Farming In Kgalagadi district

The Kgalagadi district is located in the south western corner of Botswana and covers an area of around 110 110 square kilometers which is about 10.5 per cent of the county’s total area. The district is bordered by the Kweneng and southern districts in the east; the republic of South Africa in the south and south west; Namibia in the west and by Ghanzi district in the north (Kgalagadi District Development Plan 6:2003-2009).

The district can be divided into the Northern and southern Kgalagadi with the northern part covering around 44 004 square kilometers and having Hukuntsi as its sub district headquarters. The southern part of the district is approximately 66 066 square kilometers and has Tsabong as its headquarters.

The district development plan 6 (2003-2009) highlights that Kgalagadi district is linked to other parts of the country by a network of roads such as the A2 or Trans Kalahari highway (Lobatse-Kang-Ghanzi) in the north and A20 (Sekoma- Tsabong) in the south to mention a few. The district is also linked to the South African road network via the border posts at Hereford/Bray, Makopong, McCarthyrust, Middlepits, Bokspits and Two Rivers. This roads connect the district with its outside areas through buses going to all parts of the country as well as neighboring countries. The major villages are linked to the national and international telecommunication network.

This links gives the district access to markets such as the Botswana meat commission in Lobatse which absorbs about 90% of the district’s livestock sales since the economy of the region is primarily based on cattle rearing for meat production. They also link the district to urban centers that provide and supply the region with high order services such as legal services, food and domestic supplies, banking facilities, health and medical referrals and reconditioning and servicing of machinery and equipment.



Kgalagadi district’s climate can generally be described as arid to semi-arid. The rain fall is characterized by high annual variations but on average ranges from 150mm in the south and 250mm in the north. Temperatures are high in the summer and below national average in the winter resulting in some areas experiencing frost days during winter season. Winds are generally easterly in summer and northerly in winter.


The district has a basic vegetation of savannah, either arid shrub savanna which comprises of widely spaced small bushes with large patches of bare sand and only a few grasses in the extreme Kgalagadi south west and bush savannah in other areas which comprises of mainly bushes and grasses. The grass cover is fairly low resulting in low carrying capacity of the veld compared to other districts. This therefore means that in order to maintain your livestock, supplementary feeding with forage needs to be done all year round in a farm that is in this area because even the existing forage is of low nutrient quality. Kasozi et al. (1999) confirms that the dominant plant species in this bush savannah area are Terminalia sericea (silver Terminalia, mogonono), Acacia erioloba (camel thorn, mogotlho), Boscia abitrunca (shepherd’s tree, motlopi), Acacia mellifera (black thorn,mongana) whereas in the arid-shrub savanna are various Acacia thorn trees and grasses such as Stipagrostis uniplumis (silky bushman grass/Tshikane), Aristida meridionalis(Giant three-awn/Seriri sa tau), Eragrostis pallens(Broom love grass/Motshikiri), Anthephora pubescens (wool grass/Sephota) and Schmiditia pappophoroides(sand quick/tshwang).


The generally low rainfall results in lack of permanent surface water in the district, although water collects on pans for some periods sometimes during the rainy season that occurs between November and April the district does not have surface water as such it depends solely on underground water. Borehole drilling is an alternative when farming in this area but note that one may come across many blanks during drilling or find saline water. Consequently it is important to know that the need for water for both domestic and livestock consumption is high and the supply is low hence water availability is a challenge in the district that a farmers has to tackle.


This district is mostly dependent in pastoral farming and since its soil is not suitable for crop farming. It is advisable for rear breeds that can withstand the extreme conditions of Kgalagadi, livestock that can thrive in this district with few resources. This is a district with small stock dominance since they are easy to handle therefore this is one of the fields that a farmer can opt to venture in as it has proved to have high merits. This are some of the good quality breeds that can perform well in this region for meat producers.

Tswana -Tolerant to local conditions
Brahman -Heat and tick tolerant

-Disease resistant


Simmental Should be considered as it has the:


-milking ability

-Superior weight gain

-Carcass yield


-Rapid growth

Charolais -Charolais are good for growth and uniformity

-They have superior natural live weight gain for age

-Tremendous muscling and conformity

-Easy to manage in terms of temperament

-Ease of calving

– The ability to fit into any system – grass based or intensive

Bonsmara- composite breed

[5/8 (62.5%) Afrikaner

3/8 (37.5%)Hereford or Shorthorn]



-Can graze extensively

-They are well adapted to sub-tropical climate.

-Produce high quality meat

-High fertility

-Good calving rate

-Calm temperament and easy to handle

-Suitable for use in crossbreeding

Beefmaster – composite breed

[50% Brahman


25% Shorthorn]

-This is a dual purpose breed that blends strong maternal traits with excellent growth and carcass abilities.

-The cattle are heat, drought and insect resistant.

