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August 07, 2008

Namibia in moves to increase cattle herd

Namibian parastatal Meatco’s financing scheme has started bearing fruit. The first 70 cattle purchased under the scheme, which aims at raising slaughter-ready cattle, were slaughtered last month.
Project manager, Heiner Böhme, said the figures would pick up towards end of this year.

Close to 60 farmers have until now been approved to participate in the project and more than 7 000 cattle have been procured since the pilot phase of the project was launched in November last year.

Of the 147 famers that applied to participate in the project, 59 of them, representing N$23 million  were approved. The financing scheme, a project of Meatco in conjunction with the Namibia National Farmers Union, the Meat Board, aims to counter Meatco’s dwindling slaughter numbers by providing farmers with the financial and technical support to produce slaughter cattle.

Not only will this increase throughput at Meatco’s abattoirs and secure optimum numbers of marketable cattle to its factories throughout the year, but it will address the large numbers of weaners that leave the country on the hoof every year without value being added to it locally.

According to statistics some 200 000 animals leave Namibia every year for South African feedlots, but the project wants to increase throughput at local Meatco abattoirs and to create a larger local market for locally produced weaners as well as address the problems of underutilisation of farmland for beef production.

With this year’s good rainy season, cattle performed satisfactorily, said Böhme, adding that through the scheme, they would find out what growth to expect considering that growth rates differ from region to region.

The meat processing company has seen a decrease in the number of cattle delivered at its abattoirs since some 12 years ago. Cattle numbers in commercial areas of the south decreased to 110 000 in 2006 from 185 000 in 1986 and 138 000 in 2005.

Two commercial banks, First National and Bank Windhek signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Meatco and have already started approving cattle.

Böhme said the third bank, Standard Bank, still needs to implement the necessary internal products before applications can be accepted, while Nedbank and Agribank have expressed interest to participate and are awaiting approval from their boards of directors.

It is expected that all five banks will have signed MOA’s by end of this month, said Böhme.

The producers have to meet some criteria before they are approved, which include general management practices, available grazing, veterinary practices, infrastructure and genetics, and ability to raise weaners as slaughter cattle should financial assistance become available.

After buying the cattle, Meatco officials go out to the farms to get information relating to age, sex and weight and visit after three months to monitor the performance of the cattle to see if there are problems and if they are gaining weight.

“We want to see the red flags early enough,” he said.

The project will officially be launched under a new name at an event on August 20.

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