tcp/cpr/2902 (A) Details
|The grasslands of the Project area
The grasslands of the project area are hard grazed but have a good ground cover of valuable herbage. Winter areas are individually fenced but the fences are mostly boundary markers rather than for stock control. A two-area grazing system is used with winter-spring grasslands around winter quarters and summer-autumn pastures at a short distance; there is little altitudinal variation in the area so the main difference between winter and summer lands is distance from the winter base. There may be a lack of balance between the areas allocated to winter and summer grazing. The areas and situation of the main vegetation types is not well known or mapped. Stock numbers are not accurately known.
Pasture resource assessment
RAPS software is extremely promising for handling pastoral data and integrating the many grassland, livestock and climatic data to provide information in a suitable form for planning grassland use, providing advice to local authorities and herders as well as assessing and forecasting risk. Preliminary testing over two seasons has provided very promising results and shown the advantages of special programmes for analysing and integrating pastoral data. The preliminary analyses have also identified subjects on which more, or more accurate information are needed. These are noted above and include: mapping of vegetation types; verification of livestock numbers and the need for a greater cover of sampling – which could be attained using an electronic pasture meter. Training courses have been held and the user manual and the software itself have been translated into Chinese. RAPS is a tool for handling and integrating data so it should be integrated into the Bureau’s routine work, preferably Province-wide, not kept as a separate programme. Extension of the use of RAPS will require the training of more staff, there may also be a need for more in-depth training of specialist staff who would supervise others.
Bureau staff have taken to RAPS rapidly and have been quick to understand the potential of the system and to learn how to use it. The system should be integrated into the Bureau’s routine work. Further training should be provided at several levels. Information gathering on grassland yields, areas of grassland, types, livestock numbers, livestock weights etc. should be improved and routinely up-dated. In Qinghai Province a large “Three Rivers” project, with a large component of management of grassland environments is under formulation; RAPS data handling could be very useful within such a programme and the Bureau is studying how best it could be employed.
A major issue relating to the timing and duration of availability for use of the seasonal grazing lands was revealed during preliminary analyses. Strictly timed movements of livestock between seasonal grazing lands resulted in "dysfunctional" pastoral systems. To alleviate this condition, significant overlap of use between the summer and winter grazing lands was defined in the "use restriction" profiles of the relevant records. While contrary to “traditional” view, the flexibility of the timing and extent of movement between the seasonal grazing lands more realistically represented the current pastoral production regime. The flexibility was reported during the 2004 herder interviews. This issue needs to be investigated more thoroughly.
Having the correct balance between seasonal grazing lands from both the viewpoint of resource availability and resource use by livestock has a significant affect on the overall efficiency of use of the pastoral resources and, consequently, opportunities for the mitigation of pastoral risk. Analyses of the benchmark databases for the four project areas indicate that there are imbalances between the winter and summer grazing lands. The most common indication is in the available dry matter profiles. For all project sites, except for Nanqi village, the overall available dry matter curve does not get “close” to the utilisation limit. This can be caused by some available forage within the seasonal grazing land which the stock are not able to consume as they are moved to the next grazing land. If the consumption limit of the "under-utilised" grazing land is realistic for sustainable use, then it may be possible to extend the grazing duration to increase the level of consumption of the “surplus” available herbage.
Climatic conditions for haymaking are far from ideal. Oats are sown in mid to late May when hard frosts are over; they are harvested in October when herders return from the summer pastures. Since oats are grown widely in other parts of Qinghai and also since the equipment needed is the same as for common crops of the agricultural areas such as wheat and barley, the necessary skills and equipment are readily available. Simple tools for land preparation and harvest are on sale in the townships near to the project area so herders have no problems in finding the necessary hoes and sickles.
In 2004 and 2005 oat demonstrations were carried out with target households; twenty households grew oats in Nanqi and ten in Jilong. Plot size varied: in Naqi the range was 0.95 – 12.9 mu and the average 5.27 mu whereas in Jilong the range was 3 – 7 mu and the average 5. Sowing was in mid to late May and harvest in October. Plots of one mu or less are cultivated by hand and the seed broadcast and hand covered; this requires 17.5 – 20 kg/mu of seed. For larger plots a drill is often used which gives better germination and requires less seed. Little maintenance is required other than protection from stray livestock. Yield data are not available from the demonstrations due to problems in recording.