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Siboniso Moyo1 and Ntombizakhe Mpofu2
Department of Research and Specialist Services, Matopos Research Station, P B K 5137, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
Ezakhe Livestock Improvement Services. c\o P Mlilo, Department of Mathematics, NUST, Box AC, Ascot, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.


The Southern part of the continent of Africa is characterised by a wide climatic variation, ranging from sub-humid to semi-arid. In line with the theme of this workshop on “Strategies for dry season feeding of animals”, this paper presents proposals on strategies for utilisation of available animal genetic resources to improve cattle production in the dry areas of the region. Proposals on breed utilisation strategies should take into account the production environment and the availability of genetic resources in the industry. It is critical that breeds used in the dry areas are adapted to the harsh production environment. It has now become very costly to continue to change the environment to suit the animal.

Production environment

Semi-arid areas in Zimbabwe fall under natural regions III, IV and V. Which are characterised by low and erratic rainfall, high temperatures in summer, poor soil fertility and an uneven terrain (Vincent and Thomas, 1960) (Table 1). These areas are suitable for semi-intensive, semi-extensive and extensive farming activities.

Table 1. Rainfall, land use and area of the five natural regions of Zimbabwe

Natural RegionRainfall mm/annumLand useArea ' 000 haPercent
Total  39072100.0

Source: based on Steinfeld (1988)

Production systems

There are two major types of production systems in southern Africa vis., commercial and small scale. There is, however, growth of the small scale commercial sector. Production levels in the large scale commercial sector are high due to the fact that producers have been able to alter the environment and use of breeds with higher production potential. The small scale sector is characterised by limited financial resources and sometimes lack of technical skills. Production levels in this sector therefore, are lower than those in the large scale commercial sector.

Cattle genetic resources

There is a large variation in the number of cattle breeds that are used for milk and meat production in the dry areas of Southern Africa. These comprise; Bos indicus (Brahman and Boran), Bos taurus (Hereford, Jersey, Simmental and Limousin), Sanga (Nkone, Mashona, Tuli, Tswana and Afrikaner), and synthetics (Bonsmara, Beefmaster and Brangus).

In order to utilise these genetic resources more efficiently it is necessary to characterise the various breeds/genotypes for traits of economic importance. This will assist the farmers to choose breeds based on performance data rather than phenotypic characteristics only.

Results from breed evaluation studies

Results from a number of breed evaluation studies in southern Africa have shown differences in performance between the various breed groups. Table 2 summarises reproductive performance data from some of these studies. In the Botswana (Animal Production Research Unit, 1979), Zambian (Thorpe et al., 1980a), and Zimbabwean (Moyo, S. 1996) studies, fertility was estimated in the form of calving rate, while the South African (Van Zyl et al., 1992) and Swaziland (Vilakati, 1990) studies reported calving interval.

Table 2. Summary of breed evaluation experiments in Southern Africa

CountryBreedNo. of animalsCalving rate %Calving IntervalReferences
BotswanaTuli154985 Animal Production Research Unit, 1979
ZambiaBarotse73178 Thorpe et al., 1980
ZimbabweMashona46477 Moyo, 1996
South AfricaAfrikaner311 401Van Zyl et al., 1992
 Hereford331 389 
 Bonsmara290 374 
 Simmental306 409 
SwazilandNguni1141 433Vilakati, 1990
 Brahman456 472 
 Simmental248 480 

Source: Adapted from Moyo (1996)

In all these studies a high reproductive rate was highlighted as a key factor to the overall efficiency of a beef cattle enterprise. Indigenous breeds were the most productive when compared to exotic breeds mainly due to their high reproductive rates and survival of progeny. This has been attributed to the fact that indigenous cattle are adapted to these production environments, and are able to produce and reproduce with limited feed and sometimes water resources. Therefore, strategies for breed utilisation should focus on these breeds.

However, care is necessary when attempting to extrapolate these results to different environments because of the presence of genotype x environment interactions (Morris et al., 1993). These results should serve as a guide to producers in environments similar to where these studies were undertaken.

In the dairy industry the cow populations are small, thus resulting in very few bulls that can be tested. There is therefore a high level of semen imports to meet the demand.

