The Sunday Mail
Heather Charema in Chegutu
Some farmers who lost cattle to tick-borne diseases like theileriosis (January disease) have resorted to donkeys for draught power this summer cropping season.
Reports from the Department of Veterinary Services indicate that over 15 000 cattle have fallen to January disease this year.
In Mashonaland West, farmers in Mhondoro-Mubaira and Mhondoro-Ngezi say they are losing livestock because they cannot afford vaccines that are being charged in US dollars.
Chief Murambwa (Mr Francis Mutemeri) of Mhondoro-Ngezi said,
“Many farmers have already bought donkeys for draft power. As a result the donkeys are now in short supply and their prices have gone up in recent months.
“Mhondoro has always relied on cattle as draught power. Just like cattle, donkeys can be used to transport farm produce and draw ploughs and carts.”
The most prevalent diseases affecting cattle are theileriosis, babesiosis, heartwater, anaplasmosis and sweating sickness.
Government is strengthening the Veterinary Services Department by purchasing modern equipment to detect diseases.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union president Mr Wonder Chabikwa said donkeys were viable for draught power as a stop-gap measure.
“Earlier this year the country suffered a loss of our national herd to deadly tick-borne diseases and it was quite unfortunate,” he said.
“Farmers in some parts of the country have bought donkeys as their sources of draught power, and this is the best solution for farmers who relied on cattle.”
Mhondoro-Ngezi Rural District Council chair Mr Ephraim Chengeta said they were buying tractors to assist farmers.
“Some farmers have managed to buy donkeys, but the animal prices have increased from $80 to about $400.
“Not every farmer can afford to buy the donkeys now. We believe the introduction of two tractors will assist in boosting agriculture production,” he said.
Deputy Director for Livestock and Veterinary Services in the Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Ministry, Dr Chenjerai Njagu, advised farmers to dip their cattle regularly.
He also said it was a crime to move infected animals.
“Commercial farmers should stock adequate dipping chemicals for the rainy season and ensure they dip their animals weekly,” said Dr Njagu.