Farming In The Central District

Central is the largest of Botswana’s districts in terms of area and population. It has an area of 147, 930km2 (57, 040 sq. mi) and a population of 638, 604 as stated by the 2011 population census. It encompasses the traditional homeland of the Bamangwato people. Some of the most politically connected Batswana have come from the Central District, including former President Sir Seretse Khama, former President Festus Mogae, and current President Lt. General Seretse Ian Khama.

Main population centers in Central include Palapye and Serowe, two of the country’s largest traditional villages. The district also contains tributaries of the Limpopo River, which are prone to flash floods when sudden rainstorms drain eastward into the Limpopo.

In the northeast, Central borders Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South Provinces, and in the southeast Central borders South Africa’s Limpopo Province. Domestically, it borders the following districts: North-East – northeast, Kgatleng – south, Kweneng – southwest, Ghanzi – west. North-West – northwest.

Sub-districts of Central District include: Bobirwa, headquarters at Bobonong, Boteti, headquarters at Letlhakane,Mahalapye, Serowe Palapye, headquarters at Palapye, Tutume, Tonota, Tswapong. There exist conflicts between agricultural expansion and protection of indigenous wildlife within the Central District.



The district has a semi-arid, sub-tropical climate with rainfall varying from 400mm-500mm per annum. The rainfall season lasts from November to March with January and February generally regarded as the peak months. October and April are transitional months. Almost all rainfall occurs during the summer months (November- March) while the winter period (May-July) accounts for only 10% of the annual rainfall.

The summer season is characterised by very hot days and nights, usually cooling off after the rain spells. Day temperatures can reach 35oC or higher in some places. The heat is tolerable, due to very late humidity. The winters are dry and cold, especially at night. Winter temperatures can fall as low as 2oC and occasionally sub- zero temperatures are recorded in places near rivers and water points.


Most parts of the Central District have good grazing condition except in Boteti and Bobirwa Sub Districts which have most of their rangelands infiltrated by poor grass species and forbs such as Tribulus terrestis (Mosetlho) and others. Boteti Sub-District has low rangeland productivity due to the nature of the soil type (clayey floodplains) which are intermittently broken into pans which have no vegetation cover. Apart from pans, the area has extensive coverage of Acacia hebeclada (Sekhi) that restricts good herbaceous growth. Other species dominant in central district are Acacia arenaria, Peltophorum africanum (weeping wattle, mosetlha), Grewia bicolor (Mogwana) and Grewia flava (raisin bush, moretlwa) dominating. In the bush savanna area, there are mostly bushes and grasses and the dominating plants are mostly Acacia species, Terminalia sericea (silver Terminalia, mogonono), Acacia erioloba (camel thorn, mogotlho), Colophospermum mopane (mopane,mophane), Adansonia digitata (baobab, mowana), Boscia abitrunca (shepherd’s tree, motlopi), Acacia mellifera(black thorn, mongana), and Dichrostachys cineria (Moselesele). Also grasses such as Cynodon dactylon (couch grass, motlhwa) around Makgadikgadi pans and Lake Ngami while Croton gratissimus (lavender croton, mologa) is found near hilly areas.



There are several seasonal rivers in the district including the Boteti River and the Lepashe River, whose flows in the rainy season reach the Makgadikgadi Pans. The district is also well piped with access to water. There are numerous boreholes that supply water and act as reliable source for livestock since most farmers drill boreholes in their farms while others use community boreholes as a source of water.

Also harvesting of rainwater is a source of relief in areas where there is shortage of water and where underground water is salty for human and/or animal consumption. Building water harvesting structures either using the non-catchment and either underground or above ground storage tanks. They also help farmers whose cattle post and arable lands are not near water pipes or water sources not to travel long distances to fetch water. Since the rainfall is fairly good, large scale water harvesting can help one as a farmer to relieve the pressure on scarce underground water supply and also be used to redistribute livestock grazing pressure by having the choice and flexibility of changing water points in grazing areas.


This district is ideal for pastoral farming as the vegetation is fairly good. With good pastures most livestock breeds are able to thrive even small stock since they are easy to handle therefore this is one of the fields that a farmer can opt to venture in as it has proved to have high merits. Dairy farming is also common here with dual purpose breeds mostly being used. This are some of the good quality breeds that can perform well in this region for meat and dairy producers.

