Most high quality grassland is now converted to crops, mixed farming or artificial pastures, so extensive grazing is a way of making economic use of grassland that is not suited to more intensive agricultural enterprises. It follows that investment in such grasslands should be kept to the minimum necessary for their profitable and sustainable exploitation by livestock, whether they be managed commercially or traditionally.
The main chapters have reviewed a wide and representative variety of grasslands in a range of climates, from cold continental to the Equator. Five - eastern Africa, southern Africa, Mongolia, the Tibetan Steppe and the Russian Steppe - are ancient grazing lands. The remaining four have been settled and stocked in relatively recent times: Patagonia, the Campos, central North America and Australia. Some are used by traditional, partly subsistence systems; eastern Africa and part of southern Africa are managed traditionally; and Mongolia has reverted to subsistence herding. Patagonia, the Campos, the Great Plains and Australia are managed commercially. Three areas, Mongolia, the Tibetan Plateau and Russia, have undergone collectivization and decollectivization during the past century. Most of the systems described have some interaction with crop production and fodder production or agropastoralism, for, at farm or regional level, grazing lands and crop production are often mutually dependent, but Mongolia, Tibet Autonomous Region, China and, to a lesser degree, Patagonia are purely pastoral.
Of the systems described briefly in Chapter 11, West Africa and Madagascar are tropical, traditional systems; North Africa, the Syrian Arab Republic and Jordan are subtropical semi -arid areas where transhumant herding had been traditional but where breakdown of traditional authority and grazing systems, aggravated by sedentarization, cheap cereals and motor transport, has led to very severe pasture degradation. The South American systems - the Gran Chaco, the Pampas and the Llanos - are commercial systems of relatively recent settlement. Central Asia and China (at least its northern and western grazing lands), which are contiguous, were areas of transhumant herding, but systems have been disturbed, first by collectivization and then by decollectivization, which has followed very different paths in the two areas. The Hindu Kush-Himalaya zone, which has both sedentary and transhumant systems on the same grasslands, is under severe stress due to population increase. Turkey was a pastoral country, but much of the grasslands have been developed for increasingly commercial crop production, without a concomitant reduction in livestock numbers.
The condition of the worlds grasslands is very varied but, in many cases, it is far from satisfactory. Long-term historical data on pasture is scarce in most areas, so the degree of change or degradation has to be inferred from present condition.
In all but the coldest and driest zones, large areas of the better land have been cleared for crops, leaving the poorer pasture to extensive stock rearing; in traditional areas of subsistence farming this is due to increasing human population among agricultural groups; elsewhere expansion of crops into marginal lands has been in the hope of profit, which has often not been realized. Most of the worlds grasslands are on poor quality land: according to Buringh and Dudal (1987), only about one-sixth of the worlds grasslands are on high and medium category land, while the remaining five-sixths are on low to zero classes, so the potential for further clearing of grassland for sustainable cropping seems low.
Cultivation of grassland has led to problems of access to water for stock and wildlife, loss of lean season grazing, obstruction of migration routes and fragmentation of wildlife habitat. Increasing population pressure and poverty, especially in the savannah zones of Africa, has driven subsistence cultivators further into the drylands; it is usually the best soils and areas along watercourses and other water sources that are developed first; these have usually been lean-season or emergency grazing lands of pastoral groups and their clearing can upset grazing systems, and leads to degradation of the remaining grassland.
Crop production is not the sole invasive use of grasslands: forestation can bar migration routes as can fencing for game exclusion (or protection); declaration of game reserves in pastoral areas can affect herding, and mining and oil extraction also cause damage.
In eastern Africa, pastoral systems are contracting through the expansion of cropping, and grassland is increasingly being integrated into farming systems. National land tenure legislation is not related to traditional grazing rights and puts pastoralism at a disadvantage compared with crops. The pastoral vegetation, however, is resilient, and recovers well after drought.
In South Africa also, much of the better grassland in commercial areas has been cleared for annual cropping, and in communal areas the better watered land has been converted into a patchwork of crops and thicket. The grassland vegetation is generally resilient, although there is some degradation in the driest areas. Bush encroachment is a problem in many vegetation types. Low returns from extensive commercial stock rearing in dry areas is leading to depopulation, and in some cases enterprises are changing to game ranching.
The human population of West Africa has increased greatly so the grassland has decreased and nearly all the cultivable grassland in the better watered areas, as well as vast tracts of semi -arid marginal land, are now under subsistence crops. Tribal authority, which had regulated grazing practice, broke down in many countries once they gained their independence, leaving grassland as an open -access resource.
In North Africa, human population has increased greatly and traditional authorities and grazing rights have broken down. Much semi -arid land has been ploughed for unsustainable annual cropping. Livestock numbers have risen and more can be carried through the lean season through the use of purchased - at one time subsidized - cereals and concentrates. Transhumance cycles are mostly greatly curtailed or herds have become sedentary. Uprooting of shrubs for fuel causes severe damage. All the grazing land is overstocked and degraded, often seriously so.
The situation in Patagonia contrasts sharply with that of East and South Africa. In a little over a century from the introduction of sheep ranching, the vegetation has been severely modified by overgrazing, mainly in the past fifty years. Ranching is on private land with vast paddocks and little grazing control within them. Guidelines for pasture management were only developed in the 1980s and have yet to make a strong impact.
The Campos is relatively well watered, and all stock rearing is commercial. Pasture technology is well developed. Introduced forages are used to palliate seasonal fluctuations in fodder availability and quality, either as sown pasture or by over-seeding. The value of properly managed native pasture is increasingly appreciated. Grasslands are generally in good condition.
The well drained parts of the Pampas are now farmland, where field crops are often in rotation with sown pasture. The flooding pampa s is still exploited as grazing land, producing stock for fattening elsewhere.
Many of the pastures of the Gran Chaco deteriorated seriously during the twentieth century; before 1920 it had been almost unmanaged extensive grazing. Provision of watering points allowed far more of the vegetation to be consumed, leaving little to carry fire. This, together with uncontrolled felling of forest led to invasion by undesirable thorny vegetation. Bush encroachment brought about by overstocking and lack of grazing management is very serious, leading to erosion, loss of wildlife habitat, and greatly reduced livestock production. The economics of herbicides and mechanical clearing are not clear. In most subtropical areas of extensive grazing, the strategic use of pasture resting and controlled fire is the only economic way of keeping bush in check.
In the grasslands of Central North America the better-watered tall-grass prairie is now mostly under crops. Vast areas of drier land have also been cleared for cropping; much was marginal for crop production and suffers from periodic drought, which led to the "dust bowl" of the 1930s. Much of the marginal cropland has been reseeded or forested, with considerable government support. Low returns from farming and the isolation of many rural communities is resulting in urban drift. The modern trend is towards larger-scale landscape management, now that information collection and manipulation technology are available.
