Last update: April 4, 2012 08:39:52 AM E-mail Print

 

The Angora goat in successful veld management

PW Roux 

 

THE chances of being able to conserve veld, and to utilise and develop it, are better with Angora goats than with any other type of small stock. Although the Angora is inherently a browser, all the signs are there that it could equally well be designated a grazer. It is well known that in bush veld Angoras derive the bulk of their sustenance from trees, shrubs and bushes, but can do equally well on Karoo bush, grass or lucerne pastures. Like any other small stock, Angoras will feed on those plants that appeal to them most at a specific time and are best suited to their requirements. However, they certainly do make use of a far wider range of plants than any of the sheep breeds do.

Unlike sheep, Angoras prefer to feed higher above ground level. This exceedingly valuable characteristic has the effect that in natural Angora areas the highly sensitive surface-hugging vegetation, which includes seedlings, young plants and plant crowns, suffers relatively less damage from Angoras.

Under conditions of over-grazing, Angoras can make use of the veld more intensively and completely, and for longer periods than sheep do, on account of their ability to enlarge their scope and choice of feed. Furthermore, the Angora can manage to subsist successfully under severe overgrazing conditions. There are farmers who are inclined to exploit this quality, to the great detriment of the veld, by overloading with goats, with alarming results. Veld which has been ruined by goats is much more difficult to rehabilitate than is the case with sheep.

Fig. 1 illustrates the interesting results obtained by T. E. Skinner from grazing Karoo veld over a period of 10 years by both Merino and Angora ewes. The realistic proportion of 12 Angora goats to 10 Merino sheep was maintained during the experiment. The average load per camp was one s.s.u. per 1,9 ha. The ewes lambed on the veld. For convenience the results have been adjusted as though both lots of animals had grazed the same piece of veld. The figure shows that under Angoras the veld doubled its "opslag" content. Under Merinos the palatable bushes decreased by about half. There was a great increase in pioneer grasses, such as carrotseed, "haasgras", "steekgras" and "kwaggakweek". This is an indication, though not definitely established, that where Angoras are introduced into sheep-veld, the danger of mohair being contaminated with grass seeds is greatly enhanced. It is also evident that under continuous grazing, Angoras had a less deleterious effect on the veld. This characteristic of the Angora can profitably be put into practical use on farms where there are not sufficient camps to apply any sort of system. Stock numbers must be kept strictly within limits. As far as numbers are concerned it must be borne in mind that a pregnant ewe requires 1,6 times as much feed as a dry one, while a ewe with a lamb at foot requires 2,3 times as much. This aspect must definitely be taken into consideration when the grazing load is determined.

 

 

Where Angoras and Merinos graze the same veld, separately or simultaneously, the veld will be utilised most completely. On Karoo-bush veld, for instance, it has been found that Angoras have eaten bushes, which were largely neglected by sheep. This indicates that Karoo-bush veld can be used most beneficially when Angoras follow sheep. Where Angoras and Merinos graze together body weights are on the average greater than when they graze separately in different camps. Care must at all times be taken not to overgraze when sheep and goats are run together.

The Angora is sometimes used to "open up" dense bush by heavy grazing over long periods, at the same time destroying the last vestige of grass and small herbage. It has been shown, however, that by stocking heavily for limited periods, Angoras can open up bushveld without seriously affecting the grass. They can be used in the same way to prune rough veld in a relatively short period without damaging the ground cover of grass and herbage significantly. Such drastic treatment must always be followed by a long rest period (see item 12 below). A warning must be sounded here that opening up bushveld in this way holds great immediate advantages, but usually it is also the starting point of the gradual collapse of the veld.

According to preliminary observations, it is of interest to note that the potential "soil-disturbance" or "soil-trampling" factor of the Angora is about 20 to 30 per cent higher than that of the Merino. These are based upon footprints made per 100 metre, footprint surface and mass-pressure per sq. cm. This indicates that Angoras will "tramp out" veld more than Merinos do, and that great care should be taken with the numbers of Angoras especially where the danger of soil erosion exists, such as along river banks and slopes.

A number of precautionary measures, which can be applied to Angora veld with great benefit, are listed below. These are arranged more or less in order from the most elementary to those applicable to fully planned farms. Every Angora farmer therefore has the opportunity of applying these measures, according to his available facilities and ability, and which fall in best with his circumstances. Even farms with only two or three camps are taken into consideration here:

1.  One of the most far-reaching and comprehensive measures is to reduce stock numbers as far as possible. This is an urgent necessity, especially where continuous grazing is unavoidable. In such cases it is also of prime importance to carry out the requirements of item 10 below.

2.  Spare a camp or camps, in order to build up fodder reserves for use particularly during difficult times as well as for veld improvement. The greatest benefit is derived from resting watercourses, although it is equally important to give the entire veld a rest.

3.  Rest at least one-third to one-half of the veld during good seasons. Otherwise, rest one-third and graze two-thirds in rotation. Each year a new one-third is rested, and the balance grazed in rotation. If there is no other way out one-fourth can be withdrawn from crazing annually.

4.  In many cases the complete withdrawal from grazing of badly denuded, destroyed and trampled veld is a necessity. Mountain and hill veld can as a rule be withdrawn for longer periods than flat country without losing its palatability to any extent. The resumption of grazing on withdrawn veld must preferably take place as described in item 5 below.

