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Thousands of Cattle Dying in Severe South African Drought

16 November 2015

SOUTH AFRICA - Southern Africa is currently experiencing one of its most severe droughts in the past 20 years, with serious consequences for agriculture and animal welfare.

The Red Meat Producers Organisation (RMPO) said that more than 40,000 cattle had died in KwaZulu-Natal alone, and serious losses of livestock are currently being experienced in the sector country wide.

A recent climate advisory from South Africa's Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) said that the current conditions follow a period of reduced rainfall and high temperatures at the end of the 2014/2015 summer season, causing pastures to deteriorate.

The advisory said that the winter season received rainfall in some of the winter rainfall areas but it remained dry in areas that normally receive summer rainfall, and the dry conditions continued into spring.

The RMPO said that this meant very limited planting has yet been possible in the summer rainfall areas and grain prices have already started to rise.

"At least six weeks of the growth of natural grazing has already been lost and crop residues will be limited during the coming winter," the RMPO said in a statement.

"This means that the provision of grazing will already be under serious pressure in the coming winter, which will also have a dampening effect on herd building."

Cattle are consuming between 40 and 50 litres of water per head per day in the hot conditions, rendering the logistics of water supply very difficult - new boreholes are expensive to drill with limited success, whilst in other areas water is being driven into areas.

The RMPO said it is very concerned about the animal welfare implications of the drought, as well as the impact on food security. It said that commercial enterprises would take three to four seasons to recover economically, and that the drought would also have negative impacts on the 1.2 million households owning small numbers of cattle, sheep and goats.

The organisation predicted that even if the drought soon breaks, meat prices would still rise as producers hold back animals for herd building, reducing supplies. But if the drought does not break soon, supply will be seriously under pressure with prices rising about the inflation rate.

R220 million for emergency aid has been appropriated by DAFF to respond to the situation.

Further Reading

The drought may be affected by the El Niño weather pattern. Read our recent article about the current El Niño event here.

TheCattleSite News Desk

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