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MBABANE – Cattle worth about E60 million have died in the drought-stricken areas since the beginning of the ongoing and persistent drought.

The Ministry of Agriculture has reported that 10 233 animals have died due to the drought. On average, in Swaziland, the minimum price of a beast is E5 500, hence the aforesaid total value (E60 million) of the dead cattle. Mostly affected areas are Malindza, Lavumisa, Hluti, Mliba, Siphofaneni, Lubulini, Lomahasha and Mayiwane.

Minister of Agriculture Moses Vilakati said the cattle deaths account for 2 per cent of the country’s cattle population of 630 000. Vilakati said the number might be higher than the reported, more so because cattle farmers have said some die in the pastures without being noticed and reported to veterinary officers.

Vilakati acknowledged that the situation in the drought-stricken areas was dire as farmers were deprived of their wealth every day. He further said more cattle would die as the drought shows signs of persistence. He went on to say the same situation would repeat itself in the next two years due to extreme climate change. The minister said the drought situation was being worsened by the heatwave.

Vilakati said government understood the requests of some farmers who suggested that they be allowed to graze their cattle in some of the government farms. However, he said government farms have not been spared from the drought. He said Mlindazwe Sisa Ranch, which normally supplies hay bales, could not make any bailing because of insufficient growth. As a result, the ranch is experiencing acute shortage of hay. He went on to say Manyonyaneni was affected by poach grazing such that the body condition of government animals was poor as well. “Other government farms including Mphisi, Nyonyane, Mphala and Kubuta are stocked to maximum capacity.

“It is, therefore, regrettable that government cannot take in anymore cattle. The Ministry of Agriculture will welcome advice or suggestions on private farms that are willing to help take in cattle from affected areas,” the minister said.
The effects of  the dying animals due to the drought was also beginning to be felt by the country’s biggest beef producer and exporter – the Swaziland Meat Industries (SMI).

The company recently said it was experiencing some minimal challenges of sourcing cattle from farmers on Swazi Nation Land (SNL).
SMI’s Beef Production Manager Duncan Mcleod said they were very reliant on feedlotters and individual farmers on Swazi Nation Land for the purchase of cattle. He said the company purchased cattle on a willing-seller-willing-buyer basis at an agreed price.

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