Central Asia was traditional transhumant herding country until the early twentieth century but, with collectivization, mobile herding ceased in the 1930s. Fine-wool sheep were encouraged during the soviet era but these are much less hardy than local breeds. Later the usefulness of seasonal movement was recognized and land in different seasonal zones was allocated to cooperatives and state farms. Heavy grazing and firewood collection have seriously reduced vegetation cover and the natural grazing has become degraded, with a loss of productivity and desertification; destruction of forests and shrubs has led to wind erosion. The impact of decollectivization on livestock production systems, grassland management and herders livelihoods has been dramatic and negative. Large agro-food complexes were dismantled and cooperative farms were privatized. Marketing systems collapsed and many traditional markets were lost. There has been a sharp decline in stock numbers in some of the countries. The reforms led to a massive shift from collective to household herds; often household stock numbers are too few to warrant independent herding and communal or family herding has not yet developed; this often leads to stock remaining, unsupervised, close to homesteads: nearby pastures are overgrazed while distant ones are hardly used.
Mongolia is almost entirely pastoral; small areas that were cleared for cropping during the collective period have mostly been abandoned for economic reasons. Decollectivization distributed the livestock to cooperative members without clarifying grazing rights, which led to considerable confusion and lack of overall management of the pastoral resource. The people returned to mobile herding - as hardy local breeds had been maintained throughout the collective period. As rural infrastructure deteriorated there has been considerable migration of people and their herds towards the central provinces, especially from the west. There is localized overgrazing near main roads and settlements, while more distant pastures are often underutilized. Overall pasture condition is satisfactory (Plate 12.1) and the vegetation resilient, even after the consecutive droughts of recent years. Pumped water supplies (Plate 12.2) have fallen into disrepair over large areas so these tracts are less used by herders, to the benefit of wildlife (Plate 12.3).
Pastoral scene near Arkhangai, Mongolia.
Watering camels in Mongolia.
Mongolia, land largely used by wildlife, with salt lake in the distance.
The livestock industry in China, including extensive grazing, was collectivized in the 1950s, but herds were still managed in transhumant systems. After decollectivization, livestock was allocated to families and grazing land has also been distributed according to the 1985 law. The allocation of relatively small areas of semi -arid grassland to families has greatly reduced herd mobility. This may have been a contributing factor in the serious deterioration of the countrys grazing lands. Currently, 90 percent of grassland shows signs of deterioration, of which moderately degraded grassland is 32.5 percent. The government is taking vigorous measures to deal with grassland degradation through its Planning Programme of National Ecological Environment Construction and Outline of Fifteenth Ten-Year Plan. Like elsewhere in China, Tibets grasslands suffered from a very sharp increase in stock numbers at the onset of collectivization in the mid-twentieth century. Numbers stabilized, but pasture condition is mediocre. The grasslands have been allocated to families in relatively small units and it remains to be seen how effective management will be of small areas of semi-arid risk -prone grassland.
In the Hindu Kush-Himalaya region there is extreme pressure on such extensive grazing lands as remain. The alpine pastures do get a seasonal rest during snow cover, but elsewhere there is constant grazing (except on seasonally closed hay land) from sedentary stock owners, and periodic grazing by transhumants. Because of the very high human population, all possible land has been cleared for crop production.
The situation in the Near East is similar to that in North Africa. Breakdown of tribal authority led to the disruption of traditional grazing rights and migration patterns. Purchased feed and availability of transport and water supplies enabled much larger numbers of stock to be kept through the lean season, and pastures were no longer rested once surface water supplies ran out. The human population and livestock numbers have multiplied. Much semi -arid pasture has been ploughed for unproductive cropping. Uprooting of bushes for fuel is very damaging to the pastoral vegetation.
Turkey has changed in the past century from a mainly pastoral country to one where crop production is very important. This meant a great reduction in the area of grassland, but there was no concomitant reduction in livestock, which increased in numbers. Later intensification of cropping systems replaced grazed fallow with pulses and other cash crops, further reducing grazing resource s. Turkeys pastures are now stocked well above their carrying capacity. The land tenure system is a major constraint to grassland management. Common areas are grazed free of charge, so are not managed properly. Boundaries of pastures are not clearly determined nor assigned to village communities. Labour is becoming scarce in pastoral areas as people move to towns, so flocks are not well herded.
The grasslands of the Russian steppe were increasingly cleared for crops during the twentieth century; initially crops rotated with tumble-down fallow, but later the cropping cycle became more intensive. Meadows in floodplains and depressions remained an important source of hay. Stock were mainly housed during the collective period. The system has yet to stabilize following decollectivization, but herds are fragmented and are left to graze at will, leading to overgrazing close to homesteads while distant pastures are neglected.
The studies concentrate on domestic livestock, but most mention the other grazers, which are important in natural grassland ecosystems - ranging from large ruminants and marsupials to the rodents and lagomorphs that are major herbivores in many cool, semi -arid situations. Wildlife plays an important role in maintaining some grasslands, such as in eastern Africa, where the presence of elephants and fire are important.
Most grasslands, whether commercially or traditionally managed, have required some development inputs to make stock-rearing possible or more efficient. All grazing resource s have to be taken into account and these cover much more than the herbaceous stratum.
Water is the major determining factor in stock management in most extensive grazing lands; in areas dependent on seasonal surface water, stock must move out once sources have dried. Improvement of water supply by creating water points or improving existing ones, and clearing of undesirable vegetation to allow free access for stock and better grass growth, are common to both systems, and provision of minerals or traditional salt licks is frequent. Water availability is a factor in determining many migration patterns in mobile systems. In both East and West Africa, traditional rules govern pastoral water use, and in very dry areas water is a more important resource than is grazing. In areas with very cold winters, as noted in the Mongolia study, surface water freezes; wells provide water, but, in their absence, herders may have to extract water from below ice, melt snow or have stock eat snow to find water - in severe winter weather events, dehydration may be as damaging to stock as lack of food.
Without water development, stock would be limited to areas close to permanent sources of water throughout the dry season, and large areas of grassland would not be useable for livestock production. From ancient times, stock watering points have been developed to assure year-round water supply within a groups grazing area or to make grazing land accessible. Access to water is mentioned as a limiting factor to use of some grazing areas in South Africa. According to the South American studies, creation of water supplies has made stock rearing possible in large areas of Patagonia and the Gran Chaco, and the importance of water development is stressed in Australia. Conversely, the breakdown of mechanized wells after decollectivization has rendered large tracts of Mongolia inaccessible to domestic livestock. The type of livestock affects the frequency of water; camels are by far the hardiest, whereas most cattle and small stock can only graze for about two days away from water in hot, dry climates.
