- Optimum use of natural grazing in the Karoo Region
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THE OPTIMUM USE OF NATURAL GRAZING IN THE KAROO REGION
by A.J. SIEPKER
Natural grazing consists of a great variety of plants such as trees, shrubs, bushes and grasses. The composition of the vegetation differs considerably according to climate, soil and the effect of the grazing animal. The individual plants vary from palatable, unpalatable, useless to even poisonous varieties.
To ensure the optimum use of veld, the following should be done:
Withdraw eroded areas from grazing;
give special treatment to water-course veld;
divide the veld into sufficient camps according to veld types;
supply adequate drinking water in all camps;
group camps sensibly;
graze camp groups systematically;
apply a realistic carrying capacity;
take precautions against deviations from the above; and
reclaim badly eroded areas.
1. Withdrawal of eroded areas from grazing
To promote the recovery of eroded and/or wholly and partially denuded areas the following should be done:
The area must be fenced off; withdraw it from grazing until such time as the young vegetation has established to the extent where it will stand up to grazing or trampling.
It should, however, first be rested for at least 3 years, so that valuable plants can produce seed, after which subsequent treatment can be determined.
All erosion fences that comply with the prescribed. minimum - specifications, are subsidised provided application is made beforehand, and the application is approved.
The natural process of recovery can, where necessary, be assisted by either mechanical means and/ or by planting and/ or sowing desirable grasses and bushes.
2. Special treatment for water-course and brack veld
To give all plants, and especially permanent grasses, the opportunity to establish and increase on water-course veld the following should be done:
Where practically possible, fence off all water-course veld and graze it during the winter months of May, June and July only. When the vegetation has recovered sufficiently, water-course veld can be incorporated in a grazing system.
All fences in respect of the treatment of eroded areas and water-course veld are subsidised, on condition that the fencing is erected according to the minimum specifications, and that application is made beforehand.
The improvement of brack veld can be promoted by:
fencing it in where practicable;
resting the veld from March to the end of May, or
from mid August to the end of October, or for both periods consecutively, but
a continuous period from March to the end of October, will be most beneficial.
The special treatment recommended for water-course- and brack veld will prevent the extinction of the most palatable and therefore most valuable, plants by continuous grazing, thus preventing the formation of denuded areas and soil erosion, .and therefore a decrease in carrying capacity.
3. Subdivision of veld
In order to treat all veld according to its requirements and to utilise it according to potential, it is recommended that:
veld with the same potential and palatability
should be fenced together if, practicable;
small portions of less palatable veld should be fenced in with larger portions of more palatable veld and not vice versa;
certain portions such as water-courses and areas which tend to erode more readily, must be fenced off separately, and
where vulnerable veld is fenced in with non vulnerable veld, grazing should be as if the whole camp consists of vulnerable veld.
To ensure that rest and grazing periods are applied judiciously and to provide for varying farming conditions, as many camps as economically justifiable, must be allocated to each flock or herd of animals, but a minimum of five camps for each flock of 250 small stock is necessary.
4. Provision of stock-watering points
To minimise waste of energy and trampling of veld, watering points should be spaced every 1 500 m and/ or placed one per 100 ha.
5. Grouping of camps
To ensure the optimum use of rainfall, camps in the same group should spread over the farm.
To eliminate deficiencies in feeding camps grouped together should be representative of the variety of veld types on the farm.
Each group should include a mountain slope, plateau, and flat - should such camps occur on a farm.
To facilitate the management of the different flocks, the different groups of camps should be able to maintain the same carrying capacity.
The following serves as an example:
Group A : Camp 1,4,7, 10 Size - 600 ha
Group B : Camp 2, 5, 8, 11 Size - 590 ha
Group C : Camp 3, 6, 9, 12 Size - 610 ha
Camps 1, 2 and 3 being mountain veld, 4, 5 and 6 hills and the rest flats.
6. Application of rotational grazing system
For the optimum development and utilisation of each veld type, camps should be alternately allowed a long resting period to ensure:
maximum production of grazing material, the
seeding and establishment of young plants, and
root development and the recovery of plants after grazing.
An appropriate grazing system should be practised in order to further the utilisation of rested veld and minimise:
the detrimental effect caused by continuous grazing through all the growth stages of palatable plants;
the damage caused by spring grazing to early sprouting bushes and grasses;
the damage caused by autumn grazing to grasses and especially bushes;
the detrimental effects of summer and winter grazing respectively on mixed grass/ bush communities.
(See accompanying table for an example of an appropriate rotational grazing program.)
The system repeats itself after completion of the third year.
It is essential that all animals (game inclusive) should be withdrawn from the veld while it is being rested.
A practical grazing system must be drawn up for every individual farm. Extension Officers should be consulted in this respect.
7. Maintenance of a realistic long term carrying capacity
A realistic basis:
The carrying capacity under the Stock Reduction Scheme less one-third (because one-third of the veld must be rested), but
should be further reduced as soon as the veld is unable to support the stock during the scheduled grazing periods under normal conditions; and
a lamb that is weaned at four months must be taken as an adult sheep.
8. Provision against deviation from rotational grazing systems
To ensure the continued application of a well planned grazing program the highest number of flocks to be accommodated on the farm during any period of time, must be determined (flock size 250 to 350 small stock)
Provision should be made for:
cultivation of drought fodder crops;
as many camps as economically and practically possible for each flock;
facilities and pens for feeding during droughts or for further resting of veld immediately after a drought has broken.
9. Recovery of badly eroded veld
Where such veld is beyond recovery by means of fencing it off and resting it for three years and longer, mechanical structures must be erected to aid biological recovery and biological recovery enhanced by planting reeds.
Leaflet : Woolproduction C.1.5.2./1979