On a farm so parched that it looks like a desert, Martin Wiese reaches out to stroke the head of yet another dying animal. This time it’s a three-year old mare which could not survive the intensity of four years without rain that turned the soil into dust and left animals scouring the baked land for something to eat. Cattle die daily with only sand in their stomachs.
These shocking scenes have unfolded in the Rehoboth area along the Uhlenhorst road where Wiese is on a one-man mission to save hordes of cattle and horses from certain death.
“It’s mission impossible,” he says as he gets into his truck to fetch the umpteenth load of lucerne and grass bales that will set him back a couple of thousand dollars.
A farmer from the area and breeder of Appaloosa horses, Wiese started buying feed for these animals from neighbouring farms as he just could not face the devastation as the drought intensifies and daily takes the lives of animals.
“Horses are especially very close to my heart. Almost four years without rains have brought about this unprecedented crisis. Farmers from as the far north, the Oshikoto, Otjozondjupa and Hardap regions that brought their animals here in the hope of better grazing earlier this year, are now devastated and financially ruined. Cattle die daily from eating sand. I have seen horses doing the same thing in their last hours before dying and I decided to put all my resources into this rescue mission but I can’t do it on my own any longer,” he laments. With the prices of lucerne hovering around N$130 per bale and grass at N$100 per bale, none of these farmers can afford a tonne of feed which will cost about N$5 800. A tonne of lucerne carries 45 bales and one animal will gulp up a bale per day.
“It’s not a case of the farmers not caring about these animals. It’s plain and simple: they do not have the money to buy food for them and there is no grazing left anywhere, not on the farms or along the roads. Some farmers have to chase their cattle for 25 km every morning to get to a water point and herd them back again in the afternoon. These desperate times have resulted in many animals still travelling along the road at night which causes another problem: that of collisions with cars. There are no more winners in this area. We are all losers and we need help from outside if we are to survive this crisis,” Wiese says as he wipes a tear away for the mare that just died.
Wiese says it will take lots of rain and a couple of years for the rangelands to be restored. “It will be a long haul before we get back to normality. In the meantime, we can’t sell dying animals, we can’t kill them all as they are our livelihood; therefore we have to put in this desperate effort to try and save what we have and pray for some early rains,” he says.
His mission started when he picked up a dying calf along the road. He saved the calf’s life but the very next day he stood next to the skeleton of a once beautiful horse.
“I had sleepless nights after that and since then I have I have put photos of these dying animals on Facebook and asked the public to help with food donations. I have found and rescued several more horses that are in a state of starvation. That is why I now ask the public for help in feeding these dying animals.”
“Hopefully by next year sometime, the country will be blessed with plentiful grazing again, but until then I will give it my all to save these animals. Any donations of grass, food or money for diesel, medicine or vet expenses will be deeply appreciated,” he noted.
Wiese can be contacted by email on email@example.com or cell no. 0812272378.
The banking details are: Bank Windhoek, MC Wiese, Branch Code 483-872 Maerua Mall, Account No. 8005184043