Techniques in commercial systems vary according to available water supplies and include: wells and boreholes (artesian or pumped); dams and ponds; and pumping and piping from water bodies. Traditional systems include wells, which are important in the Sahel and parts of East Africa - those of the Borana are particularly well developed. Various methods of water harvesting and storage are used in semi -arid areas, including birka (cisterns) in Somalia and hafir (dug tanks) in several Arabic countries.
Creation of water points has been widely used, especially in Africa, as a means of making new pastures available to traditional herders, often with the intention of reducing pressure on existing grassland. Even if rules for water use and grazing management are drawn up, it is difficult to enforce them, especially in times of stress. Concentration of stock around permanent water points is given as a cause of pasture degradation in many of the studies - in both commercial and traditional systems.
Water is sometimes transported by truck, which is expensive, but if, as is the case in Syria and Jordan, the pasture is being used as hard standing for herds fattened on bought feed, it can be profitable, whatever the effect on any remaining vegetation.
In a few cases (Mongolia, Russia) water-spreading is sometimes used to improve grass growth, especially for haymaking. Irrigation is frequently used, mainly in commercial systems, to grow fodder, usually for conservation.
Natural salt-lick (deposits or salt springs that animals lick) are valued in many zones of extensive grassland and are used by both livestock and grazing wildlife. Herders in, for example, sub-Saharan Africa and Mongolia take their herds long distances for periodic access to licks. Salt is, of course, commonly given to livestock, either alone or in proprietary blocks that may contain other minerals. Where herbage is deficient in minerals, which are essential to animal growth, their well -being and productivity suffers. Phosphorus deficiency is widespread and is especially acute in sub-Saharan Africa. Several minor elements may be deficient in localized areas: the pastures of the Kenya Rift Valley between Nakuru and Naivasha were notorious for poor livestock performance; this "Nakuritis" was diagnosed as cobalt deficiency and has since been found on many other grasslands.
Trees and shrubs
Trees and shrubs are important features of many grasslands, especially of savannahs. Some are very useful, others are invasive weeds. Trees provide valuable shade in hot climates and seasons and they give shelter in winter. Some trees are browsed and may be lopped for fodder - their fruits can also provide valuable feed. A wide range of genera is involved and their management is still poorly understood; the tolerance of most woody species to stock-feeding regimes and lopping still needs study, although a good deal of work has been done on Leucaena. Woody vegetation provides branches and poles for building and making corrals and firewood. Where firewood is scarce, excessive cutting causes serious environmental damage, as in steppic conditions, where much damage is due to uprooting sub-shrubs for fuel. Some trees provide fruit which is valued by local people - such trees may be retained selectively and given some protection. Woody vegetation is, however, often invasive, especially in tropical and sub-tropical conditions; bush encroachment is generally taken as a sign of poor management and overgrazing; this is dealt with below.
After water supply, clearing is a common part of developing extensive grassland for grazing. Where land is being developed for crops or sown pasture, clearing may involve some removal of stones, termite hills and other obstructions, but, for extensive grazing, clearing usually involves removing or thinning woody vegetation to improve access and grass growth or to reduce tsetse fly habitat. In traditional systems, fire is the commonest agent for clearing or controlling trees and shrubs. Specialized equipment is used for large-scale commercial clearing - tree-pushers, drag chains, bulldozers, root ploughs and root rakes, and, forshrubs, various rollers and shredders; the debris may be burnt. The degree of clearing or thinning will depend on the original vegetation and the use to which it is put, but it is usually partial and selective, leaving useful trees, shade and shelter. Selective clearing has been used to reduce tsetse habitat. Woodland destruction for pasture development is now recognized as environmentally undesirable, although it continues on a fairly large scale in the Amazon basin. Strategic thinning of woody vegetation has a role in pasture development and improvement, but it must be done within the context of the ecosystem involved. The Australian study indicates that some leases now restrict tree clearing; it also highlights the fact that the removal of trees and their replacement by crops and annual pastures has made major changes to the hydrological cycle and can lead to serious salination of soils.
Bush control is necessary in many grassland types; it is a maintenance activity, while bush clearing is development. Bush encroachment usually indicates faults in the management system and is associated with high grazing pressures; several mechanisms are involved according to vegetation type and management system. Unpalatable shrubs may increase when the more palatable ones are overgrazed; if little dry herbage remains in the non-growing season there may not be hot enough fires to control the bush. Goats browse much more than cattle and mixed grazing is probably less favourable to bush establishment than cattle alone; goats may be used to browse regrowth after fire. Herbicides are used in some commercial systems; they are favoured in South Africa and used to prepare land for over-seeding in the Campos. Bush encroachment is mentioned in many of the studies. Indigenous plants are usually involved but alien shrubs and trees can be very invasive: the Australian study mentions Acacia nilotica, which is a highly respected source of browse and pods in Africa, Pakistan and India; Opuntia spp. are pasture weeds in many areas outside their homeland; Prosopis velutina, which has been widely used for revegetation of degraded dry areas in parts of Africa, northern India and Pakistan, invades grazing land and forms dense thickets; in wetter areas, Lantana camara is a widespread pest; and in high-rainfall zones, guava (Psidium spp.) colonizes grazing land.
Controlled fire is a major factor in determining the composition of grasslands and a widespread and powerful tool in grassland management. Its effect depends on its intensity, seasonality, frequency and type. The intensity depends on the type, structure and abundance of fuel. It is mentioned in most of the studies, except in those with more arid climates. Fire is used to remove unpalatable grass and enable regrowth and access to the young herbage by grazing stock. It often stimulates regrowth and supplies a green bite when most needed. Fire is also used, as discussed above, to control woody vegetation. Burning of grassland must be carefully controlled and timed, otherwise it can cause serious damage; this is not discussed in any of the studies, although planning burning and controlling fire is difficult and labour-consuming. Since fire has so severe an effect, burning must take the whole ecosystem into account, not only the grass and the grazing livestock. Ill-timed fire can have a devastating effect on wildlife, including nesting and young birds. Most developed countries have regulations governing burning of natural vegetation. For example periodic burning is necessary to maintain the Calluna-dominated pastures of the United Kingdom; strips are burnt in different years to produce a mosaic of heather of different ages. Burning is regulated by law and the season is defined to minimize damage to wildlife according to a "Muirburn Code" (The Scottish Executive 2003). Uncontrolled fire is, of course, a risk in many areas. It may occur spontaneously through lightning strike, but very often it is due to careless grassland burning, through fires lit to drive out game or through arson. The Mongolia study mentions the care taken by herders to avoid grassland fire - in Mongolias cold winter there would be no regrowth and burnt herbage is lost. While too frequent burning is undesirable, long periods between fires may in some cases, lead to a build up of combustible material which, if ignited, will give a very fierce and destructive fire.