Strategies for breed utilisation

Dairy industry

Small scale sector

In almost all countries in southern Africa, the small scale sector has more than half the national herd, keeps the largest proportion of indigenous breeds of cattle and supplies most of the milk consumed in rural areas. In this region there are no breeds of cattle that could be described as purely dairy types. Indigenous cattle have a low dairy production potential. Attempts have been made to select local cattle for improved milk production in some parts of Africa, but these have not been successful (Mason and Buvanendran, 1982). Reasons cited for little progress were that local cattle breeds do not have sufficient genetic potential for milk production and selection intensities have been low due to long generation intervals, high mortalities and reproductive wastage. However, genetic improvement of indigenous cattle for milk production should not be ignored.

The low dairy production potential in indigenous cattle has prompted the use of exotic dairy breeds. The tropical dairy breed that has been used in some parts of Africa is the Sahiwal, an Indian dairy breed. Crossbreeding indigenous cows with exotic dairy bulls has been used in some systems to successfully increase milk production in this sector. The primary decision to make is what sire breeds to use and up to what level the crossing is to be done. Holstein-Friesland cattle are found in large numbers in southern Africa. However, the Holstein-Friesland is a large frame breed and has high maintenance feed requirements. This could affect the success of its use in the smallholder sector. The Jersey breed is smaller and thus more able to tolerate the production conditions in the smallscale sector. The F1s have been shown to be superior to purebreds, for both milk yield and survival.

In Tanzania and Zimbabwe, the government has distributed F1 heifers to small scale farmers. Several research programmes are being carried out on these. It is important to note that, for any milk production system to be successful it should be accompanied by adequate feed for the milking animal.

It is in this light that research organisations, universities and the Dairy Development Programme, in Zimbabwe are evaluating planted pastures to improve the quantity and quality of livestock feed in low rainfall areas in order to come up with recommendations on feeding strategies in the smallholder sector. Problems associated with crossbreeding could be reduced in that the commercial sector would produce the bulls and the crosses for this sector.

Difficulties of working with high grade exotic dairy breeds, improving local stock for dairy production and problems associated with crossbreeding have prompted the formation of new breeds. In Africa a new dairy breed that has been formed is the Mpwapwa breed. This breed has contributed to milk production mainly in its own home country, and has not been widely used elsewhere.

Beef industry

Small scale sector

In the small scale sector, cattle are kept for multipurpose use, and in most cases meat production is not a priority. Other uses which include draught power, milk for home consumption and sale, manure, security and socio-cultural functions rank very highly. Breed evaluation studies in the region have further shown that no single breed is suitable for all the important components of the beef production cycle.

The small holder farmer who has a low input system of production would benefit from using the indigenous sanga type animal which is predominately found in this sector. The indigenous cow because of its hardiness should be able to produce and reproduce under this harsh production environment. There would be no benefit in bringing in exotic breeds until the level of nutrition and management has been improved. Secondly, the small holder farmer's priority is not meat production, but draught power, manure and milk production rank very highly. An extension message on the potential role of indigenous breeds should be strengthened. Breeding (selection and multiplication) programmes for indigenous cattle should be promoted so that breeding animals could be readily available.

Large scale commercial

Farmers with a prime interest in beef production should choose the indigenous breeds because of their high reproductive rates, but have room for strategic management of the trade offs between trait antagonisms through crossbreeding systems that exploit complementarity and heterosis. In these crossbreeding systems the indigenous breeds should be used as dam lines. The choice of sire breed will depend on whether the system is rangeland based or has facilities to pen fatten. This system will complement the growth potential from the terminal sire breed with the high fertility and low maintenance requirement in the indigenous cow. Further more it is necessary that the feed base should sustain the high growth rates in the cross.


The final choice of breed will depend on the production environment (adaptation to harsh environments), management systems (whether it is a low or high input system) and availability of the genetic resources in the industry. It is also important that performance data on the performance of various breeds is made available, so that the farmer can make an informed choice. However, researchers need to carry out more breed evaluation studies under different production systems and environments to minimise complications in the extrapolation of data due to genotype x environment interactions. There is a need for extension support to assist the farmer in the choice of utilisation strategies.

Further reading on this subject can be found in a paper by Moyo and Mpofu (1996). presented at the second All Africa conference on animal agriculture symposium on “Animal Recording and Improvement in Africa: Current situation and future directions” which details improvement programmes for commercial and small scale farmers in southern Africa.


Animal Production and Research Unit. 1979. Animal Production and Research Unit (APRU) Annual report. Ministry of Agriculture, Gaborone, Botswana.

Mason, I.L. and Buvanendran, J. 1982. Breeding plans for ruminant livestock in the tropics. FAO Animal Production and Health Paper. 34, FAO. Rome.

