Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profiles
The Republic of Fiji, an archipelago with a land area of 18 333 km2,supports a population of 792 000 (derived from SPC 1998) on 105 islands, composed of 46.2% ethnic Fijians, 48.6% Indo-Fijians and 5.2% of Chinese or European origin. Fiji's 840 islands lie between 12o (Rotuma) and 22o S (Ono-i-lau) and 175o and 178o E - this bounded area covers 650 000 km2 of which 3% is land. Viti Levu and Vanua Levu (see Figure 1) cover 10 388 km2 and 5 535 km2 respectively (Leslie 1997).
Figure 1 - Map of Fiji
Between 1990-1996 the economy grew at 2.7% In 1996 exports were valued at A$837 million and imports at A$1,172 million (SPC 1998). In 1995 sectorial contributions to GDP (A$2 620 000 000) were: agriculture (20.1%) mining (2.6%), industry (13.8%), commerce (17.2%), public service (4%), construction (4.7%) and other (25.5%). Sixty percent of the population is rural; agriculture provides nearly 50% of the nation’s employment (MAFF&A, 1996). An estimated 95 000 rural households support 500 000 people. Of these, 15 000 raise pigs (average 15 per household), 65 000 raise chickens (average 30), 24 000 raise goats, 100 raise sheep and 43 000 raise cattle (39 000 multi-purpose draught/meat/milk, 1 800 commercial beef, 2 200 dairy - 215 registered commercial dairies). Ethnic Fijians have no religious restrictions on livestock species; Hindus keep ruminants and pigs; Muslims keep only ruminants. Hindu retailers rarely sell pork for fear of offending Muslim customers.
Statistics on ruminant numbers, beef, veal, sheep, goat meat and milk production, cattle imports and beef and veal imports for the period 1992-99 (FAO Database 1999) are shown in Table 1. In 1996 the dairy industry was 27.4% self-sufficient in total milk fat equivalents. There were 215 registered dairy farms (179 supplied 11 900 000 litres of fresh milk to Rewa Cooperative Dairy Company in 1996). Smaller, low producing, dairy farms of the 215 registered will leave the industry but the rest, if improved pasture, herd recording, culling, genetic improvement programmes are implemented, will remain competitive against imports.
Goat production, which is traditional and important, rose from 650 to 840 tonnes carcass in 1986-1996 with per capita consumption of goat meats at 1.2 kg/year. The fledgling mutton industry is expanding, carcass production was 36.0 tonnes in 1996 when there was 2 590 head and 1 600 new breeding stock purchased from government farms. Hindus are the major mutton consumers. Farm gate price of a sheep carcass is about FJD $2.50 per kg - 1.66 times the price of beef. Per capita consumption of boneless sheep meats fell from 7.4 in 1993 to 5.7 kg in 1996.
According to Macfarlane (FAO, 1998), in 1996 Fiji imported 1 525 tonnes boneless beef (66% for local consumption, 33% for canning), 424 tonnes fresh cream and milk (FJD 660 000), 3 208 tonnes of dairy products as milk fat equivalents (FJD 20 500 000), 4 360 tonnes boneless mutton and 145 tonnes canned sheep meat (approx. FJD 12.5M) and 81 tonnes goat meat. Figures from the FAO database indicate for 1998 that Fiji imported 900 tonnes of beef and veal (value US$870,000), 7 308 tonnes of dairy products and eggs (US$13 004 000), 320 tonnes of fresh milk (US$320 000), 9 400 tonnes of mutton and lamb (US$9 600 000) with total meat imports of 11 299 tonnes (US$11 601 000).
