The national cattle population is on the downward trend due to stock theft, says the 2017 annual agriculture survey report.
The results of the latest survey produced by Statistics Botswana indicate that cattle population dropped from 1.3 million in 2015 to 1.1million in 2017 due to an increase in cattle lost due to stray as well as stock theft. As of 2017, about 83,901cattle were lost compared to 8, 571 recorded in 2015 due to the two factors.
The report further pointed that cattle birth rate decreased from 57.9 percent to 50.5 percent in the reference period, which might also had contributed to reduced cattle population in 2017. Cattle mortality rate also declined from 7.1 percent to 6.2 percent and off-take rate from 6.6 percent to 5.7 percent between 2015 and 2017 respectively.
“This implies that there is reduction in cattle deaths which might be attributed to good farming practices. Cattle off-take rates decreased from 6.6 percent in 2015 to 5.7 percent in 2017, indicating lower cattle sales in this period. There is potential to improve the performance of cattle farming in the traditional sector by improving both birth and off-take rates and reducing mortality rates,” read the report.
The cattle population has been rising steadily since 2007, following a five year decline from a peak of three million beasts in 2002. The cattle industry which is the economic mainstay of most of the rural folks was once hit hard by the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease which hiked cattle mortality rates leading to the decrease in cattle population from 2.63 million in 2010 to 2.55 million in 2011. At the time government was forced to slaughter and quarantine beasts from affected areas.
However, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) –European Union (EU) Economic Union Partnership Agreement (EPA) seems to have also created momentum for Botswana’s cattle farming communities for export led animal husbandry. The EPA gives Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Swaziland duty-free, quota-free access to the European market. Having came into effect in October last year, the new SADC-EU EPA framework is gradually bearing fruit as most cattle farmers are already exploiting it. Through the EU agreement, Botswana exports beef duty and quota free to the EU.
On the beef exports, as of last year, about 9,000 tonnes of Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) beef exports were sold to lucrative EU market annually of which 1,600 tonnes is sent to Norway under a quota arrangement. The second most important BMC market after EU is South Africa where parastatal exports 14,000 tonnes of beef annually. Other markets are Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mozambique, Hong Kong, Thailand, Kuwait and Ghana. The Chinese market is also lucrative as they want both red and green offals such as tripe to mention a few. A few years ago, BMC secured supply to the Vietnam market where it is sending 50 tonnes (Two containers per week).
Meanwhile, during the period under review, goats’ population increased from 1,1million in 2015 to 1,2 million in 2017 although the birth rate dropped from 43.6 percent to 39.3 percent. The goats’ mortality rate has also increased tremendously from 16.7 percent to 22.9 percent in the same period. However, the goats’ off-take rate improved from 7.1 percent to 7.3 percent between the two seasons.
The sheep population also increased from 214,234 to 242,600 between 2015 and 2017. Nevertheless, sheep experienced a decrease in birth rate from 36.7 percent to 33.6 percent during the review period, while mortality rate increased to 15.9 percent in 2017 from 11.7 percent recorded in 2015. Off-take dropped significantly from 6.2 percent in 2015 to 4.1 percent in 2017.