Comparative figures released by Statistics Botswana (SB) this past week shows that the number of cattle in the country is down from 1.1 million in 2017 to 935 thousand in 2019.
The government data collecting agency said in its latest annual agricultural survey report (Traditional) that the decline in cattle population in Botswana is attributed to an increase in their deaths from 64,447 in 2017 to 102,255 in 2019.
Official figures shows that despite the increase in cattle birth rate from 47.3 percent to 56.5 percent, the mortality rate doubled from 5.9 percent in 2017 to 10.9 percent in 2019. At the same time, the data shows an off-take rate increase from 5.5 percent to 7.0 percent during the same period. The cattle mortality is attributed to the severe drought that ravaged the country during the 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 seasons. Both the years 2017/18 and 2018/19 were declared drought years for the whole country (Botswana Environment Statistics, Natural and Technological Disasters Digest 2019) and as such the decline in both crop and livestock production indicators are attributed to drought.
Meanwhile the SB data also shows that some farmers lost their cattle due to straying/theft. The cattle under this category are lower than the 79,799 in 2017 but still considered high at 53,571 in 2019. This indicates that a significant number of cattle were lost due to straying/theft in 2017 and 2019.
The fall in cattle population comes at a time when the Botswana government has allowed the live exportation of cattle. In November 2020, the Namibian government said that it will allow the importation of cattle from Botswana to satisfy its beef market in Europe due to an insufficient supply of cattle for slaughter within the neighbouring country.
Europe is currently Namibia and Botswana’s best-paying beef market. The Namibian government said November that it will try out all avenues to ensure it does not lose the EU market. At the same time, in Botswana, the state owned beef exporting company – BMC said in January 2020 that it was objecting the live exports of cattle.
The Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) says its position is that, live-cattle exports out of Botswana should be considered only when excess national processing capacity is addressed and only when proper regulatory frameworks are in place to protect the country against exploitation and erosion of national herd.