Last update: April 4, 2012 02:42:25 PM E-mail Print

 

THE GROUP-CAMP SYSTEM

P. W. ROUX and T. E. SKINNER 

 

MOST stock farmers know that judicious veld management is necessary. It is, however, disturbing that only a small percentage of farmers have specific or permanent veld management systems. Apparently the main reason for this is their inadequate knowledge of the elementary principles of veld management and the principles underlying rotational grazing systems and veld treatments. In addition, farmers sometimes mistakenly regard rotational grazing systems as impractical and inflexible.

The purpose of this article is therefore to inform farmers of the very latest developments in the field of rotational grazing systems and the application of veld management in practice.

 

BASIC REQUIREMENTS

Veld utilisation and management systems have to satisfy two main requirements: they have to maintain the veld cover, quality and production at a high level, and they have to provide for stock feed requirements.

Because a single farm may have veld types differing in regard to the nature of the vegetation, the palatability of the plants, and even the accessibility of certain parts of the veld, e.g. because of slopes, ditches, snow, etc., it is essential that the different types of veld should be separated properly by fencing off, particularly since it is necessary to prevent area-selective grazing as far as possible. This step will create the basic framework for all further subdivision of camps.

Veld being grazed must be allowed an adequate period of rest from time to time so that regrowth and re-establishment of plants can take place. Since the veld is composed of many different kinds of plants with different requirements in regard to rest periods, a camp must, over a period of time, be given periods of Test including all the different seasons so that the requirements of the most important plants can be satisfied.

It is fairly easy to satisfy these requirements in practice simply, by allowing seasonal periods of rest that succeed each other in a predetermined order. The effectiveness of resting will depend on the number of camps available.

The three-camp rotational grazing system set out in Table 1 satisfies the main requirements.

 

Number of camps

In the Karoo and the adjacent dry sweet grassveld areas 15 veld camps will generally be sufficient to make the effective and flexible application of grazing systems possible, at the same time meeting the practical requirements of small stock farming. Camps should preferably be 100 to 200 morgen in extent, but may be considerably smaller.

One to five separate herds or flocks can be rotated in the 15 camps according to a prescribed rotational grazing system. In the more arid parts of the Karoo even as few as 9 camps would be enough; it would also be very beneficial to limit the number of flocks or herds to a minimum.

In addition to these camps there should also be several smaller paddocks for specific purposes, such as keeping rams, feeding of stock, etc.

 

Grouping of camps

The simple principle of camp grouping may be used to apply a rotational grazing system in a practical, easy and extremely flexible and adaptable way.

The following exposition provides an example of the application of the three-camp rotational grazing system on a farm with four main veld types, viz mountain veld, ridge veld, valley veld and plains veld, as is shown in Sketch 1. Sketch 1D also shows how the farm is subdivided into camps, and how the groups A, Band Care constituted (Sketches 1A, Band C). Special fences were erected to separate eroded areas and water courses (Camps Z1 Z2 and 11 and 12), as may be seen in Fig. 1D.

The rotational grazing system prescribed for the farm is that given in Table 1.

 

 

Sketch 2 shows a disc chart set out on a monthly basis according to the prescribed system in Table 1. The disc chart can also be used directly for any farm by simply writing in the numbers of the farm camps grouped together and the year, as set out above. The disc can be tacked onto the farm map, turned to the right date, and then adjusted regularly.

The Group A camps can be coloured green on the farm map, and Groups Band C blue and red respectively. The same colours can be used on the disc for the corresponding Groups, as has already been shown in Sketch 1 and on the disc. The disc will automatically indicate which group of camps should be grazed during a particular time of tile year.

 

Special treatments

Camps Z1, Z2, 11 and 12 in Sketch 1 are in a watercourse. The veld in camps Z1 and Z2 is badly damaged and water-eroded. These camps, which are fenced off, should be treated separately and not included in any group. They may be withdrawn from grazing for several years, and erosion works, scrub packs and stone packs, reed plantings, etc. can be provided.

