export cattle numbers.

“Due to the drought, the veldt conditions of many farmers have deteriorated tremendously. The increase in live exports during this period was the effect of many farmers in a state of panic, because of the poor veldt conditions that their herds had to adapt to,” Tjimune said.

Grass in the Namibian veldt is still very scarce. This situation caused some farmers to market their cattle as quickly as possible before the quality of their cattle dropped any further. As a consequence, the Namibian market was flooded with live cattle and meat and this caused prices to decrease in Namibia and in South Africa. Some farmers decided to market their cattle in Angola, where they get more value for their animals at the moment.

New Era reported last week that the increase of imports to South Africa from Namibia has reached 282 percent, increasing supply in that country and further pushing prices down. The consequences of cattle leaving Namibia will affect the whole cattle and slaughter industry for the next three years. Tjimune forecasts that more than 280 000 cattle will have left the country on the hoof by the end of 2013.

“These exports are a combination of weaners, cows and slaughter oxen. Namibian farmers have exported too many cattle and kept too little cattle for restocking and herd building,” says Tjimune.

The consequence of this chain results in limited calves, few weaners, limited stores and few slaughter oxen up to 2016. This implies that the effects of the current drought in 2013 will have serious implications for the livestock and slaughter industry for the coming three years.

“This situation calls for an immediate and deliberate policy intervention if Namibia wants to have a healthy and well-functioning livestock and slaughter industry after this drought,” says Tjimune.

“In a normal herd building cycle, it takes about three to four years to build a herd, but after this year’s drought it would take much longer. The fact remains that it will be three very challenging years for the cattle and slaughter industry countrywide,” he said. Compounding the problem is the closure of the South African borders to imports of live livestock because of the recent foot-and-mouth disease status alert.

Currently, Botswana is an alternative country that can be considered by farmers according to Tjimune. As from August 2013 to December 2013, the borders of Botswana are open for live cattle exports. However, the Namibian border is closed for the import of animals from Botswana. “Currently, Botswana is the only African country that can assist Namibia with herd building. Once South Africa’s health status is cleared they will also be able to assist us. These countries are the only African countries that have the same quality standards as Namibia. They are our only hope to herd building for the next three years,” Tjimune said.


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