Fencing is widely used in the development of commercial grazing enterprises to delimit properties and subdivide them for ease of management. Block size is generally large on low-yielding grasslands since fencing and fence maintenance are costly; this can lead to uneven stock distribution. Fences are also used to protect forages and hay land within properties. The Patagonia study gives an example of protecting high-quality meadows for individual management. Fences are not used by traditional herders, but authorities sometimes erect fences within traditional grazing lands for disease control.
"Improvement" of extensive natural grassland by introduction of selected local or exotic grasses and legumes has been done experimentally in most of the better-watered zones, and is used by some commercial systems; it is, of course, along with sown pasture, common in commercial mixed farming and more intensively managed grassland. Techniques usually involve at least temporary suppression of the existing vegetation (by fire, hard grazing, herbicides or mechanically, alone or in combination) and differing degrees of disturbance of the soil surface; fertilizer is often used, and when legumes are introduced to an area for the first time inoculation of their seed with the appropriate Rhizobium is a wise precaution.
Choice of species and cultivar to suit climate, soil and ultimate use is very important and, while there is a very wide range of genetic material of pasture crops available, it may be difficult to match them to new areas. Finding commercial quantities of seed of locally adapted cultivars and ecotypes is often difficult. Care in management is often needed to assure the longevity of the introduced species, and maintenance fertilizer may be required. The success of, and in part the need for, over-seeding depends not only on climate and soil but also the vigour and aggressiveness of the native vegetation. The studies dealing with commercial systems all mention over-seeding. It has been successful in Patagonia on an experimental scale, using both indigenous and exotic material, but, in such dry conditions, was unlikely to be economically viable. In the Campos, over-seeding, especially with exotic temperate species, mainly legumes, is successful and the introduction of temperate legumes has a very beneficial effect on winter pastures. Pasture improvement is widely used in Australia and self-reseeding annuals (especially Medicago spp. and Trifolium spp.) have become important in the Mediterranean climatic zone; the self-reseeding Stylosanthes humilis was very important in tropical pastures until it was wiped out by disease. The South Africa n and North American studies mention over-seeding for the revegetation of abandoned cropland - a subject discussed below.
Attitudes to over-seeding and the introduction of exotic pasture plants to natural grassland ecosystems are changing. The ability to spread and colonize in a grazing situation used to be a desirable characteristic of plants for pasture improvement - now such plants may be regarded as invasive aliens.
Fertilizer may be used, with or without reseeding if the botanical composition of the sward is appropriate and economics warrant it, and slashing is sometimes used to reduce coarse vegetation.
Degraded grassland is a symptom of weakness in the pastoral production system and these weaknesses have to be identified and dealt with before further action can be taken. Where rehabilitation of grassland is desirable it should be through management methods, with or without water-spreading. Over-seeding degraded rangeland is rarely an attractive option and reliance has to be put on making the most of the recovery of the natural vegetation. Assuring even grazing over an area, keeping stock numbers within reasonable limits, and avoiding localized overgrazing can all help.
Degradation of pasture can have effects more serious than reduction of available grazing; increased runoff can lead to flooding and siltation of more valuable land and infrastructure lower in the catchment. In such cases action may have to be taken to reduce runoff; in severe cases grassland that is a focus for runoff and erosion may have to be closed, temporarily or permanently, with or without forestation - this is being done on a large scale in China, notable in the Yellow River and Yangtze catchments. Many grasslands are very resilient and will recover from serious misuse through resting; if, however, change and degradation has been very serious, the grassland may have passed the point of recovery, and while rest will allow some sort of vegetative cover to develop, it will not be as the original grassland.
Two situations closely allied to grassland rehabilitation are old mining and industrial sites and cropland that is being removed from cultivation. Treatment of mining sites is a specialized matter. Marginal cropland going out of cultivation is mentioned in East and South Africa, North America and Russia. Where adapted grasses are available, reseeding may be a better option than relying on tumble-down fallow since old crop land may not turn spontaneously to a grassland but to weeds or thicket.
In commercial systems management generally aims at improving animal status and usually concentrates on one, or at the most two, species. Common management practices to that end include: dividing herds into categories so that they get the appropriate treatment, avoiding underage and unseasonable breeding; controlling parasites and predators; providing veterinary care; and using and maintaining breeds that suit their land and potential markets. Commercial properties are often ring-fenced and divided into paddocks to allow herd division and, in some cases, rotational grazing or resting of part of the grassland.
Choice of species and breed is in part determined by the pasture and the climate, but, in commercial systems, market requirements are central and, on extensive grazing, beef cattle and sheep predominate. In warmer climates, zebus or cattle with some zebu blood, often developed locally, are becomingly increasingly popular. Cattle are usually specialized breeds, not dual or multipurpose. Sheep breeds commonly raised in Australasia dominate the other commercial areas studied.
Traditional systems, while selling livestock and livestock products, are designed primarily to provide subsistence and security to the herders. Livestock are usually multipurpose, producing meat, milk, fibre, hides, transport, draught and manure, which is also used as fuel in treeless lands. They often keep several species, which may be herded separately; this assists in providing a wider range of products. In sub-Saharan Africa, many herders keep cattle, sheep and goats, but in the drier areas small stock, or in northeast Africa, camels and small stock, are kept. In North Africa and western Asia, small stock, especially sheep and camels, were general in extensive herding but with the increasing popularity of motor transport camels have become much less common. In India and Pakistan, buffalo are also herded, but herding groups tend to keep a narrow range of stock and specialize in either small or large ruminants. In much of Central Asia and Mongolia, herding involves "the five animals" - horses, camels, cattle, sheep and goats. There are a number of reasons, in addition to widening the range of products, for keeping several species: they may make more efficient use of grazing resource s than monospecific grazing, for example, goats, horses and camels make better use of shrubs than do cattle or sheep; pasture condition may be better maintained if several species are involved; and multiple species may also reduce risk.
Traditional systems use local, hardy, often multi-purpose breeds, which can survive and produce under harsh conditions without many external inputs. Introduction of blood of "more productive" breeds to herding systems has had little effect since such animals are soon weeded out under herding conditions: the massive reduction in sheep numbers after decollectivization in those countries of the former USSR where "improved " breeds were kept, contrasts with the rise of stock numbers in Mongolia, which had maintained local breeds, during the same period. Market demand affects traditional systems also, although less so than commercial ones: the main livestock of the Jordanian badia was camels, but over the years these have been replaced by sheep fed on bought feed; decollectivization in Mongolia coincided with high prices for cashmere and goat numbers rose much more sharply than those of other stock.
