Government is concerned by the declining population of livestock, which has a deleterious effect on beef exports to the European Union, Norway and other markets.
Speaking during the official opening of Kweneng Beef Farmers Association Field Day held at Lemashwe cattle post on Saturday, deputy permanent secretary, technical services Dr Cassius Moreki from the Ministry of Agriculture Development and Food Security said climate change was a major contributory factor to the decline.
He said it was necessary therefore that farmers together with government reverse the decline in livestock population by finding ways of dealing with climate change effects.
Dr Moreki said the theme; Improving Botswana Beef for Better Returns is well thought, appropriate and consistent with the ministry’s vision of A Prosperous Agricultural Sector with Global Competitiveness as well as the mission of improving food security.
He said agriculture was one of government’s priority areas and as a result, a number of government initiatives had been put in place to support the livestock sub-sector.
“These include restructuring of Botswana Meat Commission, beef liberalisation, cluster development, special ISPAAD, LIMID, use of artificial insemination (AI) technology and drought subsidy”.
Dr Moreki said one way of reversing declining livestock population was through the use of AI, which government had been promoting since 1966. But he note with concern that the 15 AI camps throughout the country were underutilised.
He therefore urged farmers to utilise the technology as it accorded them an opportunity to acquire high genetic material cheaply and also use on farm AI, which had been promoted since 1994 with free inseminator training and technical support to farmers.
The deputy permanent secretary told farmers that gone were the days when cattle were kept for prestige, but must keep breeds which can tolerate ever changing climatic conditions.
He said it was expensive to keep heavy breeds as they needed more feeds, and advised use of crop residues as feed ingredients in feeding cattle. He added that farmers should utilise government subsidy on feed and veterinary requisites, which had been running since December 2018.
He said the contribution of livestock to the agricultural Gross Domestic Product in the SADC region was estimated to be 20-36 percent while in Botswana the agriculture’s share of GDP was estimated to be 2.2 percent compared to over 40 percent at independence in 1966. Over 80 percent of agriculture’s share of the GDP is attributed to the livestock sub-sector.
Giving a keynote address, Mr Thapelo Setlalekgosi, a farmer from Mookane, encouraged young farmers to be passionate of what they want and where they want to see themselves.
He told them that a farmer had to be equipped with knowledge of anything that had to do with his animals so that they could act without too much reliance on veterinary doctors. Mr Setlalekgosi said together with his brother they started cattle business when they were young, but it was not an easy journey.