types of land use are: open grazing 2 700 km2 including 950
km2 of roadsides, compounds and sugar cane residues, 280 km2
grazing under coconuts or forest trees, 380 km2 of crop or fallow
under coconuts, 1 950 km2 ha of arable and tree crops other
than coconuts, 1 000 km2 of plantation mahogany and Caribbean
pine. Fifty nine per cent of Fiji, 10 850 km2, is nominally
covered with natural forest
Table 1 - Fiji statistics for ruminant numbers, beef, veal, sheep, goat meat and milk production, cattle imports and beef and veal imports for the period 1992-99 ( FAO Database 1999)
Ethnic and Indo-Fijian farming systems differ. Ethnic Fijians live in nuclear villages and each household farms a definite block of land; households are often economically inter-dependent (Chandra, 1983). Indo-Fijians live independently of each other with no economic inter-dependence between households. Sixty nine per cent of the population lives on Viti Levu while Vanua Levu and Taveuni contribute 20% and the Eastern Islands 10%. Farm size varies as follows: 2.81 ha Western, 2.54 ha Central, 11.29 ha Northern and 3.09 ha Eastern Districts. Smallholder systems, in some cases with several households per farm, range from subsistence through semi-commercial to highly commercial. The plantation sector involves up to 25 estates with coconuts, often with beef cattle, and the larger dairy farms (over 50 cows). The government has several large farms for livestock research and breeding stock distribution.Source: FAO statistics 1999 n.r. = no record
Major topographic features
Topographically Fiji is divided into three major classes: plains and valleys; low mountains and hills and high mountains. These landforms are either depositional - littoral or fluvial, erosional - fluvial erosion, mass movement or volcanic.
Table 2. Distribution of land classes in Fiji (km2)
Major soil types and soil fertility constraints(from Chandra, 1983)
Maps showing soil type distribution can be produced from a geographical information system (GIS) based at Koronivia Research Station. Sixty five per cent of soils have developed on steep slopes (over 21o), 20% on gently undulating and hilly land (4-21 o) and 15% on flat land (under4 o) (Leslie 1997).
Lowland (below 600 m, mean annual temperature over 22o C) soils are formed on beach sands, marine marshes, poorly and well drained alluvia, highly organic parent material, acidic and non-acidic terraces and peneplains. Soils from lowland rolling and hilly terrain are formed from young and weathered volcanic materials, volcanic ash over reef limestone, calcareous tuffs and marls, and from basic, intermediate and acidic geologies. Upland soils (over 600 m, mean annual temperature 15-22o C) are formed on recent poorly and well-drained alluvia, raw volcanic materials and basic rocks (Leslie, 1997). Low available soil N, P, sulphur, potassium, copper, molybdenum and are the most likely limiting chemical attributes of grazing land soils.
The most fertile soils are in the floodplains of the Sigatoka, Rewa, Nadi, Ba, Navua and Labasa rivers and are generally derived from basic volcanic parent material. Responses by pasture to N, P and K have been obtained in dairying areas of the Rewa floodplains (Chand, pers. comm; FAO 1996). Most grazed native grasslands are on "nigrescent - dark top soil" soils and ferruginous latosols or "talasiga" soils. For maximum pasture production the former is usually marginal in available phosphorus (10-14 ppm) and sulphur and the latter is deficient in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur and sometimes molybdenum.
General climate - effects of topography
Fiji is on the southern boundary of the tropics so the south-east trades are the predominant rain-bearing influence. The south, east and central areas of the major islands receive the highest rainfall and north and west areas the lowest. Rainfall increases fairly consistently with altitude. Rainfall distribution for Viti Levu and Vanua Levu is shown in Figure 3.
Rainfall is heaviest from November to April, 61% of "Wet Zone" rainfall and 77% of "Dry Zone" rain falls in this period. The "Wet Zone" has 237 rainy days/year. and the "Dry Zone" 128. Monthly rainfall variability is greatest in the ‘dry zone" which suffers a 4-6 month drought every 5 years (Chandra 1983) and the ‘Wet Zone" experiences a drought every 10 years. This variation in rainfall distribution is reflected in variation in soil moisture availability by month between representative sites as shown in Figure 2. Annual sunshine hours range from 2 507 in the dry zone to 1 883 in the wet. Flooding associated with cyclones and depressions is a problem for dairying in the "Wet Zone" and cropping in major alluvial areas. Most grazing areas receive 2 500 mm rainfall or less.
