An agricultural expert has assured Namibian sheep producers that there can be a very good market for their sheep products and this market has a future growth potential.
However, this potential is fraught with difficulties that need to be overcome, such as the current small-scale marketing system, erratic rainfall patterns, escalating feeding costs and the closure of one abattoir, the expert warned.
Koos van der Ryst, an agricultural expert, said this when he addressed farmers at the Mariental Regional Agricultural Union motivational day recently where he gave an overview of the sheep industry in South Africa.
It is possible to farm with sheep profitably, even on a small piece of land, the expert said. However, he advised against exceeding the carrying capacity of one’s land but encouraged careful management of one’s operations, and good record keeping.
The carrying capacity of the land can be determined by consulting experienced farmers or other experts who know the area.
“If he tells you that the carrying capacity is four sheep per hectare and you farm on 10ha, your land can carry 40 sheep, no more. If you exceed this number, the veld will be overgrazed and the soil structure will be damaged. This will lead to erosion, which will, in turn, reduce the carrying capacity of the land,” said Van der Ryst.
He warned that poor grazing necessitates animal fodder but this is unlikely to improve production and will only keep the animals alive. Weakened ewes will not have enough milk to rear lambs and it is highly unlikely that they will conceive in the next breeding season. Wool growth will be poor. Lambs that are forced to survive on meagre milk supply and poor quality feed will grow into feeble ewes with poor mothering ability and stunted milk and wool production.
Thus, Van der Ryst advised the farmers to keep livestock numbers at or below carrying capacity. The ewes will be in good condition with enough milk to raise strong, healthy lambs. The animals will react better to inoculations and dipping. Healthy ewes and lambs mean good wool and meat production.