Morris, C.A., Baker, R.L., Hickey, S.M., Johnson, D.L., Cullen, N.G. and Wilson, J.A. 1993. Evidence of genotype by environment interaction for reproductive and maternal traits in beef cattle. Animal Production. 56: (1) 69–83.

Moyo, S. and Mpofu, N. 1996. Improvement programmes for commercial and small scale farmers: southern Africa. Paper presented at the 2nd All Africa Conference on Animal Agriculture. Pretoria, South Africa, April 1–4, 1996.

Moyo, S. 1996. The productivity of indigenous and exotic beef cattle breeds and their crosses at Matopos, Zimbabwe. PhD thesis, University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Steinfield, H. 1988. Livestock development in mixed farming systems. Ed: W. Doppler. Farming systems and Resource Economics in the Tropics, 3. Wissenchaftsverlag Vauk Kiel, F R Germany.

Thorpe, W., Cruickshank, D.R.K and Thompson, R. 1980a. Genetic and environmental influences on beef cattle production in Zambia. 1. Factors affecting weaner production from Angoni, Barotse and Boran dams. Animal Production. 30: 217–234.

Van Zyl, J.G.E., Schoeman, S.J., and Cortze, R.J. 1992. Sirebreed and breed genotype of dam effects in crossbreeding beef cattle in the subtropics. 2. Calving interval and cow productivity. South African Journal of Animal Science. 22: (5) 166– 169.

Vilakati, D.D. 1990. Evaluation of productivity of Nguni, Brahman, Simmental and crossbreds. The Swaziland national beef cattle breeding programme. Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Mbabane, Swaziland.

Vincent, V. and Thomas, R.G. 1960. An agricultural survey of Southern Rhodesia. Government Printer, Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.


J.L.N. Sikosana
Matopos Research Station, P B K 5137, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe


Zimbabwe is situated between the latitudes of 15° 35'S and 22°25'S and ranges in altitude from 500m in the South East to a high point of 2600m in the Eastern Highlands. A land area of 390800 square km supports a population estimated at 12 million.

Small ruminants-sheep and goats-are an important livestock component in the five ecological zones of Zimbabwe. About 54 percent of the small ruminant population are found in the natural regions IV and V (Figure 1). Natural region IV has a low rainfall and is subject to periodic droughts and extended dry spells. Natural region V represents hot dry areas below 900 m altitude. The drier agro-ecological zones of Zimbabwe take up more than 65 percent of the total land area. The drier ecological zones are characterised by low feed availability and quality for about four to five months of the year. In these areas small ruminant production is still at subsistence level. Goats and sheep are kept mainly for meat and secondarily as a source of regular income.

Small ruminants feed on natural rangelands throughout the year. Because of the aridity of the zones this imposes severe limitation on animal productivity in these areas, where approximately half of the national herd (small ruminants) is found.

Feed is the principal limiting factor in most parts of the tropics whereby small ruminants are seldom allowed to express their genetic potential (Devendra, 1986). The limitation imposed by feeds are particularly serious in Africa where there are perennial seasonal shortages, fragile ecologies and potential environmental degradation.



Most of the goats in Southern Africa are termed Bantu goats. These goats are improved and the similarities in their physical appearances resulted in them being described as savannah goats (Devendra and McLeroy, 1987).

Two indigenous goat types exist in Zimbabwe. In the eastern and central areas of the country most goats are of the Small East African type (Mason, 1981). This type of goat is usual termed the Mashona goat, with short horizontal ears, strong horns, short hair and have small legs and frames. The adult goat weighs 30 kg liveweight and is about 60 cm tall at the withers (Ndlovu and Royer, 1988).

In the south, the goats are more heterogeneous and larger. The goat type is termed the Matebele. It has long ears, some pendulous with turned up tips, and many with an intermediate type of ear, varied hairiness and a wide range in coat colour. Adult liveweight for males is 50 to 55 kg and females 39 kg (Arrowsmith and Ward. 1981). Performance traits of indigenous goats are presented in Table 1.

Other breeds include Boer goats for meat. Saanen goats for milk production and Angora goats for mohair production, and are mainly raised on the commercial farms.