After a period of partial recovery - which may take years - these camps can be grazed during Season 4, which is the best treatment for this type of camp. Care should, however, be taken not to overgraze damaged watercourse camps such as Z1 and Z2 when they are opened fop grazing during Season 4.

The camps 11 and 12, which are also in the watercourse, can also be given preferential treatment by having them grazed only during Season 4 for a few years. After the vegetation in these camps has developed considerably they may be included in the existing groups, A, B and C, individually.

 

 

Special camps

It will be very beneficial to have a feed-reserve camp (i.e. a camp with spineless prickly pears, old man saltbush, etc.) for each group of camps. This will mean that sufficient reserve drought feed can be provided, and will also help to make it possible to maintain the rotational grazing system as far as possible during shortages resulting from severe droughts for instance.

When stock have to be fed, this should be done in separate paddocks specially erected far the purpose. It is also essential that the stock should, at all times, have access to a suitable mineral or energy lick.

 

ADVANTAGES

The advantages of the camp group system are:

It is easy to withdraw a few camps from a group as a result of, for instance, the occurrence of poisonous plants, or for the purpose of burning the veld or when any other veld treatment is to be applied.

When enough camps are available a few can even be withdrawn temporarily to serve later as mating camps, lambing camps or weaning camps, i.e. a few camps are deliberately kept out for grazing by the stock when their nutritional requirements are greater.

Other veld treatments include the intensive cropping of veld, termite control, etc. Not all the camps in a group should be subjected to intensive cropping during the same season or year, since such camps usually have to rest more than six to 18 months before they will have recovered sufficiently to allow grazing. If this principle is not observed a shortage of grazing camps in a particular group may result from the withdrawal of such intensively grazed camps to allow for long rest periods.

In this way any camp in a group can be prepared for any particular management requirement. For instance, ewes can be allowed to graze a camp at first, to be followed later by hamels.

Since the camps in a group are usually spread over the whole farm, scattered showers that sometimes occur on parts of the farm will benefit at least a few camps where no stock are grazing. When general rain occurs at least two-thirds of the farm derives the full benefit from it.

During good rainy seasons only four or three camps per group can be grazed, the others being rested to build up a feed reserve, which can later be used to great advantage.

If necessary camps can be sub-divided further into smaller paddocks without interfering with the application of the system at all.

If the camps are not grouped efficiently enough at first, adjustments can be made without really disrupting the system. When a camp is to be regrouped, it should not be grazed when it comes up for grazing in its group, but be integrated directly with its new group.

The more camps there are per group, the greater the number of different flocks or herds that can be kept, and the greater the flexibility of the system.

During a drought the. number of stock on the veld should be reduced as far as possible or else the camps may be progressively overgrazed.

 

DISADVANTAGES

The only important disadvantage of managing the veld in a group system is that a camp or camps in a specific group may be overloaded when stock are concentrated in one or two camps for some reason.

The farmer should therefore ensure that no camp or camps in a group are overstocked, unless such overstocking serves a specific purpose such as the cropping of rank vegetation. It is essential that the initial calculation of stock numbers for the farm should be realistic and conservative.

Furthermore, there may be a veld shortage towards the end of Season 2, which is a long one. This problem can, however, be solved by grazing only three or four camp in the group concerned during the first two or three months and resting the others. These rested camps can then be grazed together with the already grazed camps in the group during the last 8 to 4 weeks of the season.

 

RECORDS

Keeping records of stock numbers and kinds of stock and of the way in which they are grazing the different camps, has very great advantages, particularly when it comes to determining the number of grazing days (in small-stock units) per camp. Grazing records are very valuable when a certain condition of the veld, having resulted from the system, has to be analysed.

By applying rotational grazing systems on a camp-group basis one can achieve the greatest degree of flexibility and adaptability in veld management in a practical and simple way.

 

Published

Farming in South Africa 45 (10)