Fenced areas (exclosures) in Inner Mongolia demonstrate the impact of excessive grazing on pasture condition.
Regulation of the stocking rate and managing the spatial and temporal distribution of livestock are the basis of grazing management (Plate 12.4). The amount of livestock that a particular area of grassland can carry is not dependent on its botanical composition alone, since it has to take into account the management objectives of the graziers and the availability and siting of other grassland resources, notably water. Extensive grassland s are not homogeneous but usually show spatial heterogeneity according to moisture and fertility gradients. Stock may tend to concentrate on the better grassland and ignore poorer sites or those farther from water. Some pastures may be suited to grazing at certain seasons or, as in alpine grasslands, only available seasonally. Stocking must be seen in the context of the whole area available and management decisions made in the light of local knowledge, be it the rancher who knows his property well or the herding group with traditional knowledge of their grazing grounds: extensive grazing is managed at the landscape rather than at the local scale.
Since the productivity of natural pasture, especially in drier climates, varies widely from year to year, the maximum amount of livestock that can be raised thereon also varies. Commercial systems usually have stock in paddocks, whereas traditional herders move their livestock daily to follow changes in the quantity and quality of pasture. Emergency feeding or destocking is expensive: commercial enterprises usually have more conservative stocking rates than traditional, mobile ones; the latter accept more risk and may be able to move to avoid severe forage or water shortages.
The studies show that there are wide ranges of stocking rates used or advocated within areas. With up-to-date technology, most of the commercial areas are now able to make more accurate assessment of forage availability and grassland condition over wide areas and better estimate safe stocking rates and monitor their effect. The Patagonia study shows that early stocking rates were far too high and led to serious resource degradation. The Australian study shows a surprisingly high estimate of degradation, with over half the pastures of northern Australia either degraded or deteriorating. In other studies on commercial systems, overstocking has not been a serious problem. The eastern Africa n study quotes many conflicting estimates of carrying capacity and grassland degradation. However, these have not been based on as detailed work as those in commercial areas. In Mongolia, the traditional herding system follows a four-season pattern, grazing different pastures at each season, thus distributing the grazing load, with strategic short-distance moves, otor, to other pasture with different categories of animals as part of the routine and also helping to spread grazing and make best use of resources.
Political changes have affected the movement and management of livestock in many herding lands. Decollectivization has affected vast areas of the grazing lands of Central Asia and Russia. In Mongolia, collapse of rural infrastructure and pumped water supplies have led to many areas remaining ungrazed, and lack of security for winter grazing areas can restrict long migrations. In Central Asia and the Russian steppe, family herds are now too small to warrant herding, so livestock remain close to homesteads, while more distant pastures are unused. In Turkey, urban drift has led to a scarcity of people willing to work as shepherds - again, distant grasslands are underused. In Africa, civil security and stock theft are problems.
Feed availability is very unevenly distributed throughout the year in areas of extensive grasslands, since these generally have a restricted growing season due to rainfall or temperature. Managing stock through the lean season is a major concern in all the systems described and both traditional and commercial stock owners exercise skill and ingenuity in palliating seasonal feed scarcity. Situations and strategies vary, as do the causes of the deficit and the types of production.
In warm and tropical climates, the dry season is the main time of feed deficit. The problem is not always a lack of standing vegetation, but that many tropical grasslands, once mature, provide herbage of very low nutritive value. In traditional systems, fodder conservation is almost unknown; stock graze as best they can and lose weight through the dry season. In eastern and southern Africa, pastoral groups usually remain within their own territory, although there may be some seasonal movement - they usually have little access to crop residues. In West Africa, however, pastoral groups are transhumant, moving between the desert edge and the forest fringe; they frequently have access to crop residues. Browse is important in dry-season feeding although this is not dealt with in detail in the African chapters. Water is often scarce during the dry season and in traditional systems it may be as important as feed. Fodder conservation is not part of the feeding strategies of these pastoralists.
Crop residues, however, are important in many traditional grassland systems, especially in agropastoral systems; they are also widely used (with or without treatment) in many commercial systems and feedlots. Hay and straw conservation and use is discussed in another publication in this series (Suttie, 2000) and silage making in the tropics by tMannetje (2000).
Lean-season strategies in cold areas depend partly on whether the winters are dry or not, and on the depth of snow cover. In areas of summer precipitation, such as Mongolia, the grasslands of northern China and the Tibet -Qinghai plateau, livestock can graze throughout the winter, although unusual weather events can cause severe losses. The herding strategy is to get stock into the best possible condition during summer and autumn so that they can survive the winter. Transhumance between three or four seasonal pastures is still practised in Mongolia; the winter pastures are the key to the annual system; mobility gives herders some opportunity to escape adverse weather events. Seasonal de-stocking, which includes both sale of excess stock and slaughter and freezing of the stock that will be consumed domestically before the spring thaw, reduces the number of animals that have to overwinter. A little meadow hay is made, but its use is limited to a few weak stock; Wang (2003) describes a case where herding has been combined with irrigated fodder growing (Plate 12.5), with very positive results. Stock may be housed or sheltered at night and during severe weather. Such systems are probably inevitable in a subsistence economy in situations where complementary fodder is inaccessible and very expensive, but it does mean that stock must be bred for hardiness rather than high productivity and also that animals are old by the time they reach slaughter weight. The Patagonian sheep industry, also in a cold, semi -arid zone, relies on natural grazing without supplementation, with set stocking throughout the year.
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) hay being collected for winter feeding of stock in Altai Prefecture, Xinjiang, China.
In the cattle -raising systems of the northern parts of central North America, the common approach is very different from that of traditional systems, and winter feeding is widely used, not only because inclement weather may preclude grazing but also because the feeding value of natural pasture drops off sharply after the growing season. In many cases, natural grassland is used in conjunction with arable, and fodder for winter will be produced on-farm; large amounts of alfalfa hay and some cereal hay are used.
