Namibia: Cattle farmers boost income by improving animal health (by Johanna Absalom, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Namibia)

| November 12, 2012

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For many years, William Nambwele earned little as a cattle farmer. He tried to improve the health and productivity of his animals. But in an area with infertile soil and crowded grazing, his prospects were poor.

Everything changed when Mr. Nambwele learned how to take better care of his animals. He received training through Ongwediva Rural Development Center, in the Ohangwena Region of northern Namibia. Now his income has improved along with the health of his cattle.

Mr. Nambwele smiles as he watches his healthy herd. He explains: “Not only did I learn how to look after my animals … I also got a new perspective on the value of my animals. I now know what my cattle are worth.”

Kephas Haitembu is the project manager for Ongwediva Rural Development Center. The centre’s training program aims to improve farmer livelihoods by enhancing their cattle management skills.

Healthy animals fetch a better price. So the course taught farmers to prevent and treat disease. For example, farmers learned how to vaccinate animals and which medications to use for common ailments. They also learned that giving cattle a nutrient supplement can boost an animals’ health.

Farmers were taught the best times to breed and sell their livestock. The training challenged some traditional beliefs. It also helped farmers earn more money.

Simon Haukongo is a cattle farmer in the Ohangwena Region. He used to slaughter cattle for his family’s table “every chance he got” – without considering the age or health of the animal. When it came to selling animals, he waited until his cattle were old.

Traditional belief held that the older the animal, the higher the value. However, good health and tender meat make for better prices. So now, Mr. Haukongo sells cattle when they’re about a year and a half old.

With healthier stock, Mr. Haukongo and Mr. Nambwele have access to the commercial market. They sell to a national meat supplier called Meatco.

Farmers who adopt new cattle management practices still face challenges. The costs of fodder, dietary supplements, and tools are significant. However, with new knowledge and healthier animals, farmers feel prepared for the challenges. Mr. Haukongo says, “We will not wait for bail outs.”