Rangeland management is as important as breed improvement

by Sunday News Online | Sunday, Jul 22, 2018 | 329 views

Rangeland management

Nhlupheki Dube

I HAD the opportunity to visit Umzingwane District last week, specifically areas around Mathendele and Kumbudzi and I could not help but feel for the livestock farmers and their animals.

The veld condition is already in deterioration and animal condition is visibly deteriorating. While it is naturally expected for the veld to begin to deteriorate during this time of the year, it is the extent of the deterioration in these areas that got me worried.

The grazing is completely finished and you will be forgiven for thinking that we are already in October. Also what was very apparent is the lack of diversity in terms of the grass species that constitute the veld.

This begs the question which many have asked and perhaps got no response or action, what needs to be done to improve the veld condition in most of our communal lands? I have also previously written proffering a few suggestions on veld management and improvement and the need for that in most of our rural communities. This instalment will walk the same path of calling for action from relevant departments and arms of Government to promoting good veld management practices.

We have a lot of rangeland specialists some of whom are respected persons in their professional field and I think it’s about time such persons help farmers and community members out there with modern, effective ways of rangeland management.

My thought is that rangeland management should be given the same gravitas as breed improvement in programmes of livestock production.

It is my humble suggestion that rangeland management with practical improved methods be incorporated into the extension activities of the agricultural extension officers. Rangeland specialists should adopt districts with such rangeland management challenges like the areas I described above in Umzingwane and have trials for new technologies and best practices. The land is a very finite and inelastic resource and the old ways of migrating from a tired area to a new and virgin land is no longer applicable and hence the need to find other means of making sure the same land remains viable over a long period of time.

I also challenge research stations in the country, some of them big on rangeland ecology, to design interventions that are aimed at addressing veld challenges in the country. What was clear to me in the case of Kumbudzi and Mathendele area is that there is a strong need for veld reinforcement and introduction of other grass species that are prolific in growth and hence can provide the needed herbage.

I am not a rangeland specialist therefore, my recommendations are obviously limited but what is not in doubt is that action is needed urgently to restore these areas into their optimal productive capacities. Without such interventions we will have vast lands which are carrying far less than their capacity simply because no attention has been given to veld management.

Furthermore, one notices a huge colonisation of these areas by such weeds as the lantana camara. This weed is very invasive which means it quickly spreads and suffocates the growth of other species, especially the grass. Consequently one finds large areas which hardly have undergrowth because of this weed.

Farmers would be properly advised to clear this weed, burn it and open up their land for growth of palatable grasses that are useful to animals. Otherwise left to themselves farmers will be burdened with supplementing their animals as early as July every year. Uyabonga umntakaMaKhumalo.
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