2.1. Major topographical features
3.1. Climate and drought4. Ruminant Livestock Production Systems
4.1. Freehold/commercial sector5. The Pasture Resource
7.1.Institutional structure8. References
The Republic of South Africa is situated at the southern tip of Africa. It is bordered to the north by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique; in the west by the Atlantic Ocean and in the south and east by the Indian Ocean (Figure 1). The total land area is 1 223 201 sq km (excluding Lesotho and Swaziland).
Figure 1. South Africa, showing the position of its neighbours, enclaves, the boundaries of its nine provinces and the location of some important cities.
South Africa's population was estimated at 40.6 million in 1996 (Stats SA 1996), of which approximately 46% was rural and 54% urban (according to the World factbook the July 2006 population estimate was 44,187,637 with a minus 0.4% growth rate). Agriculture accounts for 3.2% of GDP and 7% of exports (R14.57 billion in 2000; R1.00=US$0.12 in August 2001) and supports, directly or indirectly, 15% of the population (Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs 2001).
South Africa is a multi-cultural nation, with many ethnic groups and colonial nations represented in its populations. It is this wide variation in the origin of its people which make understanding the management of its natural resources so interesting. The remaining San people of the southern Kalahari represent the oldest traditional users of natural vegetation for survival. San people are still able to subsist as hunter gatherers in the most arid regions of the country, providing some evidence of how it is possible to sustain small human populations in this region. San exhibit a strong understanding of resource limitations and probably follow the principles embodied in the dis-equilibrium theory (Ellis & Swift 1988) the closest of all southern African people. The San were also able to remain in the mountainous regions of the Drakensberg and along the Great Escarpment. The evidence of their history is found in the numerous rock paintings and other artefacts which occur in caves along the Great Escarpment.
The Nguni people of the eastern seaboard are graziers with a long (10000 year) history of maintaining domestic livestock. These people comprise the Seswati, AmaZulu and AmaXhosa nations, and occupy the leasehold lands in Gazankulu, KwaZulu Natal, Transkei and Ciskei. The society is organized around a village, comprising dwelling units, cultivated lands and grazing lands. The early cattle were of the Bos indicus stock and this line is being developed and protected in recent years with the establishment of an Nguni stud book.
Europeans of Dutch descent arrived in South Africa in 1652, and settled at first at the supply station in Cape Town. These settlers where joined by French Huguenots, who brought with them a knowledge of viticulture and animal husbandry (mainly sheep). Descendants of the early Dutch settlers began moving into the interior of the country with the abolition of slavery, and developed the extensive cattle and sheep farming enterprises which currently occupy land in the Kalahari, central Free State and the North West Province. It was only in 1820 that settlers of British origin arrived and settled on the eastern seaboard. They developed mixed-farming operations in the Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal, and included cattle and wool-sheep enterprises.
There are four broad categories of land tenure in South Africa. Approximately 70% of the country is so-called "commercial" farmland under freehold tenure, 14% is allocated to communal areas with leasehold tenure, 10% is formally conserved, and the remaining 6% is used for mining, urban and industrial development. The communal areas are situated mainly in former homelands of Transkei, Ciskei, Bophutatswana, Kwa-Zulu, Lebowa, Venda and Gazankulu in the north and east of the country, while the commercial areas occupy most of the west, centre and the south of the country.
In 2000, the greasy wool clip came to 52 671 t (this declined to 44,156 tonnes in 2004) and South Africa produced 25% of Africa's wool crop. In 2000, the country's mutton production amounted to 118 000 t (and 108,000 t in 2004). The main breeds of sheep are fine-woolled Merino, the South African mutton Merino, Dohne Merino, Dormer, Dorper (the latter two are locally developed breeds) and the Karakul. The Karoo is one of the main sheep-farming areas in the country with the Karakul industry limited to the dry north-western regions of the Northern Cape Province. In 2000 the national herd was estimated at 28.6 million sheep (29.1 million in 2004).
South Africa's national commercial cattle herd is estimated at 13.5 million, including various international breeds of dairy and beef-cattle, as well as indigenous breeds such as the Afrikander and Nguni. Locally developed breeds include the Drakensberger and Bonsmara. These breeds are systematically and scientifically improved through breeding programmes, performance testing and the evaluation of functional efficiency. Almost 590 000 t of beef were produced in 2000. Owing to the relatively low carrying capacity on the natural pastures, extensive cattle-ranching is practised in the lower rainfall regions.
