Sustainable Livestock Farming

Jun 3, 2024

At ONE, we are committed to implementing sustainable agricultural practices. However, sustainability also requires tangible results to show whether we are moving in the right direction. Therefore, we are pleased to share some important insights from a recently conducted study of the grazing areas at Ghaub, conducted by the Universities of Namibia and North-West (in South Africa).

Sustainable Livestock Farming: Successes and Insights from Ghaub

Led by rangeland expert Dr. Axel Rothauge, the study aims to understand the current grazing conditions of the farm and evaluate various land use and grazing management practices. Dr. Rothauge and his students conducted multiple visits to Ghaub between May 2023 and January 2024 and will continue these visits at least until 2026.

To collect data, 63 sample areas on the farm were identified to measure the condition of the grazing areas (e.g., botanical composition, grass-wood balance, standing herbaceous yield, soil condition, carbon exchange, diversity of small animals, etc.). These measurements provide insights into the productivity and availability of fodder for grazing animals and help us evaluate the condition of the grazing areas and the carrying capacity of the farm. In summary, Ghaub exceeded expectations, with the measurements showing a healthy soil condition and remarkable carrying capacity.

Potential and Comparison: Ghaub’s Carrying Capacity in Context       

According to the results from the best sample area (measured during the good rainy season of 2023/24), the carrying capacity on this area is 0.76 ha/LSU and could potentially produce 241 kg of beef per hectare per year. LSU stands for Large Stock Unit (cattle), and the number represents the amount of feed (and thus hectares) needed for an animal to maintain itself and eventually gain weight. To gain 500 g of weight per day, cattle must consume at least 3% of their body weight in dry matter daily. For a cow with a live weight of 450 kg, this means it would need to consume 13.5 kg of dry matter daily.

The average carrying capacity of Ghaub still needs to be determined, but the capacity of the best-performing sample area is remarkably high, considering that the average long-term carrying capacity of a savanna area in Namibia is estimated to be 8-10 ha/LSU, and most cattle breeders strive to produce at least 8 kg of beef per hectare per year.

Veld Management: The Role of a Large Herd at Ghaub                      

Central to the success of our sustainable grazing management is the concept of ONE (no pun intended 😉) herd. At Ghaub, we have combined all cattle into one large herd and rotate them quickly through grazing areas to extend the recovery time of the ungrazed areas and prevent overgrazing of the grasses. A large herd ensures that a considerable portion of the grass is trampled down and covers the ground to form mulch, facilitating water infiltration into the soil, while only a portion of the grass is consumed. Short grazing periods prevent the grass from being grazed too short, allowing reserves to quickly regenerate.

This insight also comes from historical times when large herds of wild animals roamed the land and were regularly disturbed (driven away) by predators. This meant that areas were intensively used for a short time and then rested for a long time. Now, we are trying to replicate this with our herd. Wild animals can no longer migrate today, and the grass is subject to constant grazing pressure. Continuous grazing can kill a perennial grass tuft within two years. We want to prevent this through rapid rotation. A crucial insight for us is that grass does not necessarily have to be eaten; it is enough if it is trampled down to mulch the soil.

Unique location & resources: Basis for Ghaub’s success                

The exceptional productivity of Ghaub is naturally also due to its uniquely fertile and climatically favorable location. Our grazing methods are only possible because we have a sufficiently large piece of land and also the water resources to supply a large herd at once. It is important to note that not every farm in Namibia has these conditions, and therefore, grazing management should be adapted to the conditions of each farm. Ultimately, our goal is to reconcile sustainable livestock farming with the preservation of the ecological health of the grazing areas.

Thank you for your continued support as we strive for a more sustainable future.

On Ghaub, all cattle are combined into one large herd and rotated quickly through pasturelands.

On Ghaub, all cattle are combined into one large herd and rotated quickly through pasturelands.

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