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November 16, 2011

Big cattle herd worries Botswana

by Mpho Tebele

Botswana is struggling to control the number of cattle in the far north of the country.

Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) CEO David Falepau said the massive cattle herd in Ngamiland was due to absence of adequate slaughter facilities. The area, classified a 'red zone', is prone to outbreaks of foot and mouth disease.

'Ecologically there is an over population in Ngamiland. There are insufficient resources to support the capacity. The capacity is 250 000 and the population of cattle in Ngamiland is double that,' he said.

This has seen the government reach an export agreement with Angola through the Agriculture and Trade ministries. 'The prices there (in Angola) are actually stronger than the South African market and definitely stronger than the Botswana market,' said Falepau.

He said they could have built a big abattoir to cater for the area but 'in the end the only really solution was to export live cattle to Angola'.

'There is no problem with exporting cattle from red zone to a country that has seen the disease already; for instance Angola. 'We have been supplying from the green zone (FMD-free areas) to Angola and that is not sufficient,' said Falepau.

He said the breeding system was also to blame for the huge herd and urged farmers to market their beasts at recommended ages.

'The best thing is to reduce the oxen and put weaners in the feedlot to increase the number of cattle available for the valuable market,' he said.

He said the BMC started slaughtering for the Angolan market on October 31, though they faced logistical challenges.

He said the meat commission had identified another lucrative market in the DRC.

Analysts and Members of Parliament have argued against exports of live beasts, saying such a policy had resulted in the collapse of Botswana's ostrich meat industry as buyers started breeding on their own and competing for markets.

However, Falepau said the chances of Angola competing with Botswana for lucrative beef markets were very slim.

'What are the chances of us building Angola's beef industry through live cattle export? Very little to none, it takes a lot of time and many stages are involved for a country's beef market to evolve to that level.'

The commission called for the supply of 650 specified breeds of cattle for live export to Angola from FMD-free zones.

'The 650 cattle would be a once off consignment to assist Angola establish a superior beef-breeding programme. This takes time and cannot be an immediate success that could pose a serious threat to a well-established beef industry like that of Botswana. The important thing for us to focus on now is controlling our cattle herd,' Falepau said.

The BMC CEO said the Department of Veterinary Services would soon apply to the European Union for resumption of exports to that market.

The EU suspended purchasing from Botswana early this year after expressing dissatisfaction with slaughter conditions in the Southern African country.

Southern Times

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