Omaheke excited about new Meatco feedlot

The Governor of the Omaheke Region, Festus Ueitele, welcomes Meatco’s initiative to erect and develop a feedlot on the farm Annasruh. The farm is located about four kilometres north of Gobabis and Ueitele says this is one of the best things to happen in the drought-stricken region in a long time.

This development will boost the weakened economy of the region and contribute greatly to alleviating the high unemployment rate of 33 percent in the region. This situation was worsened last year by the closure of Witvlei Meat abattoir, which saw 200 residents of Witvlei lose their income.

Ueitele told Farmers Forum that the community of Witvlei is still waiting the final ruling on the future of the Witvlei abattoir, which will be decided by the High Court. “Hopefully soon, because someone has to step in and get the plant operational again so that these struggling communities can get jobs again,” he says.

He says farmers in Omaheke are just praying for early rain, as water resources and grazing conditions have been badly depleted. “We live in hope of a better rainy season, otherwise many farmers are not going to make it this year and next year,” he laments.

The feedlot operations are meant to cater for communal and commercial farmers in Gobabis and surrounding areas, namely Eiseb, Epukiro, Otjinene and Rietfontein, with the aim of purchasing more cattle for slaughter.

The exciting Meatco plan comes some seven months after the closure of Witvlei Meat abattoir as the only job provider for almost 200 residents at Witvlei, 50 kilometres from Gobabis where life has become a daily struggle for all. It is predicted that ex-Witvlei Meat workers and their families could also benefit from the planned feedlot close to their living quarters.

The feedlot will start off with 26 pens that will expand to 52 in future. Meatco plans to start off with only 11 200 animals, with about 3 200 standing and to be rotated 3.5 times a year. This will gradually increase to around 12 000 standing cattle over a period of three to five years. The project has the ability to provide 30 000 cattle a year.

There will also be a processing facility for arriving and departing cattle, a feed mixing and storage facility, as well as an additional feed dispenser.

Farmers have long been asking for such a feedlot to help them raise their weaners to slaughter cattle, as the situation with exporting their weaners to South Africa is still in the balance, pending South Africa’s final announcements on import regulations for animals from Namibia.

The feedlot will also improve farmers’ cattle numbers, especially weaners. Gobabis produces a lot of cattle, but with no feedlot in the area farmers end up selling their cattle to other countries since access is easier. Thanks to this development, they will be able to sell their animals directly to Meatco.

Farmers in Omaheke have for years been experiencing problems accessing feedlots and in most cases have to send their cattle to Okahandja or sell to South Africa. With concerns raised by community members, stakeholders and neighbours of the feedlot, Meatco has been undergoing assessment and is following all legal requirements to get the go-ahead for the feedlot.

One of the necessary steps is the Environmental Impact Assessment, where the public was given the opportunity to raise their concerns, or to speak in support of the feedlot.

Special Advisor to the governor, Pijoo Nganate, says the region is known as “cattle country” – something they are very proud of. He adds that cattle on-the-hoof in the area are usually exported to South Africa, but they do not reap the benefits of these transactions.

Many people – an alarming 30% – in the region are unemployed. “It will be great to have a feedlot for both communal and commercial farmers in our region. As much as we have to consider the concerns raised by the community and stakeholders, I believe that with proper communication and due consideration, it will be a positive investment in our region,” Nganate says.

Paul Strydom of the Meat Board concurs with Nganate: “In principle, feedlot operations in direct synergy with abattoirs are an advantage to the Namibian meat industry and such initiatives should be promoted”.

The feedlot will also be to the advantage of the economy as more cattle will be slaughtered, which will increase products for local markets. At the same time the community will benefit from employment opportunities, which is also in line with the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development’s Growth at Home strategy.