Variations in rainfall patterns attributed to climate change have been affecting almost all farming practices in recent years. Livestock production wasn’t spared as drought resulted in shortage of pastures for livestock.
Thanks to the La Nina phenomenon which brought good rains for the 2020/21 farming season, which has resulted in plentiful water and good pasture for animals.
This can tempt some farmers to neglect sustainable veld management practices since pastures are currently plentiful. Poor veld management practices should be avoided as this may have negative impacts later. Some primitive practices such as uncontrolled veld fires are still common in communal areas.
The grass is burnt during the dry season and when the rainy season arrives, the vegetation will grow quickly from dead grass and eventually provide good pastures. What about the insects which are essential components of that ecosystem? What about soil biota which can be burnt in the process? The practice undoubtedly causes more harm than good.
Other poor veld management practices include failure to follow rotational grazing schedules or not having any, exceeding the carrying capacity, leading to overgrazing and grazing the same place at the same time every year.
Not only at farm level are poor management practices common, communal grazing lands are even more susceptible to unsustainable practices. One of the major challenges in communal veld management is that there is no strict monitoring of animal numbers and this often results in exceeding the carrying capacity.
In the event of drought, – as climate change has resulted in frequent droughts in the country – continually grazed pasture will take longer to recover and this has been one of the major challenges in communal areas
Sustainable veld management should ensure the availability of quality veld for a long period and this can only be achieved through proper management strategies. For communal grazing lands, community leaders should engage veterinary officers operating in that community to assist with rotational grazing plans and carrying capacity monitoring.
Rotational grazing does not only give the veld a chance to recover fully, but manure is also distributed more evenly across the grazing area.
Harvesting crop residues for use as supplementary feed can help reduce overgrazing. This year, maize stalks are everywhere and these can be used as supplementary feed to give the forage a chance to recover.
Maize, sorghum and soyabean residues can be used for feeding livestock. However, farmers need to be cautious when harvesting residues for animal feed as poisonous plants can be collected causing livestock deaths.
There is a need for farmers to adopt veld conservation strategies since the rainy season will pass and the grass will eventually disappear. Water harvesting at the farm can be a better strategy to conserve water for irrigating fodder crops or palatable grass in the dry season.
Palatable grass is often sought after by animals and it is much more susceptible to depletion. Its quick recovery would also ensure that animals have their favourite grass during the dry season.
Guided by veterinary officers, farmers should adopt sustainable veld management practices to prevent acute shortages mainly during the post rainy season.
It is important that farmers conserve the veld and take advantage of abundant crop residues. Rainfall patterns are no longer clear and the onset of the rainy season can be late than anticipated, hence the importance of veld conservation.