Restoring grazing values

Managing perennial grasses and ensuring re-seeding, whether naturally or with commercial seed, is critical for farmers.

08 May 2019 | Agriculture

Grass is the feed base of grazing livestock in Namibia.

The abundance of the most valuable grass species in many parts of the country has decreased, resulting in loss of grazing value especially in communal areas, and the carrying capacity has drastically decreased over the years.

The grasses that are now dominating are the opportunistic ones with little grazing value such as Aristida stipitata, amongst others.

This has significantly compromised livestock productivity and the potential income of farms.

The underlying reasons are the poor grazing regimes which led to overgrazing, in turn resulting in rangeland degradation in the form of bush encroachment and soil erosion, amongst others, and this is further exacerbated by the erratic rainfall.

When there is no grass there will be no money. The grazing value of an area is determined by the grass growth/life cycle, species composition and nutritional value.

There are two types of grasses in terms of life cycles; these are annual and perennial grasses.

An annual grass (e.g. Eragrostis porosa, Chloris virgata, etc.) is mainly the first grass type to emerge in abundance after the first rainfall, and thus, the first green food for grazing animals after the dry season.

Annual grasses have a shallow root system and few leaf materials; and only need a minute amount of moisture, nutrient and sunlight.

These types of grasses grow and produce seeds fast, but survive only during the rainy season and die (disappear as winter season starts).

The next annual grass will only grow from the seed. In contrast, perennial grasses such as the common Cenchrus ciliaris (blue buffalo grass) Schmidtia pappophoroide (Kalahari sand quick), or Anthephora pubescens (wool grass) have deep root systems and massive leaf materials, and require enough investment in terms of moisture, nutrients, and sunlight, and thus take longer (about 2-3 months) to grow to maturity. They are the bulk of the grazing animal's diet throughout the year.

At the end of the rainy season, they do not die but go into dormancy for the dry season. They shed seeds and withdraw all nutrients (from leaves and stems) back underground in their stump as food reserves for the next season's growth.

The same dormant grass stump will produce fresh/new stems and leaves, and also, the seeds will germinate into new grasses.

These grasses shed seeds as they start to dry in the dry season, from May.

These seeds may be found collected together in ditches on the soil. In August, the wind distributes and sows them, and when the rainfall starts, the germination process begins.

In an effort to restore grazing lands and produce their own fodder, farmers need to reintroduce these perennial grasses by re-seeding. These grasses can be cultivated and protected like food crops in gardens or crop fields, and can also be planted in grazing areas.

The seeds can be harvested from standing grass or purchased from common agricultural input shops.

It is very important that cultivated grasses are protected from disturbance (grazing), and are allowed to grow to maturity until they produce seeds and are able to regenerate themselves.

Once harvested, it can be processed into hay or milled and mixed with other feedstuffs and used or stored for the period of fodder scarcity.

*Erastus Ngaruka is the technical officer of livestock at Agribank

Erastus Ngaruka

Similar News

 

Good chance of weak El Niño

11 hours ago | Agriculture

Forecasts indicate that there is a 70% chance of weak El Niño conditions persisting until July this year. According to the latest Southern Africa Seasonal...

Agra launches weaner auction championships

11 hours ago | Agriculture

The 2019 Agra National Weaner Auction Championships was launched this month at the Agra/Bank Windhoek Ring. The championships aim to recognise and reward producers for...

Timber impounded, no arrests made

5 days ago - 17 May 2019 | Agriculture

Police in Kavango West have impounded timber believed to have been harvested illegally, but no arrests have been made. The regional police commander, Commissioner...

Farmworkers at risk of layoffs

5 days ago - 17 May 2019 | Agriculture

Social Security Commission (SSC) CEO Milka Mungunda said the drought situation in the country is putting farmworkers at risk of losing their jobs, which would...

Stake your claim

6 days ago - 16 May 2019 | Agriculture

JEMIMA BEUKES Those who want to claim ancestral land rights have until 20 June to submit their claims and supporting evidence...

Agribank ta yambidhidha omolwa oshikukuta

6 days ago - 16 May 2019 | Agriculture

JEMIMA BEUKES Ombaanga yoAgribank otayi gandja embilipaleko lyiifuta yomikuli oshowo omikuli dhokuyambidhidha aanafaalama omolwa onkalo yoshikukuta.Ombaanga oya holola kutya tayi ka gwedhela aanafaalama oomvula mbali...

Oonkundathana kombinga yomusinda omutiligane

6 days ago - 16 May 2019 | Agriculture

KENYA KAMBOWEOshiputudhilo shoInstitute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) osha ningi olopota yi na omagwedhelepo kombinga yiinima iyali mbyoka tayi vulu okutulwa miilonga opo ku vule...

NCA: 104 000 farmers in limbo

1 week ago - 15 May 2019 | Agriculture

KENYA KAMBOWE An Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) draft report recommends two options to deal with the...

Global recognition for Desert Fruit

1 week ago - 15 May 2019 | Agriculture

Local date producer and exporter, Desert Fruit Namibia, was last week awarded its certificate for winning a category in the Khalifa Date Palm Awards.Agriculture minister...

Agribank offers lifelines

1 week ago - 15 May 2019 | Agriculture

Agribank is offering relief on both arrears and instalments for the current year, as well as drought relief loans. It will also add two...

Latest News

Prisoner hid 'powdered milk' in...

11 hours ago | Justice

A Windhoek prisoner is suing the ministry of safety and security and a police officer for N$250 000 in damages on the basis that he...

Katrina's corruption trial draws to...

11 hours ago | Justice

Closing arguments in education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa's corruption trial were made in the High Court yesterday, with defence lawyer Sisa Namandje warning that “exaggerated rumours...

Fathers must step up

11 hours ago | Columns

Our lead story of yesterday, which highlighted the shame of absent fathers, sparked heated debate on social media. Most of the commentators sympathised with single...

Cases pile up at Oshakati

11 hours ago | Justice

A shortage of magistrates at the Oshakati Magistrate's Court has been blamed for the postponement of several cases since April. A clerk from the...

Woman gang-raped by four men

11 hours ago | Crime

A 29-year-old woman has been gang-raped by four men in Wanaheda. According to the police the incident happened in a riverbed between Luxury Hill...

NSFAF to fund 19% of...

11 hours ago | Education

The Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) will only grant financial assistance to 19% of its new, eligible applicants during this academic year, due to...

Good chance of weak El...

11 hours ago | Agriculture

Forecasts indicate that there is a 70% chance of weak El Niño conditions persisting until July this year. According to the latest Southern Africa Seasonal...

Agra launches weaner auction championships

11 hours ago | Agriculture

The 2019 Agra National Weaner Auction Championships was launched this month at the Agra/Bank Windhoek Ring. The championships aim to recognise and reward producers for...

LPM raises spectre of 'military...

11 hours ago | Politics

The Landless People's Movement (LPM) is concerned that Namibia may be turning into a military state.It believes there is a need for the United Nations...

Load More