– You can expect minimal calving problems,

– heavy weaning weights,

-exceptionally few health problems,

– High fertility from females and bulls.

Tswana/Brahman crossbreed -Combines the good characteristics of the two breeds as stated above.
Simbra (Brahman + Simmental) -Higher reproductive performance

– Faster growth rate, Viable

-Combines strengths of Brahman and Simmental


Tswana breed Tolerant to local conditions making it

-Heat and tick resistant

-Disease resistant

-Good for both meat and milk

Boer Goat -High fertility

-High twining rate sometimes triples

-Large build hence good for meat production

Kalahari Red -Large goat hence good for meat production


-Good mothering ability

-long legs; excellent walking ability enabling large coverage to find browse.


Tswana Tolerant to local conditions

-large build hence good for meat

Karakul (Swakara) -Good milkers

– lambs grow rapidly

-Tolerates arid conditions

– Has many uses- pelts, meat, wool

Awassi sheep One of the oldest sheep breeds but not common to this country.

-thrive even under arid conditions and extreme temperatures.

Dorper -Mutton sheep

-Fat is white: character that would make carcass easy to market

-Hardy breed




In order to start on farming there are some basic resources needed for the enterprise to function well. This include:

  • Firstly one has to acquire land where they will be able to rear their animals on.
  • Secondly water source is vital for drinking by animals as well as for keeping the farm working, this can be a borehole, dam etc. but where needed water rights must always be available.
  • Animal identification is also vital in terms of branding so that when the animals are obtained, they can be identified and linked to the owner.
  • Livestock- be it cattle, sheep, goats or a combination of them depending on one’s preference.
  • Infrastructure- such as kraals, fencing for farm, crush, storeroom and if possible storage for feeds and supplements
  • Tools- for day to day management of livestock e.g. hoof trimmers, budizzo, brand, ear tags etc.
  • Labour- to help around with the day to day caring and handling of livestock.


Some infrastructures such as kraals can be made or constructed by the farmer to reduce costs such as kraals and crushes as specifications can be freely obtained from the department of animal production. The costs incurred in livestock production differs according to the type of system a farmer wishes to engage in. The scale in terms of size of operation also affects the costs. Farmers should remember however not to judge the project feasibility with simple cost vs profit, as it does not give a practical answer, Technical and Strategical Feasibility studies should be done. In short these costs can be summarized as:

Fixed costs

– Land and Land Developments (fencing, gates, poles etc.)

-Boreholes (Water Sources)

-Animals: Breeding Bulls/Rams/Bucks

Breeding Cows/Ewes/Does

Weaners etc.

-Permanent Labour

-Infrastructure (Handlings; Kraals, Storage Areas, Crushes, Holding pans, etc.)

Variable costs

-Casual Labour


-Diesel / Oil

-Drugs (Medication)



-Farm equipment



-Feed and supplements



-Insurance (animals)



It is wise to always be on the lookout for notifiable diseases in the country as deemed by the department of veterinary services for livestock as some can go across zones with vaccination campaign being carried out annually for these diseases.

The following diseases have been reported/showing up in the district:

Phosphorus deficiency (magetla, hypophosphataemia) Phosphorus deficiency can result in

  • low conception rates,
  • reduced feed intake,
  • poor feed efficiency,
  • lower growth rate,
  • reduced milk production,
  • reproductive failures
  • Skeletal abnormalities.
  • A common symptom of phosphorus deficiency is often seen as an abnormal habit of eating or chewing foreign substances such as dirt or wood.

– A Vitamin D deficiency or an excess in dietary calcium will reduce the absorption of phosphorus. The most critical need for phosphorus is the last trimester of pregnancy (2-3 months pre-calving) and the period immediately prior to breeding season.

Supplement regularly especially livestock in their trimester of calving.

-Mineral licks to correct mineral imbalances such as:

  • Dicalcium phosphate
  • Monosodium phosphate

-Report the case to the veterinary officer who will give injections of phosphamine.

Lumpy skin (LSD) (Nkokomane)



-eruption of painful skin nodules which covers neck, brisket, back, thighs, legs, perineum(portion of the body wall that covers pelvic outlet; surrounds anus and terminal parts of the urogenital tract), udder and scrotum.

– Nodules may occur on nostrils and mouth causing salivation and Respiratory obstruction

– Abortion may occur

– Lameness

– Animals are vaccinated annually to protect cattle against LSD.

-Infected animals should be quarantined to prevent spread.

– Use of insecticides and repellents aid in the prevention of the spread of LSD by killing insects like mosquitoes.

– Animals affected cannot cross to other zones.

– Close monitoring of animals is vital

Beef measles Beef measles is a cause for concern in the beef market as it causes a loss in foreign market such as the EU which does not accept affected meat.

-it has become prevalent in our meat of late.

-This disease is caused by beef tapeworm cysticerus bovis which is found within muscles of cattle at meat inspection.