Tswana -Tolerant to local conditions
Brahman -Heat and tick tolerant

-Disease resistant


Simmental Should be considered as it has the:


-milking ability

-Superior weight gain

-Carcass yield


-Rapid growth

Charolais -Charolais are good for growth and uniformity

-They have superior natural live weight gain for age

-Tremendous muscling and conformity

-Easy to manage in terms of temperament

-Ease of calving

– The ability to fit into any system – grass based or intensive

Bonsmara- composite breed

[5/8 (62.5%) Afrikaner

3/8 (37.5%)Hereford or Shorthorn]



-Can graze extensively

-They are well adapted to sub-tropical climate.

-Produce high quality meat

-High fertility

-Good calving rate

-Calm temperament and easy to handle

-Suitable for use in crossbreeding

Beefmaster – composite breed

[50% Brahman


25% Shorthorn]

-This is a dual purpose breed that blends strong maternal traits with excellent growth and carcass abilities.

-The cattle are heat, drought and insect resistant.

– You can expect minimal calving problems,

– heavy weaning weights,

-exceptionally few health problems,

– High fertility from females and bulls.

Tswana/Brahman crossbreed -Combines the good characteristics of the two breeds as stated above.
Simbra (Brahman + Simmental) -Higher reproductive performance

– Faster growth rate, Viable

-Combines strengths of Brahman and Simmental

Brown Swiss (dual purpose breed-meat + milk) -Good grazers

– Large size, strong and vigorous

-are robust, prolific breeders, long-lived, adaptable and very well-balanced in build with good hooves and limbs.

-double utility breed that is used for dairy and beef purposes providing good milk and meat output.

-Quiet temperament and inquisitive nature

-good strength and high breed vigor.

Holstein/Friesian (Dairy breed) -noted for greater body size.

-don’t thrive on poor pastures therefore supplementary feeding is needed.

-Heifers can be bred at 15 months of age.

-have the highest milk production in the world.

-Holsteins produce vigorous calves distinguished by rapid growth, early maturity and easy care.

-compared to natural breeds, are not as resistant to heat and diseases when in difficult agro-ecological areas. Their reaction to such conditions is a reduced production capacity.

-in the case of cross breeding with natural breeds, the calves show a higher heat tolerance and higher production figures.

Ayrshire (Dairy breed) -Excel in udder conformation and are not subject to excessive foot and leg problems.

-medium sized cattle.

-calves have vigor and are strong and easy to raise.

-they are known for low somatic cell counts, ability to convert grass into milk efficiently and hardiness.

-desired traits of easy calving and longevity.

Guernsey (Dairy breed) -Good grazer

-Very docile cows; alert and active, not nervous or irritable.

-Milk has golden color because of high carotene content.

-High butterfat content

-Good dairy conformation.

-Guernseys reach reproductive maturity at an early age and can calve at 22 months of age.

-They produce calves big at birth, which are easy to rear.

-their fawn and white coat enhances their heat tolerance and reduces heat stress, which adds to their ability to maintain production levels anywhere.

Jersey (Dairy breed) -Excellent grazers.

-More tolerant of heat than larger breeds.

Smallest of the dairy breeds: relatively small in size- about 400 to 450kg in weight.

-Docile and easy to manage.

-No calving problems, greater fertility, a shorter calving interval and earlier maturity.

-Jerseys perform well under a wide range of systems and are well known for their high feed conversion efficiency.

-Jerseys are less susceptible to mastitis.

Dairy shorthorn (Dairy breed) -Milking shorthorn breed is the most versatile of all breeds and this is one of its greatest attributes,

-this docile cows efficiently produce large volumes of nutritious milk each lactation and are large enough to have a high salvage value when their long productive lives come to an end.

-Ease of calving.

-Ease of management and economy of production, especially on home produced roughages and grass.


Tswana breed Tolerant to local conditions making it

-Heat and tick resistant

-Disease resistant

-Good for both meat and milk

Boer Goat -High fertility

-High twining rate sometimes triples

-Large build hence good for meat production

Kalahari Red -Large goat hence good for meat production


-Good mothering ability

-long legs; excellent walking ability enabling large coverage to find browse.


Tswana Tolerant to local conditions

-large build hence good for meat

Karakul (Swakara) -Good milkers

– lambs grow rapidly

-Tolerates arid conditions

– Has many uses- pelts, meat, wool

Awassi sheep One of the oldest sheep breeds but not common to this country.

