In the Bushbuckridge Local Municipality (BLM), Mpumalanga, the size and economic importance of the local, mostly informal, cattle trade has been considered negligible to date by local policy makers. Opportunities for the local cattle farmers to access formal live or product markets remain severely limited, mainly as a result of movement restrictions associated with foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) control. Data, in the form of movement permits and monthly cattle registers were used to analyse movement and trade activity in the area over a four-year period (May 2015 - April 2019). The population fluctuated around 77 166 head of cattle, distributed between 9739 emerging rural livestock farmers. The proportion of animals/products moved ranged between 3.1 and 7.2 percent (0.04 ± 0.02). Movements were found to be highly seasonal (p < 0.001) with the ‘cool dry’ season (April-July) being the most active. Most movements consisted of live cattle which were herded to their destinations. The vast majority of trade did not leave Bushbuckridge and was informal in nature. Farmers moved animals and products much further to access formal markets (p < 0.001) than informal markets, and generally required use of motorised transport to do so.
The FMD outbreak of 2017 did not prove detrimental to the local cattle industry in the medium term. However, distinct changes to the overall Bushbuckridge herd dynamics were noted, with small scale farmers most severely affected. As a direct result of the heightened movement restrictions in this period, an estimated 96% of formal trade; 85% of informal trade, and 54% of local trade were lost. In 2018, an improvement in cattle prices stimulated farmers to access the formal marketplace, and an increase in the proportion of the cattle population moved was observed.
It was concluded that farmers pursue formal marketing options only when financially incentivised or pressurised by adverse conditions such as environmental factors or disease outbreaks. Growing established local markets is likely the best way to assist the local population with market access, development and poverty reduction. The key constraints to marketability of animals/products originating in the BLM were identified as the absence of a competitive
market system and associated infrastructure such as FMD designated abattoirs, disease control regulations, poor carcass quality, and seasonality of offtakes. These limitations will need to be considered when policy decisions are made. Context-specific solutions should be generated to address local needs and effectively support development of a sustainable cattle trade going forward.
Mini Dissertation (MSc (Tropical Animal Health))--University of Pretoria, 2019.