-There are no visible signs as measles can only be detected in meat after slaughter causing the meat to be disqualified from the EU market.

– meat is then put in cold storage treatment for 10-14 days and later sold to non EU markets at very low prices which is a great loss to a beef producer.

-This makes this disease of great importance as it can cripple one’s business in livestock.

1) Avoid faecal contamination of cattle feed and grazing areas. Farm workers and visitors must practice good hygiene, and toilets must be strategically provided.

2) Avoid access by cattle to pastures infected with human waste.

3) Identify farm workers infected with the adult tapeworm and give them effective treatment. You may consult your medical practitioner or pharmacist for more information about the available types of drugs.

4) Sell your cattle to an abattoir where competent meat inspection is practiced so that infected carcasses may be detected before it can be taken to the market.

6) Since beef measles affects both humans and cattle to maintain its life cycle, make an effort to participate in all multi sector committees at community or national level that are concerned with measles prevention and control.

Heartwater (metsi a pelo) -Prominent in goats especially those that move in from other districts.

-Also in exotic breeds as they are not resistant and can result in sudden death.

-Animal in good condition suddenly collapses with legs pedaling and death within hours.

-Walk in circles.

-It can be treated with Tetracycline dose rate of 10 mg/kg for 3 days.

-Prevention is by:

  • Tick control by regular             application of an acaricide (dipping).
  • Vaccination against heartwater to animals being first introduced to an endemic area.

(Mushi, 1995, Mushi et al., 1999)


  • Internal parasites during rainy season when grazing areas are lush such as stomach worms (wireworms, flat worms, round worms) and therefore regular de worming should be practiced to keep livestock in good health.
  • External parasites such as ticks that can cause diseases such as red water/tick fever (babesiosis-caused by blue tick) in cattle and sheep. It would be best to regularly inspect animals for external parasites and dip regularly.
  • Lies, flies- insect repellents are the best aid against these.


There are presences of predators such as;

  • jackals,
  • wolves,
  • lions, wild dogs
  • cheetahs and leopards

Which leave the wild life parks and game reserve and filter to farmlands where they pounce on calves and smallstock because of their size and vulnerability. But to this end, guard dogs and assistance from Cheetah Conservation Botswana who teach how to co-exist with these predators as well as working closely with the Department of Wildlife and the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment who also educate farmers on ways of dealing with predators without necessarily killing them is the best way to deter this problem. Also making sure that farm fences are in good shape and kraals are impenetrable can also prevent attacks as predators would not have access especially at night.

Poisonous plants

In general, poor grazing management means there are less different kinds of plants in the veld. But farmers should be most concerned about the loss of certain valuable plants, and their replacement with plants that have little or no value for people or livestock. This gives the less nutritious and poisonous plants an advantage and they gradually take over the veld. In addition to thorny plants, poisonous plants become more common as the condition of the veld deteriorates. For example Slangkop (Snake’s Head lily) causes diarrhoea, bloated abdomen, heart failure and sudden death in livestock. Since there are few effective remedies for poisoning, it is better to try and prevent poisonous plants getting established in the first place through good veld management. There are many range plants in the wilderness that animals are exposed to and they are distributed countrywide. Farmers should ensure that livestock do not browse or graze in areas where these are found. Some examples are:

Scientific name English name Setswana name
Solanum incanum

Dichapetelum cymosum

Euphorbia tirucalli

Euphorbia mauritanica

Cucumis myriocarpus

Datura stramonium

Cotyledon orbiculata

Lantana camara

Thorn apple, nightshade

Poison leaf

Rubber hedge plant

Wild striped cucumber

Thorn apple

Pig ear

Tick berry

Tholwana/ morolwana








Source: Mushi et al.(1999), Kasozi et al.(1999)


Various individuals and organizations can assist anyone interested in venturing into livestock farming in different ways. Some can share experience, others can advise on where to start, who to seek help from, what you need as well as how to run the farm successfully. Some organizations are solely there for funding in order to kick start the business. Some of them are:

  • Department of veterinary services
  • Department of animal production
  • Botswana meat commission
  • Established Farmers and feedlots
  • CEDA
  • Young Farmers Fund
  • Youth Development Fund
  • LEA
  • Farmers Associations
  • Independent outlets like agrifeed and other feed centers, veterinarians etc.

As an aspiring farmer or an already established farmer who wants to make their farm a successful it is important to know everything about your field, in order to minimize problems or setbacks and gain impeccable results or outcomes. With all this knowledge in your hand it’s up to you to take the first step into utilizing it and turning it into reality, gold, a successful enterprise because there is a bright future in livestock farming. Best of luck!


  • Kasozi J. MCLeod G. Mahonde L. Simela T. Manthe M. (1999). New Trends in Agriculture Pupils book 2. Macmillan Botswana Publishing CO (Pty) Ltd. Gaborone, Botswana. ISBN-99912-78-60-5

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