Nakampe Ashell Maenetja
Managing livestock in the rural communities is a challenge especially during the drought season. When there is no rain coupled with limited veld areas which in rural areas are usually in terrible conditions. Overstocking also results in overgrazing in our already limited grazing veld thus posing a serious challenge for communal farmers who can barely afford supplementary feed including vaccinations for their livestock.
Grazing areas are getting thinner and skewer each year due to high rising of housing development, unnecessary veld fires and with other parts ploughed to plant maize. In these circumstances, we use our indigenous knowledge to ensure we preserve out livestock especially through the sever drought season.
Therefore, an old age tradition of cutting branches of edible trees to feed to livestock during dry season is practiced, something that has been passed on from one generation to another. I learnt about this practice as a kid from my late father. Fig tree is one of the most sought-after trees by livestock especially in communal areas during drought as it produces figs which are high in sugar content making them very palatable to both large and small stock animals.
Another tree that is of great value in the communal areas is the acacia thorn trees, which is used as a source of forage and fodder during the dry season. Cattle don’t really like it that much because of thorns however during dry season they often browse on it and feast on the fallen pods.
It is a risky challenge climbing trees to cut down the branches for cattle to browse on considering that one might fall off the slippery fig tree and sustain serious injuries or branches might fall on the back of livestock causing more damages.
Since South Africa was in a drought season, it was difficult to sell cattle because most of them are nothing but skins and bones. Injured animals on the hand are sold for peanuts. With the assistance of my nephew Merrick, who helps me with herding and managing livestock, we find ourselves moving our cattle from one fig tree to another and any other edible trees in between. We prune our mango trees and collect fallen mangoes to feed our cattle.
Other means to feed and maintain our livestock during dry season includes utilizing crop residues which has become one of the most important sources of feed, the most commonly used is maize which is in abundance provided rain comes early and many land owners were able to plough their plots. Crop residues come with potential problems ranging from poisons and toxicities to bloating.
My family herd is dominated by crosses (Brahman x Nguni) which are not only grazers but browsers which help us maintain them during dry season. We herd them within the river where they are able to browse on phragmites Australis popularly known as common reed or Lehlaka in Sesotho/Sepedi language.
With nothing but hope and belief that it will eventually rain and my livestock will be saved, I persevered through difficult times with a heavy heart and my passion for cattle production carried me through. I desire to become a commercial farmer in the future and mom always said “with hard work, sheer determination and perseverance all dreams do come true”.
Nakampe Ashell Maenetja is an agriculturist who holds a Bachelor of Science in agriculture (BScAgric) (Animal science) from Stellenbosch University. Ashell is a communal /subsistence farmer of Brahman cattle and crosses (Braguni; Brahman x Nguni) from Tlhabeleng village in Tzaneen, Limpopo province.
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