Lose the old ways or lose it all

Lonny Bong, Director of the Department of Livestock. Image: File

On the heels of Coffee and Controversy 10 April 2019, where the issue of a decrease in cattle numbers was discussed, Lonnie Bong, Director of the department of Livestock stressed that 80 % of the poor management techniques used by small holder farmers is tethering, used over the generations throughout our islands.

He says that farmers need to change their mindsets and be serious about farming instead of doing it as a hobby.

Tethering is tying up the cows to trees and leaving them there all day without any proper feed or water. This in in turn causes the animal to eat weeds which are not necessarily good for the cattle.

Proper pasture or feed that the cattle should have includes Buffalo grass, mile a minute and

Mr. Bong confirms that this also contributes to the low weight and it therefore lowers the meat quality of the cow.

Another problem that tethering causes is it prevents the cows from mating since they are tied up all day and just look at each other. No mating will leave the farmer with no new cows.

Moses Nambo, Principal Livestock Officer of Shefa Province explains that the best ratio for a paddock is one bull to ten female cows.

One other process that is done too late is weaning, weaning involves removing the young calf from its mother. Weaning should be done from six to eight months to allow the mother’s body to heal and be ready for the next cycle.

In relation to Mr Nambo’s statement, Dave Henderson, general manager of Vanuatu Abattoir Limited, confirmed that the number of cattle killed at the abattoir has dropped in recent years.

Mr Henderson added on that if meat is aged properly there should not be any issues with the quality.

Another problem that occurs when weaning is not done is inbreeding. Cows from the same bloodline will end up mating with their own blood relatives and this will have negative outcomes as the offspring will decrease in size as the calf would lose its genetic value.

Director Lonnie would like to assure all farmers that proper training will be carried out with them by the Department of Livestock staff in the upcoming months.

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