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Home / Farmers' Kraal with Charles Tjatindi - Loss of agricultural land hampers grazing

Farmers' Kraal with Charles Tjatindi - Loss of agricultural land hampers grazing

2023-06-06  Charles Tjatindi

Farmers' Kraal with Charles Tjatindi - Loss of agricultural land hampers grazing

Think about how much food you eat each day. Now, think about how big the human population is and how much food is needed to feed all of those people. Since the development of agriculture, most of the food needed to feed the population has been produced through industrialised agriculture. 

Since the 1960s, however, the amount of food produced through this type of agriculture has increased drastically. Although industrialised agriculture has been successful in producing large quantities of food, the future of food production is in jeopardy due to problems in agriculture. 

Two of the major problems in agriculture are the loss of agricultural land and the decrease in the varieties of crops and livestock produced. The former has been more prevalent in Namibia and is worsened by the frequent drought that is synonymous with the country’s arid climate.

It is, therefore, prudent that we adopt tried and tested methods that would see us through the drought. It is an open secret that spring rain seems to have largely disappeared, while summer rains appear to be arriving later and later. Many areas now receive rain only in late December – and by February, the rain stops falling.

Rangelands are losing good grass at an alarming rate as the plants struggle to deal with less water. In addition, the grass is losing feed value because it grows as fast as possible to form seeds before the growing season ends.

When grass eventually emerges, ravenous animals graze them so vigorously that the plants are damaged. The shorter a grass plant is kept, the shorter its root system becomes to the point where the plant is easily dislodged.

Some scientists think that grassland biomes may eventually change to Karoo-type biomes, where coarse woody plants become the predominant vegetation. This is bad news for selective grass grazers, such as many of our sheep or beef cattle breeds.

Another problem is that despite these changes in weather, many farmers are still caught unawares by drought and do not have important management practices in place, such as supplementary feeding. 

Considering the seriousness of the situation, farming communities need to do their best to introduce grazing methodologies and plans that conserve grasslands for as long as possible.

When droughts linger, feed prices skyrocket as demand for fodder, such as lucerne, increases. Sometimes, entire regions run out of feed, which can prove disastrous.

It is, therefore, imperative that communal farmers work collectively or in large groups to help mitigate drought by managing rangeland. 

Also, whether you farm as an individual or a community, save enough money to buy supplementary feed. Stockpile this feed before prices start to rise and feed becomes scarce.

Budget properly; work out the exact daily cost of the supplementary feed. For example, one 25kg lucerne bale a day will keep 10 sheep and two cattle in reasonably good shape. But if used as a supplement during grass scarcity, one bale can feed 20 sheep and four cattle a day. Remember, though, that the animals will start losing condition if they are fed only this.

Start supplementary feeding before the animals become too thin. If they can no longer stand, they seldom recover.

Reduce livestock numbers before the grass is depleted. If necessary, sell old female animals and all male animals. Younger male animals can be marketed to feedlot enterprises, while older ones can be sold for slaughter. Keep young female animals, as they can help you rebuild your flock/herd. Funds from the sale of the other animals should enable you to buy supplementary feed or plant feed crops. 

Finally, ensure that all your livestock are vaccinated, dipped and dewormed before the drought arrives. This will help prevent opportunistic infections and diseases from afflicting your animals when they are nutritionally compromised.


2023-06-06  Charles Tjatindi

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