The rangeland resources of South Africa have been reported on extensively in the recent past, with three important publications having appeared (Cowling et al 1997, Dean & Milton 1999, Tainton 1999, Tainton 2000). These publications provide exhaustive information on the types of rangeland resources, their general ecology, including plant species composition and associated environmental variables, and the productivity and management. In addition, information on the management of rangelands in southern Africa is provided in the approximately 960 research publications which have appeared in the African Journal of Range & Forage Science and is predecessors since 1966. Other journals which provide exhaustive information on the natural resources of South Africa include the South African Journal of Botany and Bothalia. South African range researchers are strongly encouraged to publish in the wider international literature, and many important research articles appear in peer-reviewed journals published on other continents. This chapter does not attempt to synthesize or review all this available information, but provides a brief summary of the current status of our understanding of southern African rangeland eco-systems.
|2. SOILS AND TOPOGRAPHY
Major topographic features
2.2 Major soil types
The relatively young South African and active geology has given rise to soils of high nutrient status. The Nama-karoo biome of the central regions comprise predominantly mudstones and sandstones of the Karoo Supergroup, which give rise to shallow (<30cm) aridosols, with a calcareous hardpan layer typically in the profile. During the Jurassic age, these sedimentary rocks were intruded by dolerites, which criss-cross the landscape in characteristic dykes. The dolerites contain plagioclase which give rise to soils of high clay content. These features contain many grasses and associated phreatic woody shrubs, and represent refugia for many desirable (to the herbivore) plant species. The dolerite sills and dykes provide summer grazing, whereas the nutrient rich calcareous plains provide abundant, high quality winter forage. The grasslands of the highveld are associated with high nutrient status soils of basalt and dolerite origin.
The savannas of the Mpumalanga Lowveld are associated with the gabbros and granities of the Bushveld igneous complex. The latter give rise to sandy soils of moderate nutrient status. The gabbros give rise to a nutrient rich Mispah rock complex.
In geological time several phases of uplifting, erosion and deposition have created complex landforms determined by the underlying geology. The Cape Fold Mountains and the Lesotho Highlands are the largest surfaces which intrude above the African plane. The Cape Fold Mountains are siliceous rocks, giving rise to immature, litholic soils. The Lesotho Highlands on the other hand are basaltic, giving rise to mollisols (Partridge 1997). The grasslands of the highveld are associated with high nutrient status soils of basalt and andesitic origin.
|3. CLIMATE AND AGRO-ECOLOGICAL
3.1 Climate and drought
Table 1. Annual rainfall distribution and climatic classification in South Africa
Source: Schulze 1997
Seasonality of rainfall
3.2 Agro-ecological zones and biomes
In the western portions of the biome, there are alarming trends in woody encroachment with two species in particular (Acacia mellifera and Rhigozum trichotomum) thickening up in regions with a long history of domestic herbivory.
The biome was originally defined on climatic factors and is limited to summer and strong summer rainfall areas with a summer aridity index between 2.0 and 3.9 (Rutherford & Westfall 1986). Frost is common and occurring for 30-180 days per annum. The most common soil in the biome, accounting for 50% of the area, is the red-yellow-grey latosol plinthic catena. This is followed by black and red clays and solonetzic soils, freely drained latosols, and black clays (Rutherford & Westfall 1986).
Acocks (1953) defined thirteen pure grassland types and six "false" or anthropogenically-induced grasslands, ranging from the so-called "sweet" grasslands of the semi-arid regions of the Eastern Cape to the "sour" grasslands of the high rainfall regions of the Drakensberg. There are now six recognisable grassland floristic regions (O'Connor & Bredenkamp 1997), reflecting a topo-moisture gradient from the dry western region to the eastern mountains and escarpment (Table 5).
The concepts "sweet" and "sour" refers to the palatability of the grasses, dwarf shrubs and trees to domestic livestock. Although difficult to define in strict scientific sense, these terms have retained their use throughout the farming community, being applied to both individual species and to components of the landscape. "Sweet veld" usually occurs on eutrophic soils under arid and semi-arid conditions. These soils are generally derived from the shales, mudstones and sandstones of the Karoo Supergroup. "Sour veld" is associated with the acid soils of quartzite and andesitic origin, and occurs in higher (>600mm) rainfall and high elevation (>1400m). Ellery et al (1995 ) have suggested that the concept is driven by the C:N ratios of the grasses, and the sweet veld has a lower C:N ratio than sour veld.
