Goodbye dry 2013, Welcome to farming, 2014

Aren’t we all glad to bid goodbye to the year that really tested our farmers’ patience and everything within them and got them using all kinds of strategies to ensure they would survive that torturous season?
Most of our animals pulled through the drought, although the number of those that perished were significantly higher than in recent years. Most of our farmers showed resilience and can finally say; ‘the worst is over!’
Here, at The Village Vet, we put arms on the wheels too; we fought the scourge of drought, with all weaponry at our disposal. We struggled, we fell but finally rose with our village communities, above those trying times.
Throughout 2013, our primary responsibility was to advice our farmers on animal diseases, their causes, treatments and prevention on every inch or acre of any livestock farming wedge. As it was to many, last year was a bit challenging for The Village Vet, more so because every piece of advice needed to be cognisant to the dry environmental conditions above all. In many cases, therefore, any outbreak of any disease was analysed considering the weakened immune systems of animals as a result of the drought. Just like in malnourished people, animals’ white blood cells become vulnerable and then they become susceptible to all kinds of diseases.
One of the worst diseases that killed our livestock last year was abortion. When an animal is pregnant, farmers’ expectations are so high and some start counting the number of newborns they will have that season even before they are born. It was sad to watch the animals lose their unborn babies in numbers during the drought. The animals that did not abort were faced with difficulty in giving birth or other delivery problems, such as retained placenta and prolapsed vagina.
Additionally, we had to deal with animal deaths caused by poisonous plants while other animals that ate strange objects, such as plastics, rubber, clothes and sans, developed an assortment of problems.
Farmers had to dig deep into their pockets to prevent deficiencies of minerals such as selenium, calcium and vitamins A, D and E that hindered the survival of animals. The farmers who heeded our advice to supplement multi-minerals, multivitamins and give supplementary feeds survived the drought better than those who didn’t. And the farmers who de-wormed their livestock as recommended (on these pages) also saw the benefits of this practice.
Part of the drought mitigation strategy was to sell as many animals as we could to avoid overgrazing. Emerging farmers were warned to “be careful when buying an animal from other farmers; and how to select a good cow for breeding purposes”, because you won’t believe how many skelm stories occur when purchasing livestock from other farmers.
It was important to ask oneself why their fellow farmer’s livestock was selling better than theirs in the first place.
Other warnings and tips we provided on our pages last year included sticking to the right withdrawal periods of veterinary drugs. Also on the decks was avoiding the usage of bone meals and other banned substances, such as growth hormones in rearing our livestock; so that as a meat-producing country, Namibia would assure that its meat is produced naturally and that it conforms to stringent internationally accepted production, health and environmental standards.
We also warned against new diseases, such as the PPR disease in sheep, Avian Influenza in birds and the BSE (mad-cow disease). And of course we wouldn’t have done justice to our farmers and communities if we didn’t reinforce the importance of preventing rabies in our livestock and humans.
Yes, we had to dig deep to research and advice accordingly as per the undated queries; what to do, when to do it and why this or that happens, etc.
Interestingly, witchcraft threw a spanner in the wheel too. Who remembers the bitch with kittens in the lokassie? And what about “The Controversy of Eating Kangaroo Meat in Namibia”, which got the public demanding to be kept informed on which types of meat to eat?
The worst part for The Village Vet in 2013, however, was revealing to you, my dear readers, that I had killed 13 of my sheep due to an overdose of a non-diluted drug. But the moral of the story was to warn farmers to always read and stick to the dosage instructions of veterinary drugs.
On a lighter note, The Village Vet went springbok-hunting in the South and had enough veterinary stories from around the world to tell readers, as well. From the Ivory Coast, we learnt where the livestock industry is heading to, in Africa. From Kenya, it was clear that it is important to report animal diseases. From Ghana, we learnt that a conducive livestock policy environment is the way forward for our livestock industry. And of course, the experience of milking buffaloes in India got most readers’ attention.
Indeed, those were the days of our lives. But 2014 hopefully brings more anticipation for our farming community. I’m sure most of us have resolved to be better farmers this year; well equipped to handle whatever challenges 2014 will throw at us. After all, Namibian farmers are known to be as hard as the Kameeldoringboom (camel thorn tree)! So bring it on, 2014!