Last update: April 4, 2012 11:40:47 AM E-mail Print


Management of flock during droughts



THE drought, which was experienced from 1966 onwards, can justly be described as a catastrophe. Low rainfall alone was responsible for part of the farmer's difficulties, but his own unpreparedness, (psychologically, in his farming practice, his stock numbers, etc.) eventually contributed largely to his present precarious position.

Fortunately, these lamentable drought conditions also have their bright side, being mainly the change brought about in the farmer's attitude towards farming. If the situation before the drought is appraised sincerely, it is evident that a don't-care attitude was discernible in many farmers towards grazing control, stock-licks, (except salt and bone meal) drought fodder-plants, economy and farm-planning as a safeguard against the effects of drought.

But this attitude of resignation of the past has altered drastically. Has there ever in history been more concern expressed over soil erosion, veld-deterioration and overstocking than there is at present? Have farmers ever displayed so much interest in the economics of farming, resting of grazing and the establishment of drought-resisting fodder plants. It is not unusual to see experienced farmers carefully nursing small Kochia plants, or experimenting with their own stock-lick mixtures.

Briefly, it means that the satisfied-with-the-situation attitude has been drastically altered to an energetic search for

  1. the correct carrying capacity,

  2. better veld management,

  3. improved farming economy practices,

  4. more effective methods of withstanding drought,

  5. more scientific methods of feeding and rationing during drought.


The last-mentioned item forms the subject of this article. Drought in itself is a ghastly business, and only the devoted farmer who is prepared to sacrifice his all can combat it successfully.

When reading these recommendations it must be remembered that easy and effective means of defeating drought just do not exist.



In order to fight drought successfully, it is necessary to make preparations long beforehand.


(a) Veld Improvement

This is one of the bastions in the fight against drought. Farm with fewer stock, allow camps to rest and prevent soil erosion.


(b) Plant drought-resistant fodder crops

People who took the trouble years ago to establish plants such as Old-man saltbush, spineless cactus and agave are now reaping their reward. The value of these plants has been proved over and over again, and those people who do not attach any importance to them are as a rule just the people who do not own them.



When the flock has lost an average of 10 lbs in weight per goat it is time to start supplementary feeding. At this stage the farmer has to make an important decision; one on which the success or failure of his feeding scheme depends.



In so many cases, with the onset of drought, farmers are landed with too many animals. Those, which are not in marketable condition, are withheld on the off chance of early rains. If this does not materialise, the farmer has too much stock on his hands and so his problems arise.

Begin supplementary feeding at an early stage, but class the flock thoroughly first. Retain only the best and most productive to form the nucleus of the flock. If necessary, feed the culls until they are in marketable condition.

Many eyebrows may perhaps now be raised. Yes, it is one of the revolutionary drought-defeating practices, which has now to be put into operation. Experiments, as well as farming practice, have shown that it is economically justifiable to feed stock in order to get them off the farm.

But remember, only the farmer who is equipped to do so will make a success of it. There is a mental attitude, which has to be adjusted accordingly before success can be achieved.



(a) Divide the animals into small groups, the smaller the better.

(b) Group them according to bodyweight, and put the shy feeders together.

(c) Feed ad lib:

1st week 10 Ibs. mealies + 90 Is. lucerne.

2nd week 20 lbs. mealies + 80 lbs. lucerne.

3rd week 30 Ibs. mealies + 70 lbs. lucerne.

4th week 40 lbs. mealies + 60 lbs. lucerne.

5th week 50 lbs. mealies -+- 50 lbs. lucerne.


Plus a lick made up as follows:

60 lbs. bone meal.

30 Ibs. salt.

10 lbs. molasses.


(d) Sell the animals as soon as they are marketable.

(e) The expenses amount to about R2.00 to R2.50 and the animal ought to slaughter as first grade. An animal in good condition always commands a good price. Most important however is the fact that the animal is now off the farm.



While there is still some dry grazing available, the following lick can be made available. Mix it and press it down by tramping well in cardboard boxes, and place these all over the veld.


Karoo and noorsveld

60 lbs. mealie meal.

8 lbs. mono-sodium phosphate.

15 lbs. molasses dissolved in 1½ gallons water.


Bush- and grassveld

30 lbs mealie meal

30 lbs lucerne meal

8 lbs mono-sodium phosphate

15 lbs molasses dissolved in 1½ gallons water


Add 15 to 25 lbs. salt. Regulate the intake by increasing or decreasing the amount of salt so that dry stock takes about 4 ozs. and ewes with kids about 6 ozs. per day. This lick, developed by the Grootfontein Research Institute, has been used by many farmers with great success.

The physiological principle involved here is as follows:

Bacteria in the rumen digest the fodder eaten by the animal and set free the nutrient material, which is taken up by the body. The drier and more woody the fodder, the more difficult it is for the bacteria to digest it, and the more food do they need in the process of digestion. Phosphates and starch are the most important ingredients in the food required by the bacteria. The phosphates (mono-sodium phosphate) and starch (mealie meal) are in reality not fed to the goat, but to the bacteria to enable them to do the job of digestion thoroughly.

Farmers prefer giving their stock dicalcium phosphate or monocalcium phosphate to mono-sodium phosphate on account of the difference in price. In the animals body phosphorus (P) and Calcium (C) are present in the ratio of 2C to 1 P. If this proportion is disturbed it is detrimental to the animal. In Karoo grazing the ratio can be up to 10 Ca to 1 P. If bone meal is fed 2 Ca is added for every P and the disparity becomes even greater. The more the Ca, the less the P becomes assimilable. Thus, although the animal obtains extra P, it is not available in the presence of excess Ca. Mono-sodium phosphate contains no Ca, so that all the phosphate can be assimilated, and the cost of the available P becomes relatively lower than in the case of bone meal.



