Farming In North West District

This district merges or overlaps the administrative districts of Chobe and Ngamiland. Since 2006, when the Chobe District Council was established, it only administers Ngamiland. North-West’s location in the country causes it to share international borders with the following foreign areas: Omaheke Region, Namibia in the southwest, Otjozondjupa Region, Namibia in the west, Kavango East Region, Namibia in the northwest, Zambezi Region, Zamibia in the north and Zimbabwe to the east. Domestically, it borders the following districts: Central District in the southeast and Ghanzi District in the southwest. The district has a total area of 129, 930 km2 (about 50, 170 sq. mi).

Sub-districts of North-West District in Ngamiland include: Ngami with its headquarters being Maun and Okavango with headquarters being Gumare. By far the largest settlement in the district is Maun, which had a population of 43,776 according to the 2001 census. Other villages in the district are: Ngamiland East-Bodibeng, Botlhatlogo, Chanoga, Habu, Kareng, Kgakge/Makakung, Komana, Mababe, Makalamabedi, Matlapana, Maun, Phuduhudu, Sehithwa, Semboyo, Sankuyo, Shorobe, Toteng and Tsao. In  Ngamiland West-Beetsha, Etsha 6, Etsha 13, Gani, Gonutsuga, Gumare, Ikoga, Kauxwhi, Mohembo East, Mohembo West, Mokgacha, Ngarange, Nokaneng, Nxamasere, Nxaunxau, Qangwa, Sepopa, Seronga, Shakawe, Tobere, Tubu, Xakao, Xaxa and Xhauga. In the Delta area- Daonara, Ditshiping, Jao, Katamaga, Morutsha, Xaxaba.

The Chobe region is made up of the Kasane Township which is the district’s headquarters and the villages of Pandamatenga, Lesoma and Kazungula in the east and Mabele/Machenje, Kavimba, Kachikau, Satau and Parakarungu in the west, commonly known as the Chobe enclave. The rest of the district is comprised of the Chobe National Park, Wildlife Management Area and six forest reserves.

This district has both tarred and gravel roads that lead in and out of the region that even link it to neighboring countries. It also has the Kasane and Maun airports to bring in people especially tourists since it is a major tourist attraction. There are also water vessels in water filled area and the delta such as motorized boats, mekoro and the Kazungula ferry to provide transport for tourists during leisure and local people to transport their Goods to and from neighboring countries such as animal feeds. The ferry is largely used to carry people and vehicles across the Zambezi River to Zambia. The main provider telecommunications linkages is the Botswana Telecommunication Corporation (BTC) as well as other mobile network communications companies. Postal services are also available in the region.





The northern part of Botswana experiences a tropical type of climate and thereby receives much higher rainfall per annum in the Chobe area (500-700mm)than other regions. The Ngamiland area has a slightly lower average of 400-600mm.This region experiences high temperatures averages that can go above 400C especially in the summer  and minimal temperatures averages in winter can go as low as -20C extremities. Humidity is usually low during this high temperatures.



North West is a merge of two districts with distinct vegetation. Ngamiland generally has fair to very good vegetation growth. However, a decline is expected as most of the herbaceous composition is comprised of good annual species that last only for a short period of time during the growing season. Okavango Sub-District and the areas surrounding the delta had fair to poor vegetation growth. The delta vegetation condition in the delta usually improves during the dry season, when the delta recharges with water from the highlands of Angola. This district is a mixture of vegetation with the delta being Aquatic savanna and comprising of tall reeds and grasses that grow in and along the river channels. Large trees also occur. Plants found in that area are Diospyros mespiliformis(African ebony, mokotshong), Garcinia livingstonei (African mangosteen, motsaodi) and Hyphaene petersiana(real fan palm, mokolwane). There are areas that have tree and bush savanna as well as grass savanna vegetation.

Chobe receives very good rains which result in good grazing condition throughout the District. This resulted in emergence of palatable grass species such as Urochloa trichopus, Eragrostis lehmaniana, Cenchrus celliaris andAnthepora pubescens, which are still in good condition. Browsable trees and shrubs were recorded to be in good abundance for browsers and this has led to improved livestock condition. This area mostly has deciduous forest vegetation with many tall deciduous trees such as Baikiaea plurijuga (Zimbabwean teak, mukusi) and Pterocarpusangolensis (bloodwood, mukwa). (, Kasozi et al., 1999).

Even though these vegetation is available livestock production in this area is hampered by shortage of grazing land as most land has been demarcated for the Chobe national park, wildlife management areas and forest reserves thereby saving most grazing areas for wildlife and less is left for livestock which is a great challenge as the animals would need feed.