The Sabi sheep is an indigenous sheep breed of Zimbabwe and is a fat-tailed type, characterised by a hairy coat and a multiplicity of colours from black, through all shades of brown to pure white. The fat tail is generally regarded as an adaptive response of the animal to the harsh environment serving as an important energy reserve during the dry season or other times of nutritional stress. These sheep are found in medium and low rainfall areas (less than 600 mm) of Zimbabwe (Matika, 1995). Mature weight for females is 40 to 50 kg and for males 45 to 55 kg. Performance traits of the Sabi sheep are presented in Table 1.

Table 1. Performance traits and characteristics of indigenous goats and sheep of Zimbabwe

ParametersMatabele goat(a)Mashona goat(b)Sabi sheep(c)
Mature body size (kg)   
- male50–55-45–55
- female30–392540–50
Age at first kidding/lambing (mths)23*18–1923*
Kidding or lambing percentage2143.8-101
Litter size31.71.31.2
Kid or lamb birth weight (kg)2.5-2.4
Kid or lamb weaning weight (kg)15.911.518–20
Weaning rate41199483
Pre-weaning mortality rate(%)303014
Growth rate (from birth to weaning: g/day)9840123
Dressing percentage543-44

* Age at first kidding in research station animals is fixed
1. Fertility = number of does or ewes kidding or lambing per 100 does or ewes mated.
2. Kidding or lambing percentage = number of kids or lambs born per 100 breedingdoes or ewes mated
3. Litter size (prolificacy) = number of kids or lambs born per number of does or eweskidding or lambing
4. Weaning percentage = number of kids of lambs reared to weaning per 100 does orewes kidding or lambing
5. Dressing percentage = hot carcass weight/liveweight
Sources: (a) Sibanda (1988).(b) Ndlovu and Royer (1988).(c) Matika (1985).

The Dorper sheep is a major mutton breed in Zimbabwe. It is noted for its hardiness, fertility, high milk production and ability to produce a good fat lamb of around 45 kg livemass at five months of age under semi-extensive conditions (Sheep Producers' Association, 1982). The Wiltiper sheep is another popular breed. It is truly a Zimbabwean breed having been bred and developed in this country and is non-indigenous. It is well adapted to all types of climatic conditions.

Other sheep breeds include Mutton Merino and Suffolk. In the communal areas ‘indigenous’ sheep predominate, often with some infusion of Dorper.

Distribution of small ruminants and their importance

Small ruminants comprise a considerable proportion of the livestock population in Zimbabwe. Thirty-nine percent of the total livestock numbers in communal areas are goats and sheep (goats 32 percent and sheep seven percent). Small ruminant populations are presented in Table 2.

Table 2. Distribution of goats and sheep in Zimbabwe

ProvinceRegionSheep numbersGoat numbers
ManicalandI and II60 953405 404
Mashonaland CentralII32 715107 102
Mashonaland EastII35 197202 022
Mashonaland WestII59 340145 668
Matebeleland NorthIV51 519311 779
Matebeleland SouthV159 933727 051
MidlandsIII51 569446 126
MasvingoIV58 630535 251
Total 509 8562880403

Source: Department of Veterinary Services, Livestock Census (1997)

Small ruminants are kept mainly for meat (lamb, mutton and chevon), milk (from goats), fibre and they also provide security of continued food supply. For the subsistence farmer, small ruminants are considered as cash when the need arises.

Production systems

Two general systems of small ruminant production operate in Zimbabwe; namely commercial and communal. In the commercial sector farmers own land they farm and are generally knowledgeable in farming and are profit oriented. In the communal system (traditional farming), the farmer does not own land. Each farmer has a right to graze the animals where he or she wishes. Such management is inadequate to sustain a productive flock.

Productivity of sheep and goats

Little information exists on sheep productivity in the communal farming systems. Goat production in the communal areas is characterised by high kid mortality, which results in low production levels. Most of the kidding is during the dry season. More than 50 percent of the kids born in the dry season die. Feed availability appears to be a major constraint (Ndlovu and Sibanda, 1991).

Feed resources and utilisation

In Zimbabwe the feed related factors that limit productivity vary at different times of the year (Sikosana, 1995). Early in the dry season, feed quality deteriorates followed by a reduction in quantity, as a result of high density grazing. In the dry season the grass in Zimbabwe deteriorates in quality to less than three percent crude protein (Elliott and Fokkema, 1961). This seasonal under-nutrition results in poor growth rates in young animals, death occuring in severe seasons, and a low rate of offtake rate. The severity of under-nutrition is worsened during drought which is an integral part of Southern Africa farming systems. Developments in feeding strategy are necessary to overcome this constraint.