Figure 2. Soil moisture balances for contrasting areas of Viti Levu (from Leslie 1997)
Agroecological zones based on climate and topography
Practical agroecological zonation in Fiji is most simply reflected by various rainfall groups within altitude classes as shown in Figure 3.
Distribution of rainfall: Viti Levu
Distribution of rainfall: Vanua Levu
Land below 600m is composed of coral atolls, coastal, alluvial and gently undulating lowlands and gently undulating hills; and above 600m steep, undulating to heavily dissected, mountains.Figure 3. Agroecological zones based on rainfall classes within altitude classes for Viti Levu and Vanua Levu (Adapted from Leslie 1997)
Major agricultural activities in each zone
In the Wet
Zone, receiving greater than 3 000 mm/year rain, coconuts, ginger, cassava,
taro, yaqona (kava), bananas and plaintains, breadfruit and coffee along
with dairy and beef cattle, poultry and pigs are produced. In the Intermediate
Zone receiving 2 000-3 000 mm/yr. vegetables, cocoa, passion-fruit, maize,
some sorghum, tobacco, watermelons, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes and
turmeric are gown; beef cattle and horses are raised. In the Dry Zone receiving
less than 2 000 mm/yr., sugar cane, irrigated rice, upland rice, pulses
such as mung (Vigna radiata) and pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan),
yams, citrus, masi, pineapples and mangoes are grown with goats, sheep
and beef cattle the predominant livestock. Sugar and irrigated rice are
usually monocultures, other crops are rotated. The production of roots,
bananas and pineapples usually involves a fallow. Grazing livestock are
kept on either natural or improved pastures, sometimes under coconuts and
citrus, and in association with sugar and rice - on residues and along
4. RUMINANT LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION SYSTEMS
Scale, type and potential of ruminant enterprises
There are 1 825 specialist beef producers with 30.5 animals per farm; three properties have more than 1 000 cattle each. The commercial beef herd is distributed: 27% Central, 56.9% Western, 14.1% Northern and 2% Eastern Divisions. Commercial beef farmers have about 1 100 working bullocks. There are 2 041 dairy farmers with 13.1 cattle each; only 215 are registered for commercial supply to Rewa Co-operative Dairy Company. There are 190 000 cattle on 39 000 farms (classified as non-commercial beef or dairy -1 to 3 animals per household) or draught bullocks (48 500) working on farms. Many cane farmers use 2-4 oxen, mainly Brahman or Brahman cross, for draught and ultimately for sale. Cane farms are a major source of low quality beef.
Approximately 24 000 smallholdings run 200 000 goats. There are 6 000 sheep on 5 government stations and 1 500 with 60 small farmers. Small stock are attractive because of higher potential returns, shorter production intervals and lower capital investment than cattle. The avoidance of beef by about 40% of the population on religious grounds influences livestock enterprise selection. Smallholder and plantation livestock producers interact and derive mutual benefit. Commercial farmers need better access to improved bulls.
There is considerable potential for expanding the grazed area by about 1 000 km2 and for improving its productivity through introducing legumes, fertilizer use and better management as well as using locally available feeds during dry periods FAO (1998).
Ruminant feeding systems rely predominantly on tethering and enclosed grazing, with some cut and carry feeding. There are no feedlots. Commercial dairy cattle receive a lot of supplementary feed.
Current and potential integration of livestock in farming systems
Cattle graze 27 000 ha under coconuts. Sheep graze puero (Pueraria phaseoloides) based pastures under coconuts on Taveuni. Over the next 15 years this gross area is not projected to change although an additional area of 38 000 ha of land is available for inter-cropping or pastures.
