Northern Cattle Substandard

Current productivity levels of cattle herds in the NCAs are sub-optimal compared to commercial farmers in the south. Calving rate is on average 45% and calf mortality rate is on average 12%.

This is mainly a nutrition problem due to fodder scarcities a result of poor rangeland management, says Bertus Kruger of Agra ProVision. Presenting a study on the informal trade of beefcattle in the NCAs during last week’s Millennium Challenge Account Namibia (MCA-N)’s Livestock Support Activity Workshop in Windhoek, Kruger said a total of 8,784 cattle were exported to Angola in 2013 with a steep increase in numbers since the middle of last year when the moratorium of the export of breeding stock was lifted by Government in reaction to the drought. This represents just over 5% of all cattle taken off in 2013. Most of these animals are believed to be mostly breeding stock from the NCAs as well as from south of the VCF, showing that there is a real demand for good quality breeding stock from Namibia.

Kruger says the formal off-take was found to be only 18.5% of the slaughter capacity of Meatco and other abattoirs in the region, leaving a lot of scope for improvement. Even if the full capacity of Meatco and other abattoirs is used, only 3.2% of the total off-take can be absorbed. Informal off-take, therefore, will continue to play a considerable and vital role in the commercialisation of cattle farming in the NCAs. Kruger recommends that local authorities, with the support of the Directorate of Veterinary Services (S) should upgrade hygiene and control at abattoirs, “slabattoirs” and other places where cattle are slaughtered for the informal market.

“Farmers should be supported to market animals of higher quality to the local markets. Quality

aspects like age and body condition are the most important to address. Farmers should be supported to enhance higher reproduction levels through better animal health practices, best practices on herd management in general and better rangeland management,” he notes and says training and mentoring on improved livestock breeding and husbandry should be further supported and rolled out.

“The market for export of breeding stock to Angola should be maintained and further developed.

It is however important to properly manage it to ensure that it does not excessively drain our genetic resources. Meatco should improve their off-take from the current low levels of below 1% to at least 3% within the next five years.

The following serve as pointers for the way forward:

– The findings, conclusions and recommendations from this study should be incorporated into current and future strategies to commercialise cattle production in the Northern Communal Areas (NCAs).

– The extensive data-base developed in this study should be readily available to all role players in the cattle industry.

– This database should be regularly updated to track progress over time.

Source : New Era