-thrive even under arid conditions and extreme temperatures.

Dorper -Mutton sheep

-Fat is white: character that would make carcass easy to market

-Hardy breed



In order to start on farming there are some basic resources needed for the enterprise to function well. This include:

  • Firstly one has to acquire land where they will be able to rear their animals on.
  • Secondly water source is vital for drinking by animals as well as for keeping the farm working, this can be a borehole, dam etc. but where needed water rights must always be available.
  • Animal identification is also vital in terms of branding so that when the animals are obtained, they can be identified and linked to the owner.
  • Livestock- be it cattle, sheep, goats or a combination of them depending on one’s preference.
  • Infrastructure- such as kraals, fencing for farm, crush, storeroom and if possible storage for feeds and supplements
  • Tools- for day to day management of livestock e.g. hoof trimmers, budizzo, brand, ear tags etc.
  • Labour- to help around with the day to day caring and handling of livestock.


Some infrastructures such as kraals can be made or constructed by the farmer to reduce costs such as kraals and crushes as specifications can be freely obtained from the department of animal production. The costs incurred in livestock production differs according to the type of system a farmer wishes to engage in. The scale in terms of size of operation also affects the costs. Farmers should remember however not to judge the project feasibility with simple cost vs profit, as it does not give a practical answer, Technical and Strategical Feasibility studies should be done. In short these costs can be summarized as:

Fixed costs

– Land and Land Developments (fencing, gates, poles etc.)

-Boreholes (Water Sources)

-Animals: Breeding Bulls/Rams/Bucks

Breeding Cows/Ewes/Does

Weaners etc.

-Permanent Labour

-Infrastructure (Handlings; Kraals, Storage Areas, Crushes, Holding pans, etc.)

Variable costs

-Casual Labour


-Diesel / Oil

-Drugs (Medication)



-Farm equipment



-Feed and supplements



-Insurance (animals)



It is wise to always be on the lookout for notifiable diseases in the country as deemed by the department of veterinary services for livestock as some can go across zones with vaccination campaign being carried out annually for these diseases.

The following diseases have been reported/showing up in the district:

Phosphorus deficiency (magetla, hypophosphataemia) Phosphorus deficiency can result in

  • low conception rates,
  • reduced feed intake,
  • poor feed efficiency,
  • lower growth rate,
  • reduced milk production,
  • reproductive failures
  • Skeletal abnormalities.
  • A common symptom of phosphorus deficiency is often seen as an abnormal habit of eating or chewing foreign substances such as dirt or wood.

– A Vitamin D deficiency or an excess in dietary calcium will reduce the absorption of phosphorus. The most critical need for phosphorus is the last trimester of pregnancy (2-3 months pre-calving) and the period immediately prior to breeding season.

Supplement regularly especially livestock in their trimester of calving.

-Mineral licks to correct mineral imbalances such as:

  • Dicalcium phosphate
  • Monosodium phosphate

-Report the case to the veterinary officer who will give injections of phosphamine.

Lumpy skin (LSD) (Nkokomane)



-eruption of painful skin nodules which covers neck, brisket, back, thighs, legs, perineum(portion of the body wall that covers pelvic outlet; surrounds anus and terminal parts of the urogenital tract), udder and scrotum.

– Nodules may occur on nostrils and mouth causing salivation and Respiratory obstruction

– Abortion may occur

– Lameness

– Animals are vaccinated annually to protect cattle against LSD.

-Infected animals should be quarantined to prevent spread.

– Use of insecticides and repellents aid in the prevention of the spread of LSD by killing insects like mosquitoes.

– Animals affected cannot cross to other zones.

– Close monitoring of animals is vital

Beef measles Beef measles is a cause for concern in the beef market as it causes a loss in foreign market such as the EU which does not accept affected meat.

-it has become prevalent in our meat of late.

-This disease is caused by beef tapeworm cysticerus bovis which is found within muscles of cattle at meat inspection.

-There are no visible signs as measles can only be detected in meat after slaughter causing the meat to be disqualified from the EU market.

– meat is then put in cold storage treatment for 10-14 days and later sold to non EU markets at very low prices which is a great loss to a beef producer.

-This makes this disease of great importance as it can cripple one’s business in livestock.

1) Avoid faecal contamination of cattle feed and grazing areas. Farm workers and visitors must practice good hygiene, and toilets must be strategically provided.

