Batswana farmers must stop being over reliant on government freebies if they want to sustain their beef and milk industry and make it profitable.
Veterinary surgeon and agricultural consultant, Dr Gaseitsiwe Micheal Sentu said this during the Farmers Field Day held at TCS and 4T’s Simmentaler - Rankgaphane Cattle Post about 4 kilometres from Mookane over the weekend.
Sentu cautioned farmers to desist from embracing drugs or vaccine programmes without first seeking help from qualified relevant professionals. He said farmers are fond of going out to ask for drug programmes available on the market so that they could vaccinate their cattle.
But, such farmers often overlook the fact that programmes available are done by drug manufacturing companies and such companies are looking at encouraging sales of their products. He cautioned farmers to either know or liaise with the veterinary professionals in their areas who will advise them on the kinds of diseases that need to be prevented.
Sentu called on government and its subsidiaries such as Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) to stop buying drugs in bulk from manufacturing companies and in turn pass such drugs to farmers who are interested in buying without having first assessed whether such drugs will be suitable for treatment of the kinds of diseases that exist in their areas.
The theme for this year ‘Conservation Farming and Fodder Production’ was apt since the event was accompanied by a display of high technology equipment and provided a platform to share information on the latest methods of farming which could assist farmers to improve animal production.
It was sponsored by several organisations amongst them Mascom wireless, BMC, First National Bank Botswana, Ministry of Agriculture as well as several companies which brought their machinery for display.
Sentu taught farmers about diseases and how to control them amongst them Trichomonas disease which is a highly contagious disease, and can be controlled by amongst others purchase of virgin bulls from reputable breeders, not using loaned or rented bulls and purchasing tested bulls.
Others are Bovine Viral diarrhoea (BVD) which is a viral disease that afflicts cattle of any age. It is primarily a reproductive disease whose clinical signs can vary from pneumonia to abortions, stunted calves, stillbirths, weak calves, and full blown disease with watery diarrhoea that leads to death.
The management of BVD is testing, identifying and removing all PI animals, vaccinating cattle to protect the herd and keeping the herd closed (fencing) amongst others. There is Brucellosis disease which is primarily a disease of cows. However, bulls can be infected but they do not readily spread the disease although in the bull BVD causes orchitis which may reduce fertility.
Sadly, there is no treatment for the condition, but, vaccination is the key method of control as well as disease surveillance.
Sentu said that production issues on the bull side can be infertility or mostly sub fertility. He said when it comes to bulls; infertility is total lack of production of quality semen. He advised all farmers to desist from just buying any bull because they liked how it looks, but instead to buy a tested bull.
He said that the fertility test is important because fertility changes with health status of a bull during its breeding life and decreases with age, but dominance increases with age and has a negative effect in pregnancy rates.
Sentu advised farmers that it will be suicidal to purchase bulls that are not tested for fertility. He said such test must be done at least every two years. Further, farmers must use BVSC registered vets for all the work.
He cautioned that DVS has a specific mandate in livestock farming that farmers must engage professionals throughout the projects.
He further said farmers must know that reliance on Free State veterinary services is not going to take farming to the next level, but that Botswana cattle could increase if they do regular pregnancy testing in their herd as this is a useful tool and not for the rich.
Sentu said cattle are classified as production animals for meat, milk and hides and the entire economy of farm depends on successful reproduction. Further that reproduction failure or reduction can be due to several factors, and reproduction failure must always be traced to its source as quickly as possible to identify the cause and rectify or mitigate. His advice is that nutrition before and after calving is important for cycling and conception rate. *Body condition score 3 is ideal,
Sentu advised farmers that the choice of a bull for ease of calving is very important as difficult calving leads to endometritis and adhesions which may complicate cycling and conception rates.
He said detection of oestrous by farmer is vital for service and conception rates.