Zimbabwe has lost 50 000 cattle between December 2017 and November 2018, a figure that the Livestock and Veterinary Services Department says is likely to increase because the country does not have dipping chemicals.

While agriculture is the backbone of the Zimbabwean economy, livestock is the backbone of the agriculture sector.

The Director in the Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services, Dr Josphat Nyika warned that much more cattle are going to be lost in 2019 because of an inadequate budget allocation, and farmers have every reason to worry.

“50 000 cattle have so far been lost because there are no dipping chemicals. We have 4 000 dip tanks administered by the Veterinary Department countrywide but no dipping is happening there. The two companies that are supposed provide the chemicals have not told us when they will get the chemicals, which they can get in foreign currency,” Dr Nyika said.

The cattle lost so far may represent just about 1 percent of the national herd of 5,5 million, but the victims, mostly communal farmers face an uphill task to restock.

Some may never recover.

What makes the prospect sadder is that the menace to the national herd is not the January disease alone.

Foot and Mouth presents another clear and present danger.

Sadly, Zimbabwe owes SADC’s only supplier of Foot and Mouth vaccination, the Botswana Institute of Vaccination, US$3 million.

While desperately looking for means to acquire more chemicals, and with the twin menaces of the January disease and Foot and Mouth still roaming unabated, all the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Settlement can do in the meantime is fence off part of Gonarezhou National Park to limit the movement of buffalo, the main agent spreading Foot and Mouth Disease.

Even then, it is not an easy job.

The 120 kilometres out of the targeted 300 kilometres fenced so far has been an effort of two departments, the Veterinary Department and National Parks.