• August 11th, 2020

Fodder flow planning during drought comes under the spotlight today

Deon Schlechter

WINDHOEK - Desperate livestock farmers are expected to flock to the Agra Hyper today and tomorrow to learn all about fodder flow planning for the dry season in a time of a terrible drought and deteriorating rangelands.

The two-day course will be presented by foremost rangeland expert of Agra, Bertus Kruger, and will cover topics such as understanding seasonal variation in forage availability, calculating forage demands of livestock, estimating forage availability, adjusting livestock numbers to available forage and discussions about the worrying latest herbaceous biomass map of Namibia.

A project “Developing and testing a rangeland production early warning system with livestock farmers in Namibia” was designed to contribute to enhanced rangeland management by providing the sector with rangeland monitoring tools based on remote sensing technology and on a proven field assessment methodology. The project was funded through an 80 percent grant from the tenth EDF-funded programme “Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation, including Energy”, with co-financing from Agribank, the GEF Small Grants Programme, and Agra Ltd.

A photo guide to estimate forage availability on the farm or grazing area was one of the outputs from the project.

Kruger says forage availability at the end of the rainy season is strongly correlated with rainfall and rangeland condition. 

“Fodder availability is dynamic and there is no such thing as a fixed stocking rate. Therefore, the greatest challenge livestock farmers in Namibia face is the ability to adjust livestock numbers to these different forage availability conditions on a timely basis,” he observes.

The principle should, therefore, be one of balancing forage demand and supply. When forage availability is in balance with forage demand, no problems should be expected. However, if rainfall is less the following season, with the same number of animals, forage demand will remain the same, whilst forage supply will decrease, leading to potential forage shortfalls which is now the case.

“It is therefore important to determine at the end of the rainy season how much forage is available and whether it will be sufficient to last until the following growth season. If forage will not be enough, pro-active de-stocking should take place to prevent forage shortages instead of waiting for too long, once animals are in poor condition or losses are incurred.

“There are various methods and tools available to estimate forage availability. The most accurate methods involve a lot of effort by taking clippings at multiple points around the land, drying and weighing the biomass, and thereby estimating overall production per hectare. Many farmers find this too time-consuming to undertake,” he notes.

The Fodder Availability Photo Guide provides an alternative quick method to get a reasonably good estimate, without the need for physical sampling. For each major vegetation type in Namibia, a series of photos with different forage availability scenarios over a gradient, starting with very little forage and ending up with the highest possible forage availability for that area, is provided. By using this picture guide, a large number of sites all over the farm or grazing area can very easily be compared to the most appropriate picture in the guide, to calculate an average forage.

Once the available biomass per hectare has been determined, it is possible to estimate the overall available biomass compared to herd sizes, to calculate if it is sufficient. To make things easier, the Rangeland Fodder Flow app (for Android and iOS devices) was designed as an additional tool and is available free of charge. This app allows farmers to estimate if the forage available on the farm or grazing area will last with the current livestock and game numbers and can be used to model different scenarios.

Staff Reporter
2019-06-25 10:24:31 | 1 years ago

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