Most notably almost all farms, including 23 000 sugar farms, use oxen for draught and meat at the end of their useful working life. With the rationalisation of the sugar industry the number of draught oxen is likely to fall. With the movement from burnt to green-cane harvesting, more trash must be ploughed in or fed to livestock; on mechanised farms on alluvial soils, the use of round balers may be an option. There is some rotation of lands for maize, taro and cassava with pastures as a fallow crop; fallows could be improved by incorporating legumes and the use of creeping legumes (e.g. Arachis spp) during the cropping cycle. Sheep are integrated with citrus production on Batiri on Vanua Levu.
Goats are traditional and numbers remain relatively constant and high; since sheep have begun to develop, greater integration with tree crops is likely. Given annual losses from fire in Pinus caribbaea forests of F$1 600 000 annually, the use of evergreen, poorly combustible, low, creeping pastures on forest boundaries and grazing to reduce fuel loads in Pennisetum polystachyon environments may increase.
The main constraints to ruminant production are nutritional; indicators are low weaning 45% and low average growth rates of 0.25 - 0.3 kg/head/day. However, good smallholders obtain 75% - 100% weaning percentages and the best estates achieve 85% and with weaning at 4 months at 100 kg in the "dry zone" or 6 to 7 months elsewhere at 135 to 150 kg liveweight and produce a 400 kg steer at 18 to 24 months. From Figure 3 it is clear that there are long dry spells in the Western and parts of the Northern Division. Well adapted, introduced grasses and deep rooted shrub and tree legumes could improve the quality, quantity and reduced seasonality of forage on offer but need high management levels. Farms do not match pasture species with specific fertility requirements or tolerances, to their soils types. This should be a focal area for future advisory, extension and farmer training. The principles of grazing management are not understood - the most basic are allowable levels of pasture use and the minimum forage biomass required for a pasture to sustain productivity and compete with weeds.
Overgrazing and uncontrolled fire, reduce production through weed invasion or causing species shifts to less palatable and lower quality grasses. Wide boundary strips of low growing, drought tolerant and fairly evergreen pasture plants could restrict fires which are often lit for hunting. Regular burning contributes to N and S losses from grazing systems whereas planned and timely fire is an important tool in converting natural to improved pastures and in controlling woody weeds.
It is not sufficiently appreciated that forages differ widely in nutritive value and freedom from anti-nutritive factors. Some fodder shrubs have tannin types and contents, which restrict, rather than enhance, protein availability to the ruminant. High-sodium grasses such as Brachiaria humidicola, Para and Setaria can complement other species low in Na. Manueli (pers.comm. Animal Health and Production Division) has reported that, in rotational grazing systems, sheep can only graze Signal for two weeks. Apart from mycotoxins in Brachiaria decumbens (signal grass) causing hepatic dysfunction it has been established in Papua New Guinea (S. Low - pers. comm) that saponins, particularly in the young leaf contribute to depressed weight gains and even weight loss.
The influence of religion on choice of livestock is mentioned above. There are three main types of tenure - State (9%), Freehold (8%) and Native (83%). Most agricultural freehold land, covering 40% of existing coconut areas, is controlled by interests descended from early coconut planters. Native Land is subdivided into Native Lease Land and Native Reserve Land; the Native Land Trust Board controls its management. The former can be leased, by lessees of any ethnicity; the latter can only be used by ethnic Fijians. The ownership of Native land by Mataqali or clans is well known and inter-clan or inter-family disputes over land ownership are rare; lack of certainty of land tenure is rarely a constraint to an ethnic Fijian making a decision about expanding a grazing enterprise. A lessee would be reluctant to establish or expand grazing on a lease of less than 10 years and this is a major recent restricting factor in agricultural development. Established farmer lessees regard the current maximum lease of 30 years as insufficient for investment in development.