In Mediterranean-type climates, the lean season is the hot, dry summer; in many cases, transhumant systems were used to palliate its effects. These have become severely modified and in much of North Africa and Western Asia cultivation of semi -arid lands has reduced the available pastures. Many countries in this region had subsidized grain sales to herders; meat prices are high and purchased grain is still widely used, with stocking rates far in excess of anything the grazing lands could support. The use of large quantities of feed along with improved water supplies, or trucked water, has had disastrous results for the pastoral vegetation. When discussing sustainable development of drylands, FAO (1993) points out that improperly managed feeding can be very detrimental to pasture condition:
"Drought and dry -season feeding reserves are a priority in terms of livestock production, but can cause overstocking and destruction of rangeland if purchased feed is used to maintain excessive grazing pressure on rangeland. Reserves are therefore best organized within the one management unit. Government subsidies on feed brought into drylands are especially destructive and are best avoided."
Stratification of livestock production - generally fattening stock under more favourable conditions than those in which they were raised - is widespread in commercial systems, and can be a means of reducing the numbers carried on pastures through the lean season. It also speeds up the production cycle since, if stock are moved to better pastures and feedlots, they avoid the growth checks and weight loss associated with extensive grasslands due to scarce, low-quality fodder during the lean season. Markets increasingly require meat from quickly grown stock. Stratified production systems are generally associated with the commercial livestock sector; traditional herders have usually less access to fattening facilities and many native breeds are less responsive to intensive feeding than improved ones. Various systems of stratification and/or feedlots are mentioned in the chapters on South Africa, the Campos (where much finishing is on better pastures), North America, and Australia. In Russia, indoor feeding was the rule. Feedlot fattening of cattle from extensive systems has been carried out in Kenya in the past. Small-scale fattening is, of course, common in many agropastoral and agricultural systems. In China, where there is an increasing demand for meat in the increasingly prosperous urban areas, intensive fattening of stock from extensive grasslands has developed. Fattening is done in farming areas relatively close to cities where rice straw (fermented with ammonia or urea) forms the base of the ration, and cereals and agro-industrial by-products are readily available (see Dolberg and Finlayson, 1995; Simpson and Ou, 1996). Fattening stock is either local or from the great northern and western grazing lands. China has both an expanding market for beef and a sound transport system between the grasslands and the fattening areas.
Stratification of sheep production, although little discussed in the text, is common in parts of Europe and probably elsewhere; sheep from the Scottish hills are traditionally fattened in the lowlands, and hill ewes are crossed with other breeds for lowland meat production. Sheep fattening is widespread in the Near East, sometimes with imported lambs, usually using cereals and concentrates - this has nothing to do with reducing grazing pressure. In many Islamic countries, there is seasonal specialized sheep and goat fattening for religious festivals.
Sown pasture is often complementary to natural grassland in commercial systems as, for example, strategic feed for specific seasons, for fattening or conservation. In many places under favourable conditions of soil and climate, sown pasture, often in rotation with crops, has replaced natural grassland, but that is not the subject under discussion here. It is used by medium to large farms in commercial systems. Pasture improvement, which can involve clearing, over-seeding, etc., is discussed later, although the dividing line between "improved grassland" and sown pasture is not a clear one. Traditional systems with small holdings and unfenced cropland are unsuited to grazed artificial pasture - although they may use cut-and-carry fodder. Sown pastures were well developed in the commercial sector in Kenya before structural changes in agriculture led to a vast reduction in the number of large dairy farms; the technology is described in Bogdans (1977) classic Tropical pasture and fodder plants. In the commercial sector in South Africa, artificial pastures are widely used in the better watered areas; elsewhere in Africa, including Madagascar and the North, sown pasture is not used, nor is it used in the Middle East or in Asia ("artificial grassland" is a term much used in China, but is usually either alfalfa for hay or annual forage for cut-and-carry). Patagonia is unsuited climatically to sown pasture, as are Mongolia and Tibet. The Campos, which is relatively well watered, has developed sown pastures using both summer- and winter-growing species, and sown pasture is important in the Pampas. In central North America, sown pasture, often in rotation with crops, plays an important role in livestock production. It is, of course, very important in other areas of North America, Western Europe and, notably, New Zealand.
Sown pasture is widely used in the better-watered parts of Australia, especially in the Mediterranean and temperate parts, although also used in the tropics. In areas of Mediterranean climate, self-reseeding annual forages are widely used in rotation with annual crops, most of the forages used are of Mediterranean origin, and the system is very similar to the ancient cereal-grazed-fallow rotation of that zone, except that, after initial seeding and establishment, fertilizer and grazing management is aimed at allowing the annuals to seed and regenerate: the area under annual rotational pastures ("leys" locally) is declining as rotation of cereals with other annual cash crops, including pulses, becomes more profitable. Much work has been carried out on tropical pastures, and these are of some importance, but there is need for legumes better adapted to grazing since Stylosanthes spp., once a mainstay of sown and improved tropical pastures, were seen to be susceptible to attack by Colletotrichum spp. in the 1980s. Pasture improvement through over-seeding is also important. Sown pasture was not important on the Russian steppe during the period immediately prior to decollectivization, but the authors of Chapter 10 argue that it should become so.
Fodder in this context is forages grown as whole-crop feed for livestock, whether fed green or conserved. Such crops are often used to supplement grazing or for fattening or dairy production in many systems. Fodder is little used in the traditional pastoral systems of sub-Saharan Africa, but is becoming increasingly used in agropastoral and crop producing areas as available free grazing disappears. In eastern and southern Africa, fodders were widely grown on large-scale dairy farms (Plate 12.6), but changes in farm size and farming systems have led to a great reduction in the range of fodders now grown; Pennisetum purpureum is widely used for cut-and-carry feeding by smallholders (Plates 12.7 and 12.8). Commercial grazing systems in South Africa use some fodder, including some for "exceptional circumstances ", but most others require irrigation, which can usually be used more profitably for other crops. Some fodder is grown in North Africa, a little irrigated alfalfa and, more important, oats for hay, which is often produced for sale to herders from drier areas (Chaouki et al., 2004). Little fodder is grown in the desert grazing lands of the Near East. Egypt is unusual in North Africa as nearly all its livestock are stall fed, and cultivated fodder is important to supplement crop residues - the production system is very similar to that of the irrigated tracts of Punjab, and Alexandrian clover, Trifolium alexandrinum (Plate 12.9), is the major winter fodder, with coarse cereals in summer.
Irrigated ryegrass pastures (Lolium multiflorum) near Fort Nottingham, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Cold, semi -arid Patagonia has little land suited to fodder production, and irrigated lands are reserved for cash crops. The main production systems of the Campos also rely on year-round grazing. In the Gran Chaco, alfalfa is grown for hay, and, in some areas, smallholders produce hay for sale - this is described in Suttie (2000).
Smallholder cut-and-carry dairy operation using Napier grass, near Embu, Kenya.
Egyptian clover or berseem (Trifolium alexandrinum).
