Defending ultra high density grazing

I am not going to make excuses for my and Johann’s strong language towards the scientists of the establishment in our response to “stocking rates and Karooveld”, the report on the research of the UFS researchers.

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We have our reasons. I would however like to extend a hearty and open invitation to both Jannie and Louis (letters on stocking the Karoo published in the magazine) to visit Elandsfontein and see how HDG and UHDG work – feasibly, sustainably and highly profitable.

I have the greatest respect for all people involved in the farming industry (stock farmers and scientists included), and operate as both gentlemen suggest one should do. Sharing knowledge, make room and have a feeling for the views of other people. In the same way that miracles do happen, Johann and I and a few other stock farmers have been lead to acknowledge certain ecological principals in our effort towards sustainable stock farming on our respective farms.

Although vastly different (Zimbabwe and the Karoo) not knowing of each other up until 1996, we arrived at the same ecological conclusions. The ecology functions the same way in both areas. It is only the species that differ. With the Karoo Grazing Experiment I prepared and put myself on the line so that these conclusions can be tested by scientists in an unbiased way. What I do not understand is that they keep on saying that low stock densities (16 GGU/ha with grazing periods of one month) is high density grazing!

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In 1974 as a struggling young stock farmer, I seek advice at Grootfontein Agricultural College, Middelburg. The animal scientist, Piet Zeeman, understood my predicament and gave me a piece of advice which is still guiding me to this day :- according to Davies (1965) the industry known as farming has to do with the management of soil, plants and animals. It is based on ecology, the science of the mutual relationship between living organisms.

A farmer is therefore a practising ecologist when he applies his knowledge. It is thus part of his responsibility to seek and apply that knowledge in a way which is best for his enterprise. Today we call it holistic farming. I am not the smartest and biggest farmer in the Karoo, but the one achievement that I do claim is that there are more microbes in the topsoil where I do UHDG. I only need trained and willing scientists to verify it.

Moving from HDG up to UHDG is an evolution and adapting holistically. We work with a very complex living entity – ecology. It is governed by many variables in a very unpredictable environment. To make a sustainable success of stock farming you have to take control over as many of these factors as possible. This is where UHDG comes in. the other factors like climate, which you have very little control over, can be used to the advantage of the whole if all else are in place like infrastructure, stock density (number of animals/ha) and grazing pressure (time) in a holistic management system.

The attitude of both Jannie and Louis has me a bit worried – will I be pardoned one day if I plead ignorance? Should I stay in my little comfort zone and be judged on the way I have treated the land that was entrusted to me or should I speak out?