In concluding their chapter on the biome, O'Connor & Bredenkamp (1997) report "that the rainfall gradient across the grassland biome is the main determinant of community composition, primary production, foliage nutrient content, nutrient cycling and attributes of species such as photosynthetic pathway, secondary chemicals and phenology. Rainfall in semi-arid regions, and hence production and nutrient cycling, is more variable than in moister regions. Indeed, rainfall regime seems to determine the distribution of the biome both directly (i.e. water balance) and indirectly through fire regime, although biotic effects of grazing can influence biome boundaries. A temperature gradient is also undoubtedly important, and is partly independant of rainfall, although this relationship has not been well investiagted. Soil type is a critical modifier of the influence of rainfall regime at a local or regional scale. Although all grasslands of the biome comprise mainly tufted perennials, it is tentatively suggested that semi-arid grassland has faster turnover of individual tufts, because of the increased frequency of drought related mortality, and therefore has the potential for rapid compositional change. In contrast, tuft turnover and change in high-rainfall regions is slow, because of the stable rainfall regime. It would appear that as a result of these different rainfall patterns, grazing has a more mmediate effect on community change in semi-arid than moist grassland. Changes in community composition can dramatically influence water balance, production, nutrient cycling, foliage quality, soil loss and fire behaviour. Community change depends on the influence of communities on the abiotic environment and on species attributes, but the response of species to environment is contextual rather than absolute.
Table 2. Regions within the grassland biome (O'Connor & Bredenkamp 1997).
LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION SYSTEMS
There are currently (2005) about 13.8 million cattle, 25.3 million sheep and 6.4 million goats in South Africa (see Table 3a), in addition to smaller numbers of pigs, poultry and farmed ostriches. The total numbers of cattle and small stock fluctuate in response to high and low rainfall years. There are more cattle in the communal than the freehold sector (Table 3b), although the communal sector contributes minimally to formal beef sales. Nationally, beef production is the most important livestock related activity, followed by small stock (sheep and goat) production (Table 4). Most of the output from the small stock sector (wool, mohair, mutton and lamb) is exported. The combined livestock sector contributes 75% of total agricultural output (National Department of Agriculture, 1999). Since 1992 there has been a steady increase in the production of chicken meat and a general decline in beef and veal production. Total meat production has increased from 1.5 M tonnes to 1.8 M tonnes.The national output of wool has declined from 83Mt in 1992 to 44Mt in 2004. Up until 2001 South Africa imported large numbers of live cattle (100,000-200,000 per year) and continues to import large numbers of live sheep (700,000-1,000,000) per year). Beef and veal imports were 10,000 tonnes in 2003 while exports were only 4,000 tonnes. Exports of dairy products (expressed in milk equivalents) ranged between 87,000 and 232,000 tonnes over the period 1995-2003 but since 2000 imports have exceeded exports and in 2003 imports of 162,000 tonnes (exports were 87,000) cost US$ 65,180,000 while earnings for exports were US$ 36,809,000.
Table 3b. National livestock census 1999.
South Africa also possesses a rich and diverse wildlife resource, and almost 10% of the country is designated as National Parks and formal conservation areas, but a considerable proportion of the wildlife exists outside formally proclaimed conservation areas. Many livestock farmers derive some or all of their income from hunting and/or eco-tourism.
There are two widely disparate types of production system. In the freehold farms there are clear boundaries, exclusive rights for the individual properties, and commercial production objectives. Land tenure issues considerably hamper the introduction and adoption of improved management practices in the communal areas, in which there are often unclear boundaries, generally open access rights to grazing areas, and the farmers are subsistence oriented.