This can in fact become a problem, and in such instances very little salt should be added to the lick. If the position is serious a plan must be made, even to the extent of borrowing stock, which are accustomed to the lick, which can then teach the animals to take the lick.



In time a stage is reached when supplementary feed has to be given, in particular to ewes with lambs.

  1. Divide the animals into small groups according to weight. The shy feeders who refuse to feed after being butted a few times should be fed separately.

  2. Although it is more trouble it is better to feed in troughs, allowing. 9 inches trough -length per animal. The construction of the troughs is left to the farmer's ingenuity

  3. It is preferable to feed every second day.

  4. The animals should still have access to the lick.

  5. The feed provided depends on what is available.


At present it is lucerne hay, mealies and mealie stalks.


I. Lucerne hay:

Dry animals should receive 0.38 lbs. per animal per day, or 5½ bales per day per 1000 stock.

Ewes with lambs should get 1½ lbs. each or 21½ bales per day per 1 000 stock.


II. Mealies:

Dry animals get 4 to 6 ozs. each per day. Ewes with lams receive 8 ozs. each per day.


III. Lucerne hay + mealies:

Dry animals 0.09 lbs. mealies plus 0.19 lbs. lucerne hay per day each, or ½ bag mealies and 2½ bales lucerne per day per 1 000 animals. Ewes with lambs 0.52 lbs. mealies + 1½ lbs. lucerne hay each per day, or 21½ bales lucerne hay plus 2¼ bags mealies per day per 1 000 animals.

(f) Remember that as the drought progresses the supplementary feed should gradually be increased. If this is not done, possibly on account of the rising costs, that which is given is wasted because it is insufficient. The more feed the animal gets the greater is its productivity, and the extra costs are recovered by the extra amount of mohair shorn. To produce an average fleece the animal need not be in prime condition, while animals with a third grade carcase, or reasonable condition, are still able to deliver an optimum fleece.



It has been proved experimentally and in practice that animals can be fed economically in pens if the facilities are adequate. This is recommended especially where the grazing is very poor. It obviates transport expenses and since the feedlots are usually close at hand a great deal of time is saved. The animals are furthermore under direct supervision, and the Angora farmer knows well how many fatalities can be avoided if the animals are in the kraal during cold weather.

In this way all the animals are fed equally and there are no late arrivals at the feeding troughs.

Begin by getting the animals accustomed to kraal conditions and feed as follows:

1. 24 ozs. lucerne hay per animal per day for 14 days.

2. 16 ozs. lucerne hay + 4 ozs. mealies per animal per day for the following 4 days.

3. 8 ozs. lucerne hay. + 8 ozs. mealies per animal per day for the following 4 days. .

4. 12 ozs. mealies per day onwards.  


Plus a lick consisting of:

35 lbs. Alcolim (defluorinated agricultural lime).

35 lbs. bone meal.

50 lbs. salt, or just enough to provide each animal with a daily intake of ½ to 1 oz.


Yellow mealies are deficient in Ca and if Ca is added, researchers at Grootfontein have found that animals can live for many months on 12 ozs. of mealies per day alone, the animal's weight at the same time remaining constant. Each person must decide for himself whether this would pay or not. With mealies at R36.00 per ton, and fed at the rate of 12 ozs. per day it would cost R4.86 per annum to keep a goat, which shears 8 lbs. of mohair, under feedlot conditions. Whether this is possible in practice depends on the farmer himself. One may find it impracticable, another may make a success of it.

If mealie-stalks or veld-grass hay is available, the following can be fed:

30 lbs. mealie meal.

5 lbs. milled hay.

5 lbs. fish meal or 10 lbs. fowl manure.

15 lbs. molasses meal (3.3% protein).


Plus a lick consisting of: '

50 Ibs. salt, :

40 Ibs. bone meal and

10 Ibs. molasses, fed ad lib.


Fish meal, known chiefly as a protein supplement contains 60% protein and costs R6.00 per 100 lbs. Fowl manure contains 30% protein and costs 40c per 100 lbs. This is something to think about!!



(I) Start feeding in good time during a drought.

(II) Be prepared for it, and see that there are sufficient camps or pens, feeding troughs, shade and shelter and clean fresh water.

(III) Feed only a selected nucleus of the flock.

(IV) Divide the flock into small groups according to weight and feeding habits.

(V) Take care to provide sufficient supplementary feed.

(VI) Feed every second day.

(VII) Keep the animals free from internal parasites.

(VIII) The farmer must be prepared psychologically to apply drought-feeding, and to realise above all that drought expects far more from him in his managerial capacity than the good season does.



(1) Cloete, J. G., Personal Communication 1970.

(2) Van Niekerk, B. D. H., Fattening of Sheep. Lecture at Farmers' Day, Hopetown 1963.

(3) Cloete, J. G., W. D. Basson en W. J. Hugo. Droogtevoer van skape - Hoe en wat. Boerdery in S.A. Julie 1966.

(4) Troskie, D. F., Loon dit om ou skape te voer. Navorsingsinstituut vir Landbou-ekonomie, Pretoria 1967.



Angora goat and mohair journal 13 (1)