5.  To encourage grasses in watercourses and floodplains, these should be grazed annually only from the beginning of June to mid-August. This treatment can be applied for as long as is deemed necessary. The response of brack veld is usually not so good.

6.  To develop bushy veld, especially brack veld, it should be rested from March to the end of May, or from mid-August to the end of October, or for both periods in succession. The greatest benefit can be drawn from a withdrawal period from March to the end of October.

7.  Bushes, trees and shrubs require at least 18 months rest, beginning in March. To establish a new population of these plants a rest period of at least 20 years is required!

8.  As much veld as possible should be withdrawn from grazing after good rains have fallen. The minimum withdrawal period is six weeks; even 14 days will yield results. Withdrawal should be done judiciously and measures noted under items 5 and 6 above can be considered, depending upon the season in which the rain fell. Withdrawn stock can be fed, run on lands, or kept in drought-fodder units. (see 10 below)

9.  The Group camp system represents the basis upon which veld management in all its forms can be applied most effectively. The minimum number of camps required is seven. This makes provision for grazing three flocks. Farmers should do all in their power to attain this minimum. The greatest possible benefit can be derived from a farm, at all levels, if there are fifteen or more grazing camps.The application of a Group camp system on a particular farm, depending upon the number of grazing camps available and veld types present, can be based on 2-, 3-, 4-, 5- or more rotational grazing camp systems. For instance, where only seven camps are available, the Group camp system can be based on a two-flock five-camp system. Angoras and other small stock can graze together on the same farm but this should take place only with the exercise of the greatest care and skill. For example, there is a five-camp two-flock system available where the goats precede the sheep, or, if necessary, the sheep precede the goats according to the demands of veld conditions and management practice. A Group camp system for a farm is easy to set up and simple to operate. Adjustments and alterations can also readily be made at a later stage if necessary.

10. The establishment of drought-fodder vegetation, especially the saltbush varieties, spineless cactus and agave (American aloe), is absolutely essential on every farm. The value of these plants has been proved over and over again. The ideal is for about 3 per cent of a farm to be planted to these shrubs. Even limited irrigation of this vegetation is most rewarding in many cases. Drought-fodder plantations also provide place for keeping stock after rains, (see 8 above), the avoidance of poisonous plants or mohair-infesting seeds and veld-stains, the removal of excess animals from the veld, to serve as feed reserves during droughts, as feed-lots for feeding and fattening, and to keep sick and other animals in. If stock do not take to these fodder plants readily they can be taught to do so.

11. The contamination of mohair by grass seed such as "klitsgras" (Setaria verticillata), "klits" (Medicago spp.) and carrotseed grass (Tragus spp.)  creates special problems for the Angora farmer, likewise "opslag" and succulents, which stain the hair. Grazing heavily before the seeds form will keep a camp reasonably clean, after which grazing can revert to normal. This technique can best be applied in a Group camp system, even when the whole farm is infested. Because these types of "opslag" and grass are pioneer plants, it is to be expected that they will decrease with veld reclamation, but they will still always be present. By withdrawing stock to drought-fodder camps (see 10 above) the problem can be eased or avoided altogether.

12. After long rest periods, or after good seasons, some types of vegetation become overgrown and unpalatable, or not freely acceptable to stock. Such overgrown veld can be pruned by stocking heavily for a short period. The best time for such treatment is late winter. This procedure must be followed by an ample rest period. The practice of continually keeping bushes short in order to increase- their palatableness inevitably leads to deterioration of the veld.

13. Besides the aspects set out above, attention must be paid to the following: As far as possible the elementary principles of farm planning, such as the separation of different veld types, should be observed. After droughts, veld must be treated according to the conditions laid down in item 8.

 

To utilise veld more efficiently, and to maintain stock in better condition, it is necessary in many instances to provide stock with the so-called energy and supplementary licks. These licks are especially valuable during seasonal droughts and before going on to full-scale drought feeding. Drought feeds can be prepared according to Departmental recommendations. It is highly advantageous to weigh stock, or a marked group, from time to time during droughts. The best stage at which to start feeding is when they have lost about 15 per cent of their body weight. Stock must be fed in small camps and not on the veld. Prevention of soil erosion must receive serious attention. Planting agave along contours is highly recommended in the fight against donga and sheet erosion.

The practice of cutting down bush, trees and succulents, except the sweet noors - for feeding during drought, must be stopped as far as possible. The harmful consequences of the practice are far-reaching and most injurious. At times, however, renewed growth in trees can be stimulated by cutting down or pruning. Such trees should rest for long enough to make sufficient new growth before grazing is allowed again. (see 7 above). Where chopped vegetation, including noors, is fed, supplementary licks should be provided. Sweet noors must be chopped most judiciously and sparingly, as its slow growth may lead to the danger of extermination.

Stock management in general must be of the highest order. This is the one aspect which can bring about an immediate improvement in productivity.

Lastly, it must be stressed that keeping grazing records and statements of income and expenditure absolutely indispensable in making a success of Angora goat farming.

 

Published

Angora goat mohair journal 15 (2)