My father’s kraal has fallen 

by | Aug 5, 2021 | Opinions | 0 comments

Brian Rungano Temba

Last weekend, my heart was shredded into pieces.

We had to put down the last beast in my father’s kraal.

Being of the Vayera Moyo-Sithole clan we have always worshiped the Bull, from which our totem is derived.

Cattle represent wealth and when families congregate to engage in festivities, they lessen the cost by providing tried and tested relish.

In times of strife, driving a bull or two out of the kraal can bring monetary relief.

Unlike others who can boast about growing up in the rural areas herding cattle and making their bulls fight in the meadows, me and my younger brother only got that experience after the land resettlement programme.

When Baba got his farm in 2005 we were small boys, gleefully addicted to the television screen.

Baba tried so hard to recreate the experience of his childhood with us.

It was through cattle herding, that we bonded, as he shared his exploits from the pastures.

Some of the tales we laughed to, some we would absorb with a pinch of salt – for it was the way of elders to sometimes exaggerate their narrations.

Today an empty kraal is all that is left of these memories, thanks to Theileriosis – a cattle disease transmitted by ticks.

The highest number of cases of theileriosis tends to be encountered in January when traditionally the rainfall activity will be high, hence the common name, January disease.

In Beza, Masvingo area farms like Testwood, Rufaro and Beaully resettlements are highly tick infested.

The stretch which was once Mitchell family property was used mainly for cattle ranching and game.

The scourge of January Disease has robbed so many farmers of their herds of cattle in a very short time.

One of our neighbours in Beaully lost 12 beasts out of a total of 40 in a space of just a month.

Another neighbour has sold his beasts to butchers for measly prices just to avoid running a total loss.

They are not taking chances with the cattle killing disease that seems to have no cure.

“The first sign you see is the excessive drooling of saliva and running nose on the cattle.

They become dumbfounded, motionless and a lack of appetite to graze.

The beats loses weight because the ‘susu’ would have closed up ,” said Simon Jecha a Rufaro based farmer.

The abomasum stomach also known as ‘susu remombe’ is where the tick borne disease is said to hit closing the tracts to other ruminant stomachs.

Other symptoms of the January disease include, decrease in milk production, depression, weakness and difficulty in breathing for the animal, followed by rapid and shallow breaths.

Affected animals also experience an increased heart rate, and eventually die after two or three weeks.

While processing the carcass permit at Cold Storage Commission (CSC) in Masvingo, I learnt that CSC was also affected heavily by this pandemic.

“We used to slaughter 500 beasts a day here in Masvingo while CSC Bulwayo slaughtered 1000 beasts a day.

But the Anthrax, Lumpskin, and now January disease have heavily affected the national herd,” said the kind lady who attended to us.

Upwards of 50 000 herds were lost to January disease in the 2017 to 2018 summer.

The reopening and functioning of CSC – Masvingo leans heavily on us beating this pandemic and improving the quality and quantity of beef in the country.

The CSC official said Government`s effort to maximize on tick grease and cattle dip production for it is the only way to counter the tick borne disease.

After the whole process and slaughtering the last beast in my father’s kraal we went home with our carcass.

My widowed mother then asked me, “So, where will you get the cattle to marry that girl of yours?”

I m still thinking of a good answer as I write, for a man`s wealth is in his kraal and this disease has rendered us poor.