Weaners Turning into Cash Cows


By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The price of weaners continues to rise with average prices this year expected to hit the N$3000 mark. Weaner auctions have so far have seen prices hitting up to N$16.35 per kg. In the past seven months, Agra auctions involving about 7200 weaners netted N$21.3 million, with the nine remaining auctions expected to rake in another N$12 million. Agra said in a statement last week that prices of weaners at an auction in Gobabis where 1800 calves were auctioned jumped to over N$16 per kg, while at preceding auctions in Outjo, Otjiwarongo, Rehoboth and Grootfontein, the calves were sold for around N$15.50 per kg. Compared to last year when weaners were sold at an average of N$9 per kg, this year’s average price is expected to be N$14 per kg, which represents an increase of 55%. Agra said should the remaining weaner auctions, scheduled for end of August, remain at this level, the prices per head will be N$ 2940 compared to N$1890 obtained in 2005. Weaner prices have been high since last year due to an overproduction of maize in South Africa, which resulted in a drop in maize prices and a high demand for weaners. With good rains that fell this year, farmers still want to buy weaners to utilize their grass said Willie Schutz, Meat Board of Namibia’s Manager; Information Systems. “Everyone is still in the market for weaners,” he said. In normal times, around 150 000 calves are exported on the hoof with around the same number kept for ox production locally. However, Schutz said the situation was a bit uneven at present because extra calves were being exported. A big part of Namibia is not suited for ox production, which takes between 24 to 36 months to get them slaughter-ready because of the poor grazing condition. “If they hold back the weaners, they cause damage on the land and scale down production,” added Schutz. The high price at which weaners are being sold is not a new phenomenon as every six to seven years “… the weaners get Christmas time”, said Schutz. The government introduced a levy on cattle exported on the hoof in 2003 exempted until October 30 this year. It was envisaged then that by the time the levy comes into effect, infrastructure such as feedlots and abattoirs would be in place to add value locally. But until now, no feedlot has been built. Feedlots are very expensive to run said Schutz adding that to feedlot one animal would take one tonne of feed, but at the same time, Namibia would have to import most of the material. Schutz added that keeping the weaners back using the levy was not a long-term solution due to the fact that cattle production is already declining because of bush encroachment and many farmers moving into game farming. To unlock the potential of the land, he suggested that efforts be made to combat invader bush and also upgrade the veterinary status of cattle in northern communal areas. “If the trend continues, then we won’t even have enough animals as the land won’t be able to sustain them,” he added. While this is the case, Agra said both commercial and communal farmers have welcomed the good weaner prices achieved at the auctions, which Peter Hugo said improved profitability of weaner breeding and production. A large number of weaners that were auctioned weighed around 200 kg. Agra gives prizes to exceptionally high quality and this year, the overall winner of the weaner auction will receive a cash prize of N$6000 and 20kg of lick (Beesmix).