This is a district that is endowed with water resources and high and least variable rainfall especially on the Chobe region. However, due to high temperatures and low humidity, much of the rainwater is lost through evaporation and evapotranspiration. There are perennial water sources such as the Okavango Delta and the Chobe River which provides portable water for the Kasane/Kazungula area using the Chobe-Zambezi river systems but there are constraints of utilising these river as it needs international agreements. Other settlements depend on ground water resources for their water needs and it is understood that the ground water potential is relatively high but the quality is poor. Also that underground water is significant, though some is saline and has sulphur odour. Therefore it is important to do water tests in one’s area of choice to see if it is portable or not.



This district is has a rich history of pastoral farming with Ngamiland holding the country’s record of having the largest number of has a capacity of around 450 000 heads of cattle which exceeds its intended capacity of 300 000. This large number is not due to positive influence bout the inability of the cattle to be sold due to the district being an FMD red zone therefore making the district not ideal for starting livestock farming or continuing because of its current state. Livestock production in this region is not only hampered by the disease and shortage of grazing land only, but also by predation and lack of marketing opportunities. But if one wants to rear animals here anyway, meat production is the one that has proven successful with beef breeds thriving here as well as goats and sheep reared for meat, the following breeds are successful in the region:


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

Brown Swiss (dual purpose breed-meat + milk) -Good grazers

– Large size, strong and vigorous

-are robust, prolific breeders, long-lived, adaptable and very well-balanced in build with good hooves and limbs.

-double utility breed that is used for dairy and beef purposes providing good milk and meat output.

-Quiet temperament and inquisitive nature

-good strength and high breed vigor.


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

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:

  1. Firstly one has to acquire land where they will be able to rear their animals on.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Livestock- be it cattle, sheep, goats or a combination of them depending on one’s preference.
  5. Infrastructure- such as kraals, fencing for farm, crush, storeroom and if possible storage for feeds and supplements
  6. Tools- for day to day management of livestock e.g. hoof trimmers, budizzo, brand, ear tags etc.
  7. 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
    • Cows/Ewes/Does
    • Weaners etc.
  • Permanent Labour
  • Infrastructure (Handlings; Kraals, Storage Areas, Crushes, Holding pans, etc.)

Variable costs

  • Casual Labour
  • Transport
  • Diesel / Oil
  • Drugs (Medication)
  • Chemicals
  • Tools
  • Farm equipment
  • Mortality
  • Electricity
  • Feed and supplements
  • Water
  • Marketing
  • 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 especially since North West district is a red zone with Foot and Mouth disease outbreak currently terrorizing the Ngamiland area. The Chobe area is also not an exception as the buffalo population is large there and they are in regular contact with cattle making infection easier on cattle as buffaloes are carriers of the disease. Small stock is also susceptible to these disease so they should not be sidelined in matters of these disease.

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

Foot and Mouth Disease (tlhako le molomo, FMD, Aphthous fever) This is a viral disease of ruminants and pigs that is characterised by:

  • Fever
  • Vesicles or blisters in the mouth, feet and sometimes teats.
  • Resulting in excessive salivation and lameness.
  • Most economically important disease of livestock in Botswana.
  • Outbreaks would interrupt export of beef to the outside market
-There is no treatment for FMD.

-FMD is a notifiable disease and all outbreaks must be reported to the Veterinary department and thus rapid and correct diagnosis is vital.

-In areas where the disease is always present the control measures are aimed at reducing the incidence of FMD but not eliminating it particularly if buffaloes which can act as reservoirs of FMD virus are found.

-In the face of an outbreak the area must be quarantined and movement of animals and animal products is banned.

-The farm premises and vehicles moving in and out of affected farms should be disinfected with 4% sodium bicarbonate.

-Vaccination in susceptible animals in the affected farm and surrounding area is carried out. The inactivated vaccine induces short lived immunity and as such the vaccination is carried out twice in 12 months.

-The slaughter method is carried out in FMD free countries following a primary outbreak to eradicate the disease.

-There should be repeated inspections and surveillance of infected premises before restocking is permitted.


Phosphorus deficiency (magetla, hypophosphatemia) 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 fecal 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.


All in all this is a challenged region that I wouldn’t recommend a farmer to venture into livestock farming in due to its challenges which would be bad for this type of business. As an aspiring farmer or an already established farmer who wants to make their farm a successful it is important to know and consider everything about this area and be sure it is the right one for you as a farmer and for  your business or not, 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 especially in the right region or district that is rich in resources as well as experience and history of livestock farming that one can build on. At the end of the day it boils down to the right placement of your enterprise and the decisions that one takes to propel themselves to the pot of the gold at the end of the rainbow but remember, the climb is not easy so patience is one virtue that is needed in this field. Best of luck!