Get rid of livestock, agriculture dept urges farmers

Thulani Gqirana, News24

Cape Town - The department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries has urged farmers to get rid of excess livestock, as fears rise that some will not survive the winter.

In a meeting with various committees in Parliament on Wednesday, the department said destocking would be one of the measures they would be promoting to curb the ongoing deaths of livestock.

Dr Mmaphaka Tau told the members of Parliament that it was worrying that farmers were no longer interested in selling livestock.

This, he said, was an issue that cut across all provinces.

"Where there is overstocking, they are encouraged to destock or reduce their stock and restock later," he said.

Tau said the drought was extending to a point where animals on farms may not survive through the winter. He said auctions were among the best methods of destocking.

More than 180 000 livestock had been lost due to the drought so far, Parliament was told.

Infrastructure maintenance

One of the major challenges experienced with the drought was the lack of maintenance of infrastructure by municipalities, Water Affairs Deputy Director General Trevor Balzer told the meeting.

"Operations and maintenance within municipalities leave a lot to be desired. And we are of the view that between 70% and 75% of all the water-related issues we are dealing with are not drought related, but operational maintenance," he said.

The lack of maintenance and the vandalism of infrastructure was evident when they did assessments, he said.

The department said last week's rain had added a mere 0.2% to the levels of dams across the country.

As of March 14, the national dam levels were at 53.7%. Last year at the same time, they were at 79.5%.

The committees heard that it would take up to three years for the dams to recover from the drought.

"The reason for that is our dams are all multi-year capacity dams, so they will take more than... one good rainy season and currently, as it has been indicated to you, we are in a season of below-average rainfall."