Namibia: A Farmers' Loss... As 150 Goats Die of Plant Poisoning

1 December 2020

A local farmer is desperately attempting to rebuild his goat farming business, after losing over 150 animals in just three days.

Vakufilapo Wilhelm, a retired boxer, popularly known as "The Cowboy" in his heydays told AgriToday the loss has placed a huge dent in his farming operation.

Wilhelm farms in the Grootfontein area, and has taken on goat farming extensively, rearing large herds over the years he has been in farming.

Inspired by an uncle into farming, Wilhelm first took up small-scale poultry production over eight years ago, but slowly grow his farming into fully-fledged small stock business.

Although he also keeps some cattle on the farm, it is small stock that he farms with extensively.

It all started on 18 November 2020 when Wilhelm lost four goats to the poisonous plant. At the time, Wilhelm said they suspected it was due to the 'wild onion' that grows in the area around this time.

He said they did not pay much attention to the loss, as it is often typical occurrence during this time of the year.

Red flags were however raised when they started losing an average of five goats per day in the following two days or so.

"We started getting concerned when we realised that more goats were dying frequently. We realised then that we are dealing with something else much worse than the seasonal 'wild onion', which do often not have such high fatality rate," he said.

Within three days, the death rate increased to about 22 goats per day, pushing the figure to 156 goats lost in less than a week on the farm.

Wilhelm said the death of the goats were diagnosed as being a result of a poisonous plant, but veterinarians cannot put a finger on what type of plant seems to be responsible for the death.

"It is very frustrating when one loses so many livestock, yet you can't really tell what the cause of the loss is. Even as we speak now, the goats are still dying and there seem to be no remedy for them," he said. The first signs of trouble, Wilhelm said, is heavy breathing and collapsing immediately after drinking water - which are typical signs of plant poisoning.

Other symptoms include loss of appetite. Intestines of slaughtered animals reveal dark 'burnt' spots, Wilhelm said.

He said some goats appear healthy and stronger than others at first, but they too would later succumb to the plant poisoning, driving the figures up.

Wilhelm said the absence of a clear compensation policy for farmers during such loses makes it difficult for him to rebuild his business.

"We are left to our own demise. There are no strategies or programmes in place to compensate farmers like myself for such loses. How does one recover from this loss? It won't be easy," he said.

He said the loss of the livestock is a heavy blow, given the already adverse effects of Covid-19 on the farming sector.

"Farmers are already struggling to recover from Covid-19, without much help from government, and now we are faced with this. It won't be easy at all," he noted. -

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