WITH the drought lingering on and little or no rain having been received in most parts of the country, breeding stock numbers are dwindling to crises levels.
Cattle are leaving the country at an alarming rate. Even worse is the fact that up to 50 percent of export animals to feedlots in South Africa are female.
Cattle traders are having the time of their lives, with too many animals on offer for their feedlots. They can virtually pick and choose at auctions.
Many hundreds of animals are being bought on the hoof from farms where farmers just cannot afford to feed their stock anymore.
Prices, however, remain fair, considering type and condition of animals on offer. In the eastern, central and central north cattle breeding areas of Gobabis Grootfontein, Khomas and Tsumeb districts, stock still fetch fairly high prices, as is reported by Agra and other livestock traders. Weaners and stores are very popular with traders, privately and on auction, while fat cows for local slaughter still sell for prices in access of N$10 000, with the coming festive season in mind.
Cattle out of condition, that has to be nurtured back into some condition before being exported on the hoof to especially Gauteng, are being sold on farms at good prices of up to N$30 per kilo.
However, it is concerning that so many female animals are leaving the country through Botswana to the markets around Gauteng. That is purely due to the inability of farmers to keep feeding them at high cost. In the south and south-east, farmers beg buyers to take animals away from their farms, hoping to fetch reasonable prices, while they are prepared to negotiate further.
One trader admitted that it is harvesting time in his trade, but denied it is time to push farmers that are down and out already.
“It remains business, but we are paying a fair dollar for what we get. Fortunately, the prices at the feedlots to which we supply in South Africa are good, so we can pay equally fairly here,” he said.
He lamented that times are tough in Namibia right now, and it is going to remain like that for some time, regardless of how much rain falls in the next few weeks.
“In better seasons, these were tough times for us, because when the first rains fall, farmers tend to refuse to sell animals. Now most of them need to sell urgently,” he said.
Farmers in the Central North, on the other side of the so-called Red Line (Veterenary Control Line) have a totally different problem with marketing their animals. With very few animals market ready, they can only sell to local butchers, suppliers of meat to the army and the prisons and until recently to catering firms supplying schools and hospitals. Those are busy taking in much less meat, as schools are closing tomorrow for the summer recess. The slaughtering facility, run by FIAT at Oshakati, has also not come into operation fully. They are still experiencing supply and financial problems.
Feedlots in the commercial farming areas are stocked to the brim. The trader Informanté spoke to yesterday said he exports 3 000 head of cattle per month to feedlots in Gauteng through Botswana. His trucks carry up to 160 weaners per load and returns with fodder and balanced feeds for the running of his feedlot in Namibia.
“It costs a lot of money, and the turnover is high,” he explained adding that local feeds and fodder is expensive due to the high local demand.