If commercial grazing enterprises are to expand costs must be kept to internationally competitive levels through careful business planning, increased unit area productivity and reliable market access. Commercial ruminant production will continue to concentrate in productive areas within economic freight distances of markets. Unit costs of production could be reduced by expanding output per unit area through cost-effective pasture improvement and targeted supplementary feeding. Making meat more readily available and affordable in rural areas, on the bone, and using lower quality cuts, is one approach to increase the market share of meat. Examples exist on Taveuni and Vanua Levu.
training and technical support is the responsibility of the Animal Health
and Production Department. An FAO Regional Pasture Improvement Project
(1994-95) showed that targeted training leads to significant community
farmer-group activity, when a minimal level of resource and organisational
support is provided. This led to noticeable pasture improvement. Farmer
groups led to increased pasture improvement in some areas - e.g. the Vanua
Levu Livestock Association. The Animal Health and Production Division maintain
a regular field day programme - all training opportunities must involve
a steady stream of new farmers. The Secretariat of the Pacific Community
provides access to some regional pasture resource and livestock management
information and can help in establishing links with regional countries.
5. EXISTING AND POTENTIAL PASTURE RESOURCES
Grazed native and improved pastures
The national herd of 280 000 cattle grazes 125 000 ha of unimproved Pennisetum polystachyon (Mission grass), 43 000 ha of naturalised/native pastures including Dicanthium caricosum (Nadi blue), Ischaemum indicum (Batiki),Axonopus compressus (carpet), Paspalum conjugatum (T-grass) and an unquantified area of roadsides and recently harvested cane fields. There is a further 175 000 ha of ungrazed Pennisetum polystachyion. There are 89000 ha of coconuts , 38 000 ha of which require replanting. The major areas for improved animal production under coconuts are in the southern Vanua Levu and Taveuni areas. The Animal Health and Production Division estimate that there are 6 200 ha of improved pastures, some without sufficient legume, including Brachiaria decumbens, B. humidicola,B. mutica, Setaria and Guinea grasses. A feed industry services the dairy, pig and poultry industries based on imported grain and protein meals, local but erratically supplied copra meal, and molasses and mill-run.
(FAO, 1998) suggested current and 15 year potential Fiji pasture and forage
based feeding systems of:
Other forages and fodders
Limited areas of fodder crops such as Pennisetum purpureum (Elephant grass), Tripsacum laxum (Guatemala grass) and Lablab purpureus are grown, mainly for dairy cattle. Several large dairies have made silage from Para grass-based pastures and from maize. During severe droughts some farmers use failed cane crops as fodder. Some dairy farmers use meal from dal (split pulse) processing as well as copra meal and molasses.
to the use of forage resources
6. OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT OF PASTURE RESOURCES
The key to expanding pasture carrying capacity rests largely in rehabilitating and improving of existing grazing –intensifying production within sustainable limits, in both open and under-coconut situations. Mixed grazing of cattle and small ruminants has some potential for expanding production from native pastures while reducing fire hazard for young trees.
Native pasture resources under 2 000 mm rainfall can be improved cost effectively by incorporating adapted legumes. Sowing inoculated seed of Stylosanthes scabra (Seca, Siran),and S. hamata (Verano and Amiga) into ash of recently burnt Pennisetum polystachion grassland is a sound technique but not widely used. Large areas could be covered easily and cheaply by teams on horseback. Legume over-seeding, if complemented by incorporating adapted grasses such as Brachiaria humidicola (involving 15-20 person days/ha) can increase carrying capacity form 0.3-0.5 to 1.2 - 2 animal units /ha depending on rainfall (1 500 mm - 2 500 mm) and soil moisture deficits. Native pastures in the over 2 000 mm rainfall areas can be improved by introducing legumes such as Desmodium heterophyllum, Arachis pintoi, and Glenn and Lee cultivars of Aeschynomone americana.