Feed supply is the most pervasive constraint in livestock production (Winrock International, 1993). The available feed resources across the country are natural rangelands, crop residues, and cultivated pastures. Seasonal fluctuation in feed supply can be a problem in all ecological zones. Although feed may be abundant in the wet season, inability to preserve this abundance leads to dry season deficiencies, Saunders (1997) concluded that feed resources are wasted or under-utilised and that optimal feeding management strategies should be researched.

Small ruminants in the drier ecological zones entirely depend on natural rangelands. These natural rangelands comprise a variety of grasses and vegetation dominated by browse. Grasses are utilised mainly by sheep and browse by goats, thus providing less competition with each other on the rangeland. Studies at Matopos Research Station have shown that goats spend between 60 to 70 percent of their total feeding time browsing (Sibanda, 1986). Browse can be fed in the form of fresh leaves, dried leaves and ripe pods. Browse constitutes the main feed resource during the extended dry periods of the year (Le Houerou, 1980). Browse pods are high in nutritive value (Ncube and Mpofu, 1994) and can be used as supplements with low quality hay. Most of our rangelands are dominated mainly by Acacia spp. Grasses are good nutritive materials at least for a short period during the growing season.

Use of cultivated fodders for small ruminants in the drought prone areas is unknown. This system is practised extensively on farms, in high rainfall areas, producing fat lambs, and as well as for supplementing pregnant and lactating ewes.

Crop residues are a feed resource reserved for large stock and rarely given to small ruminants. A greater part of the crop residues are left in the fields.

In the communal areas small ruminants fend for themselves. Supplements are rarely given and crop residues are retained for cattle. With the continuing deterioration in grazing land and feed resources the use of supplementary feeds will become very important in the feeding systems of small ruminants.

Feeding strategies

Feeding strategies in the arid and semi-arid areas should take into consideration:


In general, inadequate nutrition remains the limiting factor for the development of small ruminant farming in the dry tropics. Proper management of resources and strategic feeding will increase small ruminant production in the dry areas of Zimbabwe. Feeding strategies adopted should be able to bridge the gap between wet and dry seasons. The natural vegetation will continue to play an important role in the nutrition and feeding systems of small ruminants, a situation unlikely to change.

Supplementary feeding of sheep and goats with concentrates and or naturally occurring feed resources may be acceptable to smallholders if market returns are adequate.


Arrowsmith, S.P. and Ward, H.K. 1981. Indigenous sheep selection programme and productivity of indigenous sheep and goats. Annual report of the Division of Livestock and Pastures 1980–1981. Department of Research and Specialist Services, Zimbabwe, Ministry of Agriculture. pp 92–97.

Department of Veterinary Services. 1997. Livestock Census, 1997. Department of Veterinary Services, Harare, Zimbabwe.

Devendra, C. and McLeroy, G.B. 1987. Goat and sheep production in the tropics. Longman Group Limited, Harlow, United Kingdom.

Devendra, C. 1986. Feeding systems and nutrition of goats and sheep in the tropics. In: Proceedings of the workshop on the improvement of small ruminants in Eastern and Southern Africa, Nairobi, Kenya, 18–22 August, 1986. Eds: K.O. Adeniji and J.A. Kategile pp 91–109.

Elliott, R.C. and Fokkema, K. 1961. Seasonal changes in composition and yields of veld grass. Rhodesia Agricultural Journal. 58: 186–190.

Le Houerou, 1980. Browse in Northern Africa. In: Browse in Africa. The current state of knowledge. ILCA., Addis Ababa. Ethiopia, pp55–82.

Mason, I.L. 1981. Breeds: In: Goat production. Ed: by C Gall. Chapter 3, Academic press.

Matika, O. 1995. Some productivity measurements of indigenous Sabi sheep in a semi-arid environment in Zimbabwe. Performance levels and genetic parameters. International Livestock Research Institute Research Fellow Report. Nairobi, Kenya. 65pp.

Ncube, S. and Mpofu, D. 1994. The nutritive value of wild fruits and their use as supplements to hay. Zimbabwe Journal of Agricultural Research. 32(1): 71–77.

Ndlovu, L.R. and Royer, V. 1988. A comparative study of goat productivity in three different regions of Zimbabwe. Goat Development Workshop, Bikita, Masvingo, Zimbabwe. 11–13 January, 1998. French Embassy, Harare, Zimbabwe.

