AT least 16 000 head of cattle have succumbed to drought in Matabeleland South amid growing fears of a looming water shortage in some parts of province as water bodies are fast drying up.
Cattle farmers in Beitbridge, among them Vice-President Kembo Mohadi, told The Chronicle that the numbers of animals succumbing to drought continued to increase, forcing some to sell their livestock for a song.
VP Mohadi has so far lost 271 cattle at his farm with figures continuing to increase.
His lawyer, Mr Norman Mugiya said the Vice-President was losing an average of about 10 beasts a day.
Beitbridge East legislator Cde Albert Nguluvhe said he lost more than 100 cattle at his farm in Bubi area. He said the increase in the number of deaths in most parts of the district was due to water shortages.
“Most cattle are forced to walk long distances in search of water and clearly an already starving cow or beast going through such a challenging situation is not likely to survive. We are saying Government should support farmers by providing them with tractors and slashers so that they can be able to cut grass growing on roadsides and feed their cattle,” he said.
Mr Tamson Lamola of Mazunga resettlement area, said he lost 25 cattle in the last three months. He said despite efforts to save his livestock through providing feeding, water shortages continued to haunt the area due to drying water sources.
Mr Lamola said so far, he has spent $25 000 on stock feed, which is not readily available locally.
“We are appealing to the Government to avail more stock feed to affected areas as we are struggling to access the commodity locally,” he said.
Mr Lamola said some unscrupulous cattle buyers were now capitalising on the situation by buying beasts for as little as R800 to R1 000 from desperate farmers.
According to official statistics Beitbridge is the worst affected district in Matabeleland South province with more than 4 000 deaths while Bulilima has lost 2 697, Gwanda (2 569), Insiza (2 367), Matobo (1 736), Mangwe 1 434 and Umzingwane (390).
Matabeleland South provincial veterinary officer, Dr Enat Mdlongwa said the figure has since surpassed 16 000 as more cattle continue to die.
“Cattle are dying and its terrible situation and when we are looking at our statistics the number of deaths is now at around 16 000 and these are recorded cases and I am convinced it’s more than that,” he said.
Dr Mdlongwa said as part of intervention methods, farmers should consider destocking and continue feeding their cattle.
“We also encourage farmers to grow a bit of some fodder since some parts of the province received rains so that young animals can be saved,” he said.
Ms Sibongile Moyo, a widow from Thornwood Village in Gwanda District, said she lost all her cattle, including three heifers she acquired under the Command Livestock programme.