Fodders are widely grown in Central North America and in commercial mixed farming systems throughout Europe and North America. A method of making oat fodder accessible to cattle even under snow cover is described from Canada by Fraser and McCartney (2004); "swath grazing " provides late autumn and early winter grazing for beef cows (Plate 12.10). Late-sown cereals are swathed in the early autumn from heading until dough stage. The livestock then graze the swaths through the snow. The emphasis on fodder rather than grazing in the former USSR is mentioned above. Fodder growing and conservation are an ancient tradition in Turkey.
Cattle grazing oats through snow in Canada, where the oats were swathed at dough stage in September.
Fodders are widely used in the better watered areas of Australia, for on-farm use, local sale and export (Armstrong et al., 2004) and are also widely grown in New Zealand. As discussed in Chapter 10, fodder was a mainstay of livestock production in the collective period, with much less interest in grazing, but this is changing under economic pressure.
In Central Asia during collective times, fodder, especially alfalfa, was widely grown for winter reserves; the area has fallen sharply since decollectivization, since there is now a need to use irrigated land to assure local cereal needs, and livestock numbers have fallen. Great areas of fodder are grown in China. Hu and Zhang (2003) give the area under alfalfa as 1 804 700 ha, forage maize at 570 500 ha and fodder oats at 274 400 ha. The climate of the Tibetan steppe and Mongolia is not suitable for fodder; a little oats is grown by Tibetan herders with subsidized seed from elsewhere; Mongolia grew fodder oats during the collective period, but that ceased for economic reasons - only in the far west is some irrigated alfalfa grown for hay.
Alfalfa or lucerne (Medicago sativa).
Persian clover or shaftal (Trifolium resupinatum).
In the Hindu Kush-Himalaya region, fodders are grown, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan; alfalfa (Plate 12.11) and shaftal (Trifolium resupinatum) (Plate 12.12) are important, but the areas are restricted by lack of land. Vast areas of fodder are produced in the irrigated tracts of the plains of Pakistan, India and, to a lesser degree, Nepal to supplement crop residues in the feeding of vast numbers of stall-fed cattle and buffaloes: Trifolium alexandrinum and oats (Plate 12.13) are major winter crops, and coarse cereals predominate in summer.
Oat seed production in Nepal.
Often the problems of grasslands and their users are more socio-economic than technical. Better management and improved livelihoods can only be attained if the legal, social and economic problems associated with pastoralism, especially traditional herding, are dealt with. "Training herders" used to be recommended in many projects, but it is futile to try to transfer technical ideas, probably developed elsewhere, when the herders have no security of tenure, the techniques have not been convincingly tested locally and poverty and population pressure mean that herders will not take extra risks.
Secure tenure of land or grazing rights is essential if stock-raisers and pastoralists are to have secure livelihoods and can invest in and manage grassland in a sustainable fashion. Where grassland production systems are purely commercial (as in the studies on the commercial sector in South Africa, Patagonia, the Campos and Central North America) the land is held in either freehold or long-term leasehold. Commercial stock raisers can, therefore, invest in infrastructure, notably water and fencing - a major use of fencing may be to delimit properties. Since commercial enterprises hold valid land titles their land can be used as collateral for loans.
In the extensive, pastoral subsistence sector, grazing rights are much less clear. In the distant past these lands would have been managed under traditional authorities and disputes over encroachment by other herding groups or cultivators probably settled in battle. Changing times and régimes have left many pastoral groups in a state of uncertainty, and they are often relatively neglected minorities, except in countries that are mainly pastoral - these are few: Mongolia and Somalia are examples. In the traditional sector, grazing rights means pastoral resources in their wider sense, including access to water and to mineral licks where these are used. The land rights of settled farmers are recognized in most countries since they are resident on their farms and obviously use them; the rights of pastoral groups, however, who are usually mobile, are usually less well defined since they only use a piece of grassland at a particular season. If others clear such grassland for crops, however unsustainable, it may be viewed as "development " and pastoralists are at a disadvantage in claiming their rights. In addition, traditional pastoral tenure is not usually strong enough to prevent confiscation by the state, probably without compensation, for mineral prospection, infrastructure, building or nature reserves. While cropland can conveniently be allocated to individual smallholders, the large areas of low-yielding grassland involved in mobile herding and the desirability of managing such pasture at the landscape scale make the allocation of grassland to individual families problematic (although such allocation has been done in China). Allocation to groups seems preferable, but at what scale and how to decide to whom grazing should be allocated is problematic.
Commercial systems are, of course, market oriented, and nowadays most traditional systems sell their surplus production; the East Africa n study indicates that even conservative ethnic groups which formerly did not sell stock now market their surplus. Most of the studies report poor prices for grassland produce; wool is probably most severely affected. The break-up of the USSR disrupted markets in Central Asia and Mongolia, and these countries have yet to find new outlets. The effect of freer world trade on produce from extensive grasslands has still to be seen, but meat produced by traditional herders who are far from consumers may be at a disadvantage - especially as urban consumers increasingly demand meat from cattle that have been finished in feedlots or off good pasture.
Regime and political change have disrupted old herder groupings and hierarchies, and decollectivization has left large areas with a disorganized pastoral sector.
Often herds are too small for it to be profitable for a family to spare labour to take them to pasture, and herding communities are fragmented. If semi -arid grasslands are to be managed sustainably, some planning is necessary at the landscape scale. It is now widely accepted that rural development, including grassland development, should be led by the ultimate users. Community participation is essential, but if it is to be effective, rather than token talking, a high priority should be developing some means of having herders organize themselves into larger groups for deciding local herding policy, discussing with regional authorities and sharing herding tasks.
Population pressure and rising populations on decreasing pastoral resources are mentioned in many traditional areas. The number of livestock that any area of extensive grassland can carry sustainably is finite. If pastoral populations grow larger than their resource base can stand it is unlikely that technical solutions will be found.
Because of poor returns from animal husbandry a number of commercial enterprises in most of the countries studied are looking at alternative and potentially more profitable uses for their grasslands. Raising game and wildlife is already practised in eastern and South Africa and is probably expanding - this may be for specialist meats, tourism, hunting of a combination. Some mention organic meat.