Table 4. Production (x 1000 Mt) statistics for beef and veal, chicken, mutton and lamb, goat and game, as well as wool and milk production for the period 1992-2005
4.1 Freehold/commercial sector
Table 5. Land areas (million ha) of the major land-use types in South Africa
Source:Development Bank of Southern Africa 1991
Cattle are predominant in the eastern parts of the country where the rangelands generally have a higher carrying capacity. Beef cattle ranching is the largest contributor to commercial farming income, and the major breeds are Brahman, Afrikander and Simmentaler. Sheep are largely concentrated in the drier west and also in the south east and are mostly the Dohne merino, bred mainly for wool production, and the Dorper for meat production. Goats are more widely distributed and the main breeds are the Boergoat and the Angora. Grazing livestock are raised under extensive ranching conditions, relying on natural pasture occasionally supplemented by protein/mineral licks. Ostriches are farmed in the southern parts of the country and use natural vegetation, supplemented by fodders and concentrates.
The commercial areas are divided into fenced ranches and then further subdivided into a number of paddocks, through which some form of rotational grazing is normally practised. Compared to the communal areas, stocking rates tend to be more conservative.
Fire is applied to many of the high elevation rangelands to provide grazing during the early growing season. Fire is used primarily by commercial ranchers to remove material of low quality which remains after the winter, and to encourage the flush of short green grass during spring. In response, there has been a marked increase in game farming and eco-tourism in the commercial areas, in recognition of the difficulties and consequences of farming with mono-specific (grazer) domestic stock.
4.2 Communal/subsistence sector
The communal areas occupy about 17% of the total farming area of South Africa and hold approximately 52% of the total cattle population, 72% of the goats and 17% of the sheep (Table 3). They differ markedly from the freehold areas in their production systems, objectives and property rights (Table 5); only the cropping areas are normally allocated to individual households, while the grazing areas tend to be shared by members of a community. The communal sector has a substantially higher human population per unit area than the commercial sector, and has suffered from lower levels of state intervention. Investments in infra-structure (access roads, fences, water provision, power supply, dipping facilities) has not kept up with the commercial rangeland. The production systems in the communal areas are based on pastoralism and agro-pastoralism, and the majority of households are subsistence-based and labour intensive, with limited use of technology and external inputs. The outputs and objectives of livestock ownership are much more diverse than in commercial livestock production and include draft power, milk, dung, meat, cash income and capital storage as well as socio-cultural factors. The combination of objectives tends to be met by a policy of herd maximisation rather than turnover, hence even the large herd owners tend to sell only to meet cash needs.
Communal area livestock production contributes insignificantly to formal agricultural output and is mainly confined to the eastern and northern part of the country. However herd sizes vary considerably between and within regions, and livestock ownership is strongly skewed, with a small number of people owning large herds and the majority owning few animals or none at all.
Stock numbers tend to be less evenly distributed in communal than in commercial areas. There is a tendency for high concentrations of people and livestock near to access roads, towns and infra-structure (schools, clinics, supply stores) and permanent water. Portions of the landscape that are inaccessible (e.g. steep slopes, high mountain plateuas) or far from permanent water remain under-utilised.
Mixed livestock ownership is more common in communal than freehold areas. Cattle are the generally preferred livestock species, and are important for draft power, but economic and ecological conditions often limit the possibilities of cattle ownership. Goats and, to a lesser extent, sheep are widely distributed in the communal areas, with a few communities in the high elevation regions of the Eastern Cape focussing on sheep only. The pigs and poultry in the communal areas are mainly commercial breeds.
Cattle, sheep and goats are herded during the cropping season in cropping areas, and where there are predator or theft risks in other areas, but herding tends to be relaxed during the dry season during which animals have access to crop residues. In the communal areas of Namaqualand, herd owners have "cattle posts" away from the village and crop lands, and maintain most of their animals there. Pigs and poultry in the communal areas are generally free-ranging and scavenging, although some owners practise housing and feeding.
The exclusion of fire from the savanna regions under communal managment has encouraged bush encroachment. In the semi-arid regions, fire has generally been excluded, cutting for fuel or building has been minimal, there are fewer browsing animals and there is less mobility in response to rainfall spatial variation. Consequently, large areas of the medium rainfall savannas have become severely bush infested, to the detriment of the grazing potential for cattle and sheep. In communal areas, fire is used to stimulate grass production during the early summer, and this maintains a grassland state along the coastal region.
Table 6. A comparison of some of the major differences between communal and freehold tenure systems in a similar area (approximately 15 000 ha) of the Peddie district, Eastern Cape, South Africa (Palmer et al 1999).