For decades commercial stock (cattle and sheep) farmers have degraded their natural pastures by incorrect grazing practices. They leave the animals in one camp for too long resulting in the animals only consuming the most palatable grasses and legumes. After the first graze, and as soon as regrowth appears, after a week or two the animals again consume the tasty and nutritious sprouts. After many years the most palatable grasses and legumes die out which has a negative impact on the whole ecosystem. In a situation like this, veld rehab, undertaken properly, can completely regenerate the soil.
At Boomplaats we have 35 grazing camps and the animals are moved to new camps every couple of days on average. A full rotation through the 35 camps takes 2-3 months. The animals are therefore forced to graze all the grasses in a camp and are not allowed to graze there again until full regrowth has taken place in a couple of months.
We use cattle as a tool and not as a destructive force. In certain areas of the farm we lend nature a hand and help rehabilitate the soils and the ecosystem.
The images included show how this process works on our farm, starting with the banner graphic showing a camp with extremely low plant density and low carbon content in the soil.
2. Barren, eroded camp after previous harmful grazing practices.
3. Firstly we rip a groove into the surface of soil that has formed a crust over the years. This allows the first rain water flow to slow down and to penetrate the soil.
4. Due to years of nutrient leaching, the soils are depleted of macro and micro nutrients. To give the new grasses a kick-start we spread over it a mixture of organic certified nutrients (bone meal, rock phosphate and dolomite lime). Once plant growth the has taken place, the grazing animal’s dung, urine and millions of micro-organism in the soil will provide the micro nutrients for the plants, going froward.
5. Spreading Compost. This increases the carbon content in the soil which, in turn. increases the soil’s water retention capabilities it provides additional nutrients.
6. Sowing seed. You reap what you sow. We plant a mixture of grass and legume seeds, like Buffalo Grass, Sheep’s Burnet, chicory, rye grass, grazing vetch, sainfoin, clover and lucerne.
7. Lightly covering with grass hay (called a mulch) prevents sun and wind erosion and moisture evaporation. It will provide the grass and legume seedlings with some protection after germination.
8. Then we let the cattle in to naturally compact the soil around the seeds. Their shape of their hoof imprints create little dams which will hold any future rain water and assist in obtaining a high germination to seedling ratio. CLICK HERE to watch a 3 minute video on hoof impact and mulch.
9 & 10. 5 months later and after some good rains the results are self-evident. A fresh buffet spread of grasses and legumes for our splendid herd of grass-fed Ngunis – no mielies required.