Windhoek — The Namibian small stock industry is at a crossroads. Two urgent meetings just days apart have confirmed that the industry urgently needs a vision for the future and that unity is the keyword in achieving the ultimate aims of the industry.
Last week, the Livestock Producers Organisation (LPO) rallied small-stock producers in Keetmanshoop for a brainstorming session to formulate a unified vision for the small stock industry, while the Namibian Boer Goat Breeders Society (NBGBS) is gathering in Windhoek today to discuss the importance of an umbrella organisation for goat breeders after the Windhoek Goat Club was recently formed when members broke away from the NBGBS. Issues of concern are unified efforts to deliver services such as inspection, training courses, promotion days, stud and commercial auctions, exhibitions and national championships. Registration and generic evaluation services must be delivered by means of Breedplan, which is one of the world's most advanced genetic evaluation systems.
In Keetmanshoop, grave concern was expressed about the lack of correct and reliable marketing figures for small stock. Various actions were identified to address this issue. An even bigger issue is the steady decline in small stock production, and the discussions that followed topped the agenda. Although it seems that the small stock industry has been in a more favourable position than the beef industry in terms of profitability the past five years, small stock production has decreased drastically. An increase in venereal diseases of rams, predator numbers, and theft, and the long-term drought situation are among the reasons for the decline. There is also a tendency to change from small stock production to cattle and game production. Producers, in general, have lost trust in the industry and this has negatively affected investments. Management practices were also looked at as well as the age group of the majority of the producers, which has resulted in reduced investments, especially in infrastructure.
The marketing environment has had an impact on the production environment and interference in this sector together with issues such as land reform had created frustration and uncertainty. Small stock representatives at the meeting were, however, of the opinion that production could pick up again and there must be an investigation on how to change the methods to realise an open border, while still operating within government policies. The day resulted in positive suggestions that would receive serious attention in the following weeks.
Role players in the industry say it is of the utmost importance that unity is achieved in the goat industry and that the common vision should be to serve all goat breeders in Namibia and ensure that their animals' meat will soon get the recognition it deserves and be for sale in local supermarkets.