The long term vision of what a producer wants to see its farm should look like, is the starting point of successful farming, says Hendrik Botha of Farm Agagia, Okahandja.
“My vision for my farm in 1977 was to reduce the bush encroachment problem and focus on good livestock and rangeland management. The results of 38 years of consistent focus were far better than what I dreamed of in 1977,” Botha told participants during an open session of the Livestock Producers Organisation (LPO) in Windhoek last week. Botha says as a result of the worst drought ever experienced during 1995/1996, he was forced to significantly reduce his livestock numbers. “I decided that year, in order to reduce the income tax problem due to excessive selling of cattle, to invest into aerial chemical bush thinning on 15% of the densest encroached areas. Thereafter, about 400ha per year for the next 18 years was treated by hand with chemicals. It will be an ongoing exercise to treat re-growth in future. Since 1977, a 6-8 camp rangeland rotation system was used, with focus that every camp rests 60-90 days in the growing season. The positive impact on production was however only realised after I started with bush thinning,” he relates.
The average stocking rate during the period 1989-1998 was 25.6 kg/ha, while an average live weight production during the same period of 9.5 kg/ha/year was realised. For the period 2009-2015 (including three drought years), the average stocking rate was 44.1kg/ha, with average live weight production of 17.8kg/ha/year. Therefore, the production per hectare increased with 87%, while the production% (kg produced as % of kg stocked) increased from 37% to 40%. “I am proud to say that my rangeland condition has significantly improved after I did bush thinning, although my stocking rate increased with 72%,” says Botha.
He adds that the most important lessons he learned during the last 38 years of cattle farming, which he believes is crucial to be successful, are:
Knowledge of good rangeland management principles and consistent application thereof.
Good financial management and taking of calculated risks is needed to simultaneously invest in bush thinning and be able to increase cattle numbers.
Daily discipline and focus to implement all aspects, in order to optimize and maintain the balance between livestock and rangeland management.