Over sixty thousand cattle are reportedly slaughtered on an annual basis in the country, producing 250 to 300 Kilograms of beef per cow. Effectively, 18 million Kilograms of beef is produced yearly. This is according to Director of Veterinary and Livestock Services Dr Roland Dlamini. Counting from the recent drought in 2015/16 the number of cattle in the country stands at 570 000 and still growing. The director said the country is still recovering from the severe drought which hit the country and saw about 10 233 cattle dying, representing 2% of the then number of cattle, which was about 630 000. Farmers lost a collective E60 million from the death of the drought struck cows. Worsening the drought was severe a heatwave which dried most water resources around the country.
Dlamini said beef remains the most sought after product despite demographic changes which have seen more people turning to goat meat. He said in the past goats were reserved for home slaughtering but now the value chain dictates commercialization, which is cemented by the arrival of Asian nationals. Asians are known for their penchant for goat meat and are a ready market for goat rearing farmers. Dlamini said from past natural
catastrophes such as drought the ministry of agriculture has encouraged diversification programs where farmers would have an option should disaster strikes. “With a big number of cows perishing from the 2015/16 drought, which were the main source of income for farmers especially in the rural areas, the ministry learnt that diversity was the way to go if sustenance was anything to go by”, said the director. He said it was true that goats are more resistant to disasters like drought in relation to cattle and their rearing would be a back-up plan in the event of such natural disasters. Dlamini said education has played a significant role which saw people departing from traditions such as goats being reared merely for subsistence use but that there is a huge market out there which is very competitive and farmers can draw huge revenues if they set their minds to goat rearing. He did not write
cattle farmers off but said an option is necessary for continuity, siting cattle farmers who suffered under the
recent drought due to lack of diversity. He brought balance saying cattle remain most important even as they
are used widely, and not just for meat. Traditional ceremonies like paying dowry (Lobolo) would lose significance without cows. It would indeed be a new thing for emaSwati to bring goats or other animals as appreciation for a bridegroom, said the director, stressing that despite the rising demand for goat meat, cattle remained at the top. He said the two cannot even be compared because they were different in many ways, from the size, meat flavor, choice of food and giving birth. Goats would oftentimes give birth to twins, which would work well for raising numbers as well as commercial purposes. The bigger the number the more the profit, said Dlamini. Cows give to birth singles. “These two animals are different but do have a relationship,” said the director, adding that in fact,
there were more differences than commonalities. Dlamini added saying that the demand for goat meat cannot be
attributed to health reasons, as is the notion with some people. He said beef has been singled as the main
causer of diseases like gout and the thinking could be that the diversion to goats was from realities like
those. But, said the director, people have the drive to exercise volition. He said people choose what to take
and what not and with goat meat it is not different. “It is a question of choice and not health,” said the director. The director said unless there was documentary evidence linking health excellence to goat meat in
relation to beef, it’d be absurd to say people have resorted to goat meat for health reasons. He said it must be
noted that goat meat has a different flavor to that of beef, spiked with a unique tangy piquancy which some people relish, more than anything. Goat meat flavor can be ascribed to their choice of vegetation, which consists of leaves, roots and grass, while cows feed mainly on grass and choice leaves. Urbanization is also a contributing
factor to people opting for goat meat, where with a lot of people migrating to cities and having no choice but
to buy goat meat. “The dawn of the goat meat market is inevitable with many people migrating from rural areas where goats were slaughtered for home use, and coming to the urban areas where everything depends on money, markets needed to open up,” said the director.
530 000 REGISTERED GOATS IN ESWATINI
Statistics attached to the ministry of agriculture revealed that as of now the Kingdom keeps 530 000 registered goats. This was revealed by the Director of Veterinary and Livestock Services, Dr Roland Dlamini. Last year government identified 103 goat farmers in a move aimed to commercialize the industry. This was an open ended programme which everyone could join. A criteria used in the selection of the farmers was that they should have 30 breeding goats. Government issued that there was an availability of marketing outlets which demanded 600 goats monthly. These are goats that are healthy and subscribe to government procedures as going to the dipping tank for tick riddance. Government is also working at ensuring that the radius between dipping tanks was not more than four kilometers. This was after it was revealed that some goat owners in the past had to drive their animals for long distances for dipping tank purposes. The country currently has 821 dipping tanks and more are being built
through the Regional Development Fund (RDF). The Regional Development Fund (RDF) continues to contribute
funds for construction of more dip tanks in the country. Recently, government, under the Ministry of Tinkhundla Administration and Development prepared E26 million to be given to the Tinkhundla centers which number fifty nine. E26 125 000 was already at the government’s revenue department where-after the money would be taken to micro projects for four weeks. Centers would benefit E442 796 each from the fund.
ALL FARMERS ARE THE SAME- VET DIRECTOR
Director of Veterinary and Livestock Services, Dr Roland Dlamini said as the ministry of agriculture their view
and approach to farming was holistic, and that to them farmers were the same. Dlamini said farmers bore the ultimate mandate to contribute towards food security in the country regardless of their products. He said farmers should resist the temptation of thinking their options of farming were better than others, as this would inhibit the teachable spirit much needed for the advancement of the farming business. He fostered unity among eSwatini farmers saying they should tap in to government’s edict of sufficiency, as enshrined in the recently released
eSwatini Strategic Roadmap 2019/23 by the Prime Minister Absalom Mandvulo Dlamini. The director said their wish as
the ministry and that of government was to achieve financial security which translates to food sufficiency to all citizens, and farming bore a major role to such realization. NMC The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives
has taken it upon itself to spearhead the country’s economic recovery. People expressly submitted during Sibaya that the ministry should take the lead in ensuring that food security was improved. This could only be achieved by working through strategically positioned entities such as the National Maize Corporation (NMC), as government
has already done with the tractor hire and farm subsidy program, which has been transferred to the government company. Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives Jabulani “Buy Cash” Mabuza once said transfer programs such as the tractor hire and farmer input subsidy program were an indication that emaSwati were committed to working together and supporting each other. He said this encouraged his ministry to continue to motivate the people to increase productivity in all areas of the economy, particularly agriculture. “You may well have heard how the nation is of the strong conviction that the ministry of Agriculture has what it takes to ignite the country’s economic resurgence. Such recovery can only be driven by farmers, some of which are contracted to NMC and
we believe it is possible to get to a level where there would no longer be need to import food into the country, as they would be producing enough,” said Mabuza. He said his ministry had transferred the tractor hire and farm subsidy program to NMC because it believed the company had the means to deliver the program more efficiently, adding that he was happy to hear that the program was progressing well to this far. He said it was natural that there would be challenges, but was optimistic that the program would change the situation on the ground as compared to previous times.