Mahangu crops 'kill' cattle

08 May 2019 | Agriculture

Livestock owners in the north have been urged not to feed their animals young and underdeveloped mahangu plants, especially those that have not grown heads, as they may be toxic.

This is after a farmer at the Omutsegwonime in the Oshikoto Region lost 10 head of cattle after they were fed immature mahangu crops.

A state veterinarian at Omuthiya, Dr Frenada Haufiku, cautioned farmers not to feed their livestock underdeveloped mahangu and sorghum plants.

“Mahangu and sorghum (plants) can be toxic when they have not completed all their growing stages, especially if they have not developed heads.

It therefore risky for farmers to feed their livestock with them when they (the plants) are young. Farmers better wait until they are completely dry before they can feed their animals,” said Haufiku, adding that Sunday's incident at Omutsegwonime had not yet been reported to her by Monday afternoon.

Ireneus Shigwedha told Namibian Sun he lost two bulls and eight cows after cattle herders fed them “fresh” mahangu crops on Sunday.

“On Sunday evening I received a call from the cattle herders that the cattle were dying after experiencing swollen stomachs. When I asked them what they had drunk or eaten, they told me that they just started feeding them the mahangu crops that are in the field,” said Shigwedha.

“They told me that they (the cattle) did not drink on Sunday due to the water crisis they have been experiencing in the area for the past weeks, because water from the taps come from the NamWater main pipeline from Omuthiya.”

Shigwedha said he drove to Omutsegwonime from Ongwediva on Sunday evening and found 10 dead cattle.

“By the look of things there was nothing wrong with the animals and we are just suspecting it is the mahangu,” Shigwedha said.

Many farmers in the north are facing the challenge of mahangu crops failing to mature. The crops have grown but due to a lack of rainfall, they are failing to grow and bear heads, so they can eventually be harvest. With the crop season all but a failure for many, some have started to feed the immature, dried out plants to their cattle.

Farmers usually wait for mahangu heads to dry partially in the field before harvesting. Mahangu harvesting generally takes place around May or June, depending on the rain patterns for the year and the earliness of the variety cultivated. The stem is cut with a sharp knife just beneath the head. The heads are placed in large harvesting baskets and taken away for further drying, before threshing.


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