Tourism and eco-tourism is another use of grasslands; in commercial areas its benefits will go to the landowner; the extent to which it will become important is unclear except where noteworthy scenery or wildlife is involved since many grassland areas are remote and have little infrastructure. Tourism is encouraged by many governments since it brings them revenue. However, in areas of traditional herding, tourism must be seen as beneficial by the graziers involved; the owners of large private establishments may negotiate fees, but in traditional systems tourists may be regarded as a nuisance if they make no contribution to local livelihoods. A quotation from an article in the travel section of the Times (2004) is a good example of this:
"Mongolias reindeer people say that tourism is threatening their way of life. 207 people from Tsaganuur say that the small but growing numbers of tourists are disrupting the peace of the taiga where their reindeer roam"
Although grasslands are of primary environmental importance, not least as catchment areas and sites for in situ conservation of biodiversity, their preservation and proper management are given relatively little attention by environmentalists and governments, which often see the traditional livestock sector more as a problem than an essential part of maintaining grasslands and their biodiversity. Reserves and national parks are many and increasing; they often reduce traditional grazing lands, with little or no attention to their traditional users. Such reserves are for wildlife, biodiversity and often the consequent tourism, but the grassland biome of such reserves requires properly managed grazing for its survival. Grassland reserves as such are rarely mentioned: China (Hu and Zhang 2003) has eleven, covering two million hectares.
Kreb, a mixture of grains from wild grasses, is still used for human food in the Lake Chad area.
Non-livestock grassland products get little attention, but are important to local communities. Many wild plants are harvested as fruit and vegetables. Wild grass seeds are used as cereals (Plates 12.14 and 12.15). Many medicinal plants for both local use and sale are gathered from grasslands, as is wood and fuel. An interesting case study from the Lake Chad area is provided by Batello, Marzot and Touré (2004).
In places such as in Nepal (see Plate 1.15) or in the Tibet Autonomous Region, China, near Lake Namtso (Plates 12.16a, b), grassland sites can have a special religious significance. At Lake Namtso the nearby grasslands are subject to heavy tourist and pilgrim traffic on certain occasions and tented encampments can spread out from the focal point to surrounding areas.
Nomads agree that some areas should be protected from grazing so that grasses can produce seed for Kreb harvesting.
Near Lake Namtso, Tibet Autonomous Region, China.
Pilgrims at Lake Namtso.
The preceding chapters cover a very wide range of grassland types and production systems. They demonstrate clearly that extensive grassland exists in many forms and is exploited in many ways, and that each great group requires its own way of management. This chapter does not attempt to summarize all the conclusions that can be drawn from them, but some important ones are:
Many grasslands are in poor condition. Most communally or traditionally managed grasslands show some degree of degradation, and many are seriously damaged.
Modern technology allows relatively rapid assessment of herbage availability and pasture cover, as well as the processing of this information. This can be applied to commercially managed grasslands, but there are many problems - logistical, social and economic - in getting such information to traditional pastoralists and in their making use of it.
Grasslands cover a very large proportion of the globe and are of primary environmental importance, so their sustainable management is a matter of widespread interest and is not limited to those who gain their livelihoods therefrom. The general public benefits from the proper management of catchments, landscapes for wildlife, tourism, conservation of biodiversity, recreation and hunting, but the management costs fall on the pastoralists be they traditional or commercial. In many areas, commercial stock-rearing off extensive grassland is in economic difficulties and the peoples of traditional systems are mostly poor to very poor. How can those who manage the grasslands be encouraged to do so for the general good, and how can they be recompensed for adjusting management to even more environmentally friendly ways?
The management of communally held grasslands is generally in great difficulties. Clarification of grazing rights, the putting in place of an appropriate legal framework, which should take into account existing perceived rights, and allocation of some form of long-term security is necessary before herders can begin to indulge in medium- to long-term modifications to their existing systems. Technical grassland interventions (apart from veterinary care) can only be useful once the tenure situation is clarified.
The overall management of extensive grazing lands should be done within a wide framework on a very large, landscape scale so that it is effective in dealing with the whole range of pastoral resources and products, covers the migration territories of transhumant groups as well as conserving wildlife and catchments. In traditional areas, pastoralists are often in small, poorly organized groups. Better planning and management is only likely to succeed if the pastoral population is assisted to organize itself into large groups that can enter into dialogue with one another and the authorities, not only to participate but to play a leading role in the planning and management processes.
High, and often increasing, livestock numbers, often associated with reduction of the area available for grazing, is usually associated with reported grassland degradation. In pastoral systems, rising animal numbers are often associated with rises in the human population. The remaining extensive grasslands are mainly in situations where intensification and increase of herbage production is unlikely to be practical or economic. Rarely can more pasture land be made available so, when population numbers obviously exceed the carrying capacity of the land, thought must be given to alternative sources of livelihood.
Localized overgrazing with neglect of distant pasture is reported in several studies (this includes poor distribution of stock in big paddocks) and is a new but serious problem in countries that have undergone decollectivization and where there are vast areas of steppic and mountain pasture. Again, there is a strong case for organization of the pastoral population to adopt community herders, allocate ex-collective grazing rights and rehabilitate pastoral infrastructure.
Provision of lean-season feed is an important part of many extensive systems, this is excellent in farming systems and where stock are housed off the pasture in the lean season. Maintaining numbers of stock far in excess of the grassland carrying capacity with purchased feed is, however, extremely destructive, and subsidizing concentrates and cereals for herders is undesirable for sustainable grassland use.
Improvement of the pastoral vegetation in extensive grasslands should mainly be through manipulation of grazing pressure and the use of controlled fire. Over-seeding is not usually successful on poor soils with unreliable rainfall and is now often regarded as undesirable for the environment; it can, of course, be very useful in agropastoral systems in more favourable conditions.
A very wide range of genetic material of species, cultivars and ecotypes of pasture grasses and legumes have been collected and screened, but only a very restricted range is readily available commercially.
Sown pasture, for grazing and mowing, plays a very important role in large-and medium-scale commercial mixed farming, and the use of perennial pastures is to be encouraged wherever possible and profitable since they are often more environmentally desirable than annual cut-and-carry fodders.
Fodder crops can be useful for strategic use on favoured areas in extensive systems, especially for conservation or supplementing vulnerable classes of stock. They are suitable for both smallholder and large-scale mixed farming enterprises and are becoming increasingly popular with smallholders who have access to markets for milk or fattened stock. While fodder technology is well developed generally, there is still a lot to be done in identifying locally adapted material for smallholder areas, assuring seed supplies and training farmers.
What is the potential for diversifying the use of grasslands? Commercial producers are experimenting with, for example, tourism and game -ranching. Will such management maintain the grassland biome?
The area of grassland being put into reserves to conserve wildlife and biodiversity, as well as to encourage tourism, is increasing, often without regard to existing pastoral use. It is desirable that the creation of such reserves should take into account their effect on migration routes, access to essential grassland resources and to what extent grazing livestock and controlled fire will be permitted or encouraged.
Grasslands are sources of many products other than food for grazing livestock, but grassland scientists have tended to limit their interests to grazing resource s. Greater attention to wider ethnobotanical matters is desirable.
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