2) Avoid access by cattle to pastures infected with human waste.

3) Identify farm workers infected with the adult tapeworm and give them effective treatment. You may consult your medical practitioner or pharmacist for more information about the available types of drugs.

4) Sell your cattle to an abattoir where competent meat inspection is practiced so that infected carcasses may be detected before it can be taken to the market.

6) Since beef measles affects both humans and cattle to maintain its life cycle, make an effort to participate in all multi sector committees at community or national level that are concerned with measles prevention and control.

Heartwater (metsi a pelo) -Prominent in goats especially those that move in from other districts.

-Also in exotic breeds as they are not resistant and can result in sudden death.

-Animal in good condition suddenly collapses with legs pedaling and death within hours.

-Walk in circles.

-It can be treated with Tetracycline dose rate of 10 mg/kg for 3 days.

-Prevention is by:

  • Tick control by regular             application of an acaricide (dipping).
  • Vaccination against heartwater to animals being first introduced to an endemic area.

(Mushi, 1995, Mushi et al., 1999)


  • Internal parasites during rainy season when grazing areas are lush such as stomach worms (wireworms, flat worms, round worms) and therefore regular de worming should be practiced to keep livestock in good health.
  • External parasites such as ticks that can cause diseases such as red water/tick fever (babesiosis-caused by blue tick) in cattle and sheep. It would be best to regularly inspect animals for external parasites and dip regularly.
  • Lies, flies- insect repellents are the best aid against these.


There are presences of predators such as;

  • jackals,
  • wolves,
  • lions, wild dogs
  • cheetahs and leopards

Which leave the wild life parks and game reserve and filter to farmlands where they pounce on calves and smallstock because of their size and vulnerability. But to this end, guard dogs and assistance from Cheetah Conservation Botswana who teach how to co-exist with these predators as well as working closely with the Department of Wildlife and the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment who also educate farmers on ways of dealing with predators without necessarily killing them is the best way to deter this problem. Also making sure that farm fences are in good shape and kraals are impenetrable can also prevent attacks as predators would not have access especially at night.

Poisonous plants

In general, poor grazing management means there are less different kinds of plants in the veld. But farmers should be most concerned about the loss of certain valuable plants, and their replacement with plants that have little or no value for people or livestock. This gives the less nutritious and poisonous plants an advantage and they gradually take over the veld. In addition to thorny plants, poisonous plants become more common as the condition of the veld deteriorates. For example Slangkop (Snake’s Head lily) causes diarrhoea, bloated abdomen, heart failure and sudden death in livestock. Since there are few effective remedies for poisoning, it is better to try and prevent poisonous plants getting established in the first place through good veld management. There are many range plants in the wilderness that animals are exposed to and they are distributed countrywide. Farmers should ensure that livestock do not browse or graze in areas where these are found. Some examples are:

Scientific name English name Setswana name
Solanum incanum

Dichapetelum cymosum

Euphorbia tirucalli

Euphorbia mauritanica

Cucumis myriocarpus

Datura stramonium

Cotyledon orbiculata

Lantana camara

Thorn apple, nightshade

Poison leaf

Rubber hedge plant

Wild striped cucumber

Thorn apple

Pig ear

Tick berry

Tholwana/ morolwana








Source: Mushi et al. (1999), Kasozi et al. (1999)


Various individuals and organizations can assist anyone interested in venturing into livestock farming in different ways. Some can share experience, others can advise on where to start, who to seek help from, what you need as well as how to run the farm successfully. Some organizations are solely there for funding in order to kick start the business. Some of them are:

  • Department of veterinary services
  • Department of animal production
  • Botswana meat commission
  • Established Farmers and feedlots
  • CEDA
  • Young Farmers Fund
  • Youth Development Fund
  • LEA
  • Farmers Associations
  • Independent outlets like agrifeed and other feed centers, veterinarians etc.

As an aspiring farmer or an already established farmer who wants to make their farm a successful it is important to know everything about your field, in order to minimize problems or setbacks and gain impeccable results or outcomes. With all this knowledge in your hand it’s up to you to take the first step into utilizing it and turning it into reality, gold, a successful enterprise because there is a bright future in livestock farming especially in a region or district that is rich in resources as well as experience and history of livestock farming that one can build on. Let the farming begin! Best of luck!