Livestock farmers should start implementing drought mitigation strategies to save livestock if dry conditions persist.
Destocking is advisable during this time of the year when the animals are still in good condition and can fetch good prices on the market.
Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) chief director Dr Josphat Nyika said the season had not been well in terms of rains and farmers should start planning for supplementary feeding for their livestock in case the situation worsens.
“There is no bulk grazing. Farmers should quickly look at hay baling and those who can should maintain all the stover for use on on-farm feed formulations.
“While crop residues are a good substitute for grazing, farmers should be careful to avoid poisoning.
“Crop residues are a good substitute for grazing, but should not be used immediately after applying urea and ammonium nitrate as this has a poisonous effect.
“Farmers should start buying supplementary feeding, destock this time of the year to avoid desperate sells. We should consider weaning off early so we give the cow time to recover so that it will be in good condition even if drought comes,” he said.
Dr Nyika said unproductive cattle could be culled.
“Farmers should sell old and unproductive cattle sand they can get assistance from the department when assessing the cattle.
“Farmers should also take care of their livestock by conducting weekly dipping to avoid tick-borne diseases.
“The department has enough dipping chemicals to last until June so farmers should present their livestock for dipping,” he said.
Dr Nyika also urged farmers to vaccinate their cattle against soil borne disease such as anthrax, blackleg and botulism.
He urged farmers to apply tick grease to cattle to protect against tick-borne diseases.
“Watch out for veld poisoning through toxic plants such as umkauzaan, lantana camara, bitter apple and thorny apple especially when the introducing animals to a new place,” he said.