Namibian small stock farmers concerned about toxic plants

Namibian small-stock producers are concerned that the degradation of grazing lands, which have been damaged by years of consecutive drought, will expose livestock to killer plants.

Farmers want the Ministry of Agriculture to take urgent measures to control the spread of toxic plants, which are more resistant to drought and tend to grow faster than non-poisonous vegetation.

These include the Helichrysum argiosporum or “sewejaartjie” plant, which causes acute blindness and death in small stock.

Sheep and goats are also prone to eat the highly toxic Tribulus terrestris (also known as Devil’s Thorn or “duwweltjie”) plant, which causes the swelling of the face, ears, gums and mucus membranes in sheep.

Namibian livestock herds are also threatened by the widespread existence of Dipcadi glaucum, also known as wild onions or “malkopui”, which means crazy-head onion in Afrikaans.

Poisoned animals tend to stand with the head slumped down into water troughs, but are unable to drink. Livestock producers in the Omaheke and Otjozondjupa regions are also threatened by the poisonous Dichapetalum cymosum plant (also known as poison leaf or “gifblaar”).

Poison leaf kills cattle, goats, sheep and most wild game breeds. Affected animals may exhibit symptoms such as difficulty in breathing, excessive salivation and symptoms of nervous instability like trembling, convulsions and twitching.

Death is usually caused by heart failure almost 24 hours after the animal ingested the poisoned plant. Carcasses tend to be blueish due to the severe shortage of oxygen in the blood.

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