Ndlovu, L.R. and Sibanda, L.M. 1991. Productivity of indigenous goats in communal areas of Nyanga North and Gwanda South: Performance of kids from birth to weaning and implications for management and extension. In: Goat Development in Zimbabwe: Prospects and Constraints Ed: L.R. Ndlovu.. Proceedings of a workshop held at Matopos Research Station 14–15 November, 1991. Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. pp 97–105.

Saunders, D.A. 1997. Smallholder Dry Areas Resource Management Project. Farming Systems development review of research findings applicable to the dry communal areas in Zimbabwe. SDARMP Technical Report 97/AR/02.

Sheep and Producers Association. 1982. Sheep Handbook. Harare, Zimbabwe 143pp.

Sibanda, R. 1986. Browsing and general behaviour of indigenous goats in thornveld. Zimbabwe Agricultural Journal. 83. 209–214.

Sibanda, R. 1988. The potential of the indigenous goat. In: Goat development workshop. French Embassy, Harare, Zimbabwe pp26–29.

Sikosana, J.L.N. and Maphosa, V. 1995. Growth and carcass characteristics of young indigenous (Matabele) castrate goats grazing Acacia thornveld, and offered supplementary feed during the dry season. Journal of the Zimbabwe Society for Animal Production. 7.199–202.

Winrock International Livestock Research and Training Centre. 1993. A World Bank technical paper: Sheep and goats in developing countries. World Bank, Washington, D.C. U.S.A. 166pp.


P.T. Jessen
Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development, Republic of Namibia


Namibia is the driest country in sub-saharan Africa with rainfall ranging from 10 mm in the Namibi Desert in the west, to 600 mm on a small area in the north-east of the country. Rainfall is scarce and erratic in all of the country and to manage game populations on a sustainable basis, is not easy. With varying climatic conditions from year to year, it is also difficult to plan operations for the long term. Namibia is endowed with a rich heritage of wildlife. Over the last few decades the importance of wildlife has increased to such an extent that there is more game in Namibia now than 30 years ago. This is due to the fact that the wildlife has accrued a value, which it did not have before. In the past, farmers would have shot wildlife just for the fun of it and friends would be invited from near and far and big game hunts would take place.

With the change in the value of the animals a drastic change has taken place in how the game is utilised in Namibia. Game forms an integral part of every farmer's operation on his land and hunting sprees such as in the past are mostly forgotten.

Three distinctive areas where wildlife is found exist, and the utilisation in each area has it's own characteristics:

The national parks and conservation areas

Namibia is in a very fortunate position, in that 22 percent of the country has been developed as national parks and conservation areas. These areas are very well managed and a master-plan of conservation and utilisation of wildlife for each of these areas exist. The Government of the Republic of Namibia is very adamant that these areas are well managed for the generations to come. During the time-span since independence in 1990, a number of pieces of land have even been added to the area designated for the conservation of specific species of wildlife.

The national parks and conservation areas are mostly used as recreational and educational areas, but in the past they were also used to make genetic material available to commercial game farmers at reasonable prices. This had the influence that the numbers of game on private land has increased dramatically over a short period. This has had a considerable influence on the increase of wildlife populations in Namibia.

There has since however been a policy change from supplying commercial game farmers with wildlife, to supplying rural areas, that are communally farmed, with wildlife. The rural communities are urged to develop what are called “conservancies”, where a large tract of land is managed to the extent that the community as a whole benefits from the income accrued from the piece of land. The Ministry of Environment and Tourism is assisting in this endeavour in getting communities actively involved in setting up conservancies. Wildlife is introduced into those areas, where they occurred before, but through non-sustainable practices had been reduced to such an extent that sustainable utilization was not possible.

The national parks and conservation areas in Namibia are strategically situated so that most of the agro-ecological areas of the country are represented. This has the consequence that wildlife that is best adapted for that specific agro-ecological zone can be kept there, for sustainable and optimal conservation purposes. This also helps in supplying the rural communities in the area with wildlife for their sustainable utilization in future. Part of the policy of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism is to assist these communities with managing the land and wildlife on it, because of the fact that these communities are not geared towards marketing their enterprise and earning revenue.

The strategies that are used in drought situations in the national parks and conservation areas are mostly that natural populations should manage themselves, but in situations where the natural resource, the rangeland, is in the process of becoming severely degraded, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism will have no other option than to move animals to other parks or in the last resort to cull some animals.

