FARMING IN THE SOUTH EAST DISTRICT

The South East District is one of the smallest of Botswana’s 9 Districts. It is bound to the southwest by the Southern District, to the northwest by the Kweneng District and in the north by the Kgatleng District. The entire eastern part of the district borders with South Africa. The South East district development plan 6: 2003-2009 states that the geographic setting of the South East District is different from other Districts in the sense that it is mid- way between the fastest growing cities in Africa namely Gaborone and Lobatse Town. These urban areas restrict the growth of the District as they from time to time encroach within its administrative boundaries.

 

South East District occupies an area of around 1 780km2 in the southern region of Botswana. Only a little more than one half of the total land is tribal land. The Batlokwa tribal area covers 215km2, while the Bamalete tribal area covers 670km2. The remaining land is divided between freehold farms and state land.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL FEATURES

Climate

The climate in the District is semi-arid with a summer rainfall (October – March) of about 475-525 mm per annum. The experienced rainfall is further described as short high intensity spells and only on few occasions does heavy rain account for the bulk of the annual precipitation.

Although these patterns have been somewhat erratic of late, the District can generally expect well over 500mm of rain in a normal year. Locally, the hilly areas in the south and west of Otse experience slightly heavier rainfall patterns than the rest of the District. This benefits the numerous water schemes in the area, including the Gaborone reservoir.

As in the rest of the country, evaporation mostly occurs between the months of January to April, that is, in the peak of the rainy season. Somehow, large quantities of water are retained in the soil especially during summer. It is mostly humid in the early hours of the morning and evening hours compared to the high evaporation between 1300 and 1600 hours.

Temperatures exhibit high annual and diurnal ranges. Mean maximum temperatures range between 19.6 degrees Celsius and 40 degrees Celsius in summer. In winter the temperatures go below zero degrees in the extreme cold winter nights.

The above clearly shows the semi-arid continental climate which is typical for areas at the edge of a desert with little or no maritime influence. Major characteristics of this climate are daily temperature differences where there is intensive heating of air and topographic base during the day and respective cooling during the night (South East District Development Plan 6:2003-2009).

Vegetation

South-East district has good grazing condition in all extension areas due to good rainfall that the District has continued to receive over the reporting period except around Tlokweng area where it can be categorized as being fair due to bush encroachment from Acacia species and Dichrostachys cineria (Moselesele). The herbaceous species composition is dominated by good and intermediate forage value species such as Panicum maximum(Mhaha), U. trichopus (Phoka), Eragrostis rigidor (Rathathe), Eragrostis lehmaniana (Rathathe),Aristida congesta(Seloka), Digitaria species (Namele) and Schmidtia pappophoroides (Tshwang). Presence of browsable woody species – mostly of good and intermediate value – contributes to forage availability to livestock. (http://www.mewt.gov.bw)

Water

Though the South East District is noted and envied for its richness in underground water resources, it is worthy of note that the underground water in the Ramotswa planning area has been declared polluted and inconsumable. This problem has affected all the four boreholes which had been supplying Ramotswa therefore water can be a bit of a problem in that area as borehole water is not safe.

WHAT TO KEEP

Many breeds can thrive in this area since it is one of the developed districts in the country with access to resources, it has a similar ecological state to southern thence their similarities in breeds. Mostly crossbreeds are ideal in this area as they combine good qualities of their respective breeds.

CATTLE BREEDS REASON
Tswana -Tolerant to local conditions
Brahman -Heat and tick tolerant

-Disease resistant

-hardy

Simmental Should be considered as it has the:

-fertility

-milking ability

-Superior weight gain

-Carcass yield

-Temperament

-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%Hereford

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

GOAT BREEDS REASON
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

-hardy

-Good mothering ability

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

SHEEP REASON
Tswana Tolerant to local conditions

-large build hence good for meat

Karakul -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

WHAT YOU WILL NEED

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.

WHAT YOU PAY

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
  • Transport
  • Diesel / Oil
  • Drugs (Medication)
  • Chemicals
  • Tools
  • Farm equipment
  • Mortality
  • Electricity
  • Feed and supplements
  • Water
  • Marketing
  • Insurance (animals)

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

Diseases

Notifiable diseases in the country as deemed by the department of veterinary services for livestock as some can go across zones with vaccination starting in May for rabies and June for other diseases.

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

DISEASE DISCRIPTION/SYMPTOMS PREVENTION/TREATMENT
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)

*Cattle

-Fever

-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 tapewormcysticerus 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:

ü Tick control by regular application of an acaricide (dipping).

ü Vaccination against heartwater to animals being first introduced to an endemic area.

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

Parasites

  • 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.

Predators

There are presences of predators such as;

  • jackals,
  • cheetahs and
  • leopards

Which pounce on calves and small stock 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

There are many range plants in the wilderness that animals are exposed to and they are distributed countrywide. Some range plants are classed as poisonous plants because if they are eaten by livestock they may suffer from plant poisoning with symptoms ranging from diarrhea, vomiting, shallow breathing, paralysis and even death. Farmers should ensure that livestock do not browse or graze in areas where these are found. The most troublesome plant in this area is Mogau. 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

Mogau

Motsetse

Mosimama

Monyaku

Mokhure

Moithimodiso

Selaole

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

Some are classified as weeds but can be harmful to animals such as Argemone Mexicana (Mexican poppy/lopero) and Tribulus terrestris (Devil’s thorn/mosetlho).

WHO TO TALK TO

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.

Livestock farming just like any other enterprise requires headwork and determination, but when you have a passion for it the rest is easy. Equip yourself with the right knowledge and skills for it that way when you start your business success follows. Best of luck!