DAFF minister aims to save indigenous livestock genetics

South Africa’s minister of agriculture recently showed his department’s commitment to conserving and growing the country’s indigenous livestock genetics.

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During a visit to the Northern Cape in late November 2015, Senzeni Zokwana used the opportunity to donate nucleus breeding stock totalling 100 hardy Namaqua Afrikaner sheep to developing farmers in the area.

In a speech at the event, Zokwana said this was one of a number of efforts by his department to not only protect SA’s indigenous livestock and crop genetics as encouraged by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, but to use these genetics to improve the country’s food security and rural economies.

“Erosion of animal genetic resources threatens the ability of farmers and livestock keepers to respond to environmental and socio-economic changes, including changing diets and consumer preferences,” said Zokwana.

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Ahead of receiving their nucleus breeding stock of Namaqua Afrikaner sheep, the 23 beneficiaries living in the Dr John Taolo Gaetswe District Municipality were trained in conservation strategies for farm animal genetic resources, in sheep husbandry protocols, and in sheep health and welfare.

“Our focus on this particular breed is [based on its] ability to withstand harsh environmental conditions. This unique breed is extremely adaptable to semi-arid and low production input systems, which is particularly relevant in the current drought situation we find ourselves in,” said Zokwana.