Declare cattle deaths a national disaster – farmers

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By Mashonaland East Correspondent

MARONDERA: Farmers here have called on government to urgently intervene and declare rising deaths on their livestock from the lethal tick-borne disease – theileriosis – a national disaster.

The disease has ravaged most parts of the country, killing thousands of cattle with entire herds of individual farmers being wiped out as the farmers fail to dip and dose their animals due to rising costs and shortages of dip chemical – acaricide.

In separate interviews this week, Marondera farmers painted a gloomy picture on the state of their livestock with deaths from the disease being recorded every day in most farming communities.

“I have lost five beasts since the start of the season to the tick-borne disease as I am failing to dip or dose my cattle.

“We used to rely on the Department of (Livestock) Veterinary Services for such services but since last year, the government has been unable to supply the local dip tank with required chemicals,” a resettled Masomera-based farmer, Moses Chisvo said.

Another commercial farmer in Wenimbi with a herd of over 200 cattle said his herd was depleting despite dipping it regularly as his neighbouring farmers were failing to do the same because of high chemical costs. This resulted in recontamination of his livestock.

“I injected my chemicals this week, but during that period I have lost three cows due to recontamination,” the farmer, who asked not to be identified, said.

He appealed to government to urgently intervene and save the surviving livestock by providing free chemicals to farmers who could not afford.

“There is need for immediate government intervention as the scourge is now a national disaster and it must be declared as such,” he added.

An official at the Mashonaland East Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services said the department was supposed to provide communal dip tanks and the acaricide chemical to all poor farmers for weekly treatment during the rainy season and fortnightly in the dry season.

He said each farmer was supposed to pay $2 per animal, an amount most farmers were unable to afford and due to limited foreign currency – the country was importing less of the cattle dip.

“As a result of foreign currency challenges, we have failed to get regular supplies of the required chemicals and farmers are failing to dip their livestock resulting in the spread of theileriosis and an increase in mortalities,” he said.

Although the official failed to release figures of cattle that had succumbed to the tick-borne disease, he hinted that over 3 000 cattle in Mashonaland East could have died between last November and May this year – a sharp increase compared to the previous years.