Wildlife in national parks and conservation areas are not supplied with additional or supplementary feed. Animals are supposed to follow natural patterns and move to areas of better grazing. This is not always possible and large die-offs occur from time to time.

The commercial farming area of Namibia

Namibia is divided into 4500 commercial farms with 3000 owners. The sizes and agro-ecological zones in which these farms are found, differ greatly. In the south of the country, where it is arid (50–180 mm), farms have sizes of up to 20000 ha. Farms in the northern half of the country, where rainfall is greater (250-500 mm), have sizes from 5000 ha to 10000 ha. With the increasing occurrence of droughts in Namibia, the 80's and a large part of the 90's, the economical justifiable size of farms is increasing annually, but land is not always freely available. Land also tends to be expensive especially for young entrepreneurs. The number of registered wildlife farms is in the region of 400 and growing annually. This is due to the fact that farmers are seeing additional income in utilising wildlife, and the added income from the tourism sector and this is reducing the risk of their farming enterprise.

The degrading of the natural rangeland is furthermore influenced negatively by overgrazing practices of some commercial farmers. This is due to the weak product prices farmers receive for e.g. meat, hides and milk. This forces the farmer to overgraze his land, to provide for the overheads he has in paying debt on the land and on inputs to farming practices. This vicious circle is never-ending, because every time a drought hits the country, the farms are overgrazed excessively and the natural grazing is once more degraded.

The Government is also not in a position to assist the farmers with drought subsidies, mainly due to the bleak economic situation. Where in the past, the Government was in the position to assist the farmers with drought subsidies, these were misused, and the Government incurred losses of millions of dollars. It is with this in mind that government is reluctant to assist farmers, but will assist in emergency situations, where animals and humans are dying, due to drought.

The wildlife on commercial enterprises is utilized in the following ways

• The production of venison

The production of venison has become quite a lucrative business in Namibia. During the past, prices for venison were not high due to the value of the wildlife being low. With the change of the value of wildlife the price for venison has also increased proportionately. The farmer is in the position to make a reasonable income from venison during drought conditions. The wildlife is also well adapted to withstand drought conditions, and venison production is still possible, in contrast with domesticated animals, which would have lost condition to such an extent that additional or supplementary feed would have been needed for them to survive.

• Trophy hunting:

Namibia has a strong trophy hunting industry and many trophy hunters from all over the world visit the country to hunt, and world-class trophies have been hunted in Namibia. Many commercial farmers in Namibia use wildlife for this purpose. Trophies can however only be hunted with the appropriate permit from the Ministry, and by making use of professional hunting guides most of the time. Long-lasting droughts have an influence on the production of good trophies, due to the negative influence poor diets have had on the animal's physiological development during drought conditions. It so happens that one gets some years where good quality trophies are not found at all. Farmers are at these times tempted to hunt animals which are not of trophy quality, just to acquire an income. This is very detrimental to the trophy industry and farmers are informed periodically of these disadvantageous practices.

• Tourism and photographic safaris:

The newest and fastest developing industry in the wildlife industry is tourism and photographic safaries on commercial farms. Tourists pay good prices for staying at guest farms and travelling around the farm with the farmer, searching for wildlife and even partaking in farming activities on the farm. Farmers make their income from accommodation and tourists that are not interested in hunting make use of the opportunity to see the various wildlife species in their natural habitat.

• Wildlife auctions:

Auctions to sell surplus animals also forms part of the various opportunities in utilising wildlife on commercial farms. Farmers that have game farms will after some years be forced to utilise their animals in other ways than tourism, trophy hunting or venison production. It is here where auctions play a role, and if one looks at prices paid at wildlife auctions in southern Africa. One can imagine how farmers can win by making use of this type of utilisation.

• Live capture of wildlife:

Another very important factor in the sustainable utilisation of wildlife on private land is live capture and selling the animals to registered game dealers, which then sell the animals to farmers in other regions of the country or even export the animals to other countries in southern Africa. This type of utilization is mainly used if animal numbers have grown prolifically and farmers need to take off a large number of animals over a short period of time.

• Night culling:

This is the last type of utilization that is practised by farmers. If international venison prices are good and a market exists, farmers in the south of the country are prepared to cull, especially springbok in large numbers. Venison of these animals is then exported to European countries and good prices are achieved. This utilization method mainly goes hand in hand with drought situations in the country, where farmers are pressurized to reduce populations of animals over a short period of time.