Better grazing management, more legumes in all-grass swards and strategic use of herbicide, slashing and manual weeding would reduce weeds. Many pastures have 30-50% weeds; this reduces carrying capacity accordingly. Strategies for rehabilitating weedy pastures vary depending on the degree of infestation. For serious infestations the most cost-effective technique in seasonally dry areas is a hot burn combined with pasture improvement. In other situations the establishment of smothering legumes such as siratro (Macroptilium atropurpureum) can smother undesirable weeds like Sida. Careful management of the Samanea saman (rain tree) so that it doesn’t become too tall or become a weed is important. In any pasture improvement, other than for trees, a wide range of legumes should be sown to allow for variations within paddocks and seasonality in production patterns. The legumes previously mentioned need further evaluation under grazing in the major production areas.
Encouraging proven small and large farms to grow selected legume seed would improve the reliability of seed supply. Support for establishing smallholder-based forage nurseries for planting material would assist farmers in their improvement programmes.
Better forage-livestock integration into cropping systems would increase overall productivity. The use of stylos, Arachis pintoi and Desmodium heterophyllum on bunds would improve the nutrition of draught animals. Legume fallow after intensive crop production would assist soil nitrogen regeneration, improve weed control and increase the fodder supply.
for maintaining critical levels of soil nutrients need to be more clearly
established so that sustainable high productivity can be maintained in
areas where farmers can market their product readily. Extension should
encourage farmers in areas which require minimal inputs to sustain acceptable
levels of pasture productivity.
7. RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATIONS AND PERSONNEL
The majority of research and development on pasture, and improved animal feeding is undertaken by the Animal Health and Production Division and is centred around Sigatoka Research Station (1 800mm) in the Western District and Koronivia Research Station (3 000 mm) in the Central District. The Principal Research Officer, Mr Shiu Chand is at Sigatoka (Mr. Shiu Chand, Senior Research Officer (Pastures), Sigatoka Research Station, P.O. Box 24, Sigatoka, Fiji).
Brachiaria humidicola pasture programmes have focused on dairy production and responses to energy supplementation and have been directed by Mr Tomasi Tunabuna (Research Officer (Pastures), Koronivia Research Station, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Fiji). Nawaicoba Research Station is the centre-point for work on sheep. These programmes are directed by Principal Animal Production Officer, Mr Peter Manueli (Principal Animal Production Officer, Animal Health and Production Division, MAFF, Vatuwaqa, Suva, Fiji). Other contacts include: Ms. Alma Vuniwaqa, Research Officer (Dairy), Koronivia Research Station, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Fiji; Mr. Philip Alifereti, Senior Agricultural Officer (Beef), Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Fiji).
Fiji College of Agriculture incorporates pasture management, animal feeding demonstrations and applied research output into its teaching under the direction of Mr Rattan Singh.
Cooperative provides advisory support and sells key inputs to dairy farmers.
ADB, 1998. Country Assistance Plan. Fiji (1999-2000). Asian Development Bank,
Chandra, S. 1983. Agricultural development in Fiji. Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee, Canberra, ACT.
FAO, 1996. Regional Pasture Improvement Training Project - Final Fiji Report by D. C. Macfarlane. Rome.
FAO, 1998. Grazing livestock in the Southwest Pacific - the Benefits of Improved Production. by D. C. Macfarlane. SAPA Publication 1998/1, 99p.
FAO, 1999. Internet Statistical databases. Rome.
Leslie, D. M. 1997. Soils of Fiji. Soils and Crops Evaluation Project. Research Division of Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and ALTA, Fiji, Nausori.
MAFF&A, 1996. Annual Report for the Year 1996. Parliamentary Paper No. 40 of 1997, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forests and ALTA (Agricultural Landlords and Tenants Act)
Msellati, L. 1989 (FR) Elevage á viande et génétique : monographie des iles Fidji.(Cattle breeding for the meat production and for the genetics : monograph of Fidji Islands). Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres, Paris (France).Maisons-Alfort (France). CIRAD-IEMVT. Nov 1989. 35.
1998. Pocket Statistical Summary - 1998. Statistics Programme, Secretariat
of the Pacific Community, Noumea, New Caledonia.
was written by David Macfarlane
It was edited
by J. M. Suttie and S.G. Reynolds