The use of wildlife on commercial farms as a resource in drought conditions:

Wildlife roam the entire country and it is present on most farms in the country. In times of good rains, the farmers are very frustrated if the wildlife utilize their land, because precious grazing is utilized by them instead of by beef cattle or sheep. During drought conditions the picture changes drastically and in most instances the wildlife is the only factor that keeps the farmer on his land, except for a good bank manager. Farmers utilize the wildlife quite heavily during these periods, but within boundaries laid down by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.

The communal farming areas of Namibia

Communal areas exist throughout Namibia and mainly are large tracts of land that are not fenced inside and where animals roam freely, but with a watchful eye of the owner or his/her designate. The communal areas are in a somewhat different scenario the commercial areas. Here there is no ownership of land by the farmers and farmers farm communally. This causes problems in the management of rangeland as well as in the management of animals and in the case of wildlife this is even more difficult. In the past, certain communal areas were utilised by culling the wildlife in the area. These were mostly the very dry areas, and due to the adaptability of wildlife to these areas, they were found there. Over the years these animals have however been substituted by domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep and goats, and wildlife has been culled or driven out of the area. With the droughts of the last 20 years, the domesticated animals have destroyed the natural habitat to such a degree that farming is not possible anymore. The Government is now planning to restock these areas with wildlife, that used to occur there and make the communities responsible for the sustainable utilisation of the area. A lot of training of the communities in managing wildlife populations is however needed.

The wildlife could in future be utilised by the same means as in the commercial area, but a good basis must be laid down in the communal areas to prevent the mismanagement of animals and rangeland.

Wildlife as a resource during drought situations in Namibia

From literature it can be observed that domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep etc. are best adapted to temperatures from 8 to 16°C. Wildlife in many parts of Africa are adapted to withstand temperatures of 30 to 40°C. The physiological status of the animal is also represented in how the animal adapts to the environment. With the harsh environments in many African countries south of the Sahara, it is becoming more and more important to look at animals that are well adapted to the environmental conditions. This includes drought situations, where it has been reported in many countries that wildlife would still be alive after most of the domestic stock has died.

The management of wildlife populations on farms is however not an easy task. In Namibia many game farms stock multi species systems. These multi-species systems need to be managed in such a way that all species can thrive. Some farms in Namibia have up to 26 wildlife species on the land, from small buck through to elephant and rhino. If animals are managed so that they can thrive, we find that after a very short time, farms tend to be overpopulated, due to the prolific reproduction of the animals. The farmer is then supposed to take off some of the animals. This however does not always happen, because farmers feel that having more animals of a species, gives him a chance to show more animals to the tourist that is visiting the farm. The farmers furthermore believe it to be less risky to have more animals of a given species in time of problems, relating to diseases etc.

These however are all misconceptions and the farmer should be in the position to keep a very cautious eye over time of how the system is changing. He would have to react to climatic condition

changes and in some cases would have to remove animals from the land. This is due to the fact, that on a fenced-in farm the animals are not in the position to move to better and more grazing, as they could have in the past.


Due to the adaptability of wildlife to adverse climatic conditions such as drought, wildlife is one of the best resources a farmer could have in terms of still producing something from the land. Wildlife is also in the position of producing and reproducing in adverse conditions, but farmers should be aware that the management of wildlife populations, especially multi-species systems, is more difficult than with domestic stock.


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1.   Moyo

Q.   How long will it take to select for improved milk production in indigenous cattle?

A.   This will depend on the selection pressure which is applied. Selection of outstanding individuals for the trait and creating a nucleus breeding scheme can be very effective. Alternatively genes for milk production can be stabilised, along with high levels of adaptability in a new breed. An example is the Ntwapa dairy breed in Tanzania.

Q.   How do you maintain F1 productivity?

A.   By using a breeding management system which optimises the degree of hybrid vigour.

2.   Sikosana

Q.   Do you get high infestations of parasites in small ruminants in the communal management systems?

A.   This can be a major problem with very high infestation levels occurring. This reduces the feed efficiency and general health of the animals.

Q.   Can you justify removal of crop residues from the lands for livestock feeding when this depletes sol fertility?

A.   It is a balance situation. If crop residues are removed, kraal manure should be going back onto the land.

3.   Jessen

Q.   You mention the various ways wildlife is utilised on commercial farms. Which are the most important?

A.   Certainly the fastest growing sector is tourism and photographic safaris, with tourists staying on the farm and often becoming involved. Trophy hunting is the biggest earner.

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