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Doctoral Degrees (Grassland and Rangeland Science)

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    Responses of a South African mesic grassland to long-term nutrient enrichment and cessation of nutrient enrichment.
    (2023) Zama, Naledi Zola.; Kirkman, Kevin Peter.; Magadlela, Anathi.; Mkhize, Ntuthuko Raphael.; Tedder, Michelle Jennifer.
    Nitrogen and phosphorus are two of the most important limiting nutrients required for plant growth and production within grasslands. South African ecosystems are generally considered to be nutrient poor with acidic soils. Increased soil acidity exacerbated by nutrient enrichment are expected to transform South African grasslands over a long period. This PhD research project investigated the cumulative effect of 70 years of nitrogen (N) – in the form of limestone ammonium nitrate (LAN) and ammonium sulphate (ASU), phosphorus (P) – in the form of superphosphate and dolomitic lime application on the Ukulinga Grassland Nutrient Experiment (UGNE). The UGNE has been in operation since 1951 and is located on the plateau at the Ukulinga Research Farm, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Here, the purpose was to evaluate potential changes in above-ground net primary productivity (ANPP), species composition, soil variables and species diversity. In the first experiment (Chapter 2), nutrient-enriched plots were abundantly dominated by taller grass species like Megathyrsus maximus rather than shorter species like Themeda triandra and Tristachya leucothrix. Limestone ammonium nitrate and P did not affect species richness as strongly as ASU, suggesting nutrient identity to be an important factor to consider. Ammonium sulphate enrichment was also associated with low soil pH, enhancing these plots' elevated aluminium (Al) concentration. Considering this key result, careful monitoring of soil pH and Al concentration is required moving forward as Al toxicity may cause a threat to sensitive plant species. To further emphasize the negative effects of soil acidification induced by N on the UGNE, the greenhouse pot-trial experiment (Chapter 5) revealed that the N-enriched soils are extremely acidic and P- deficient, further stunting nodulation development in Vachellia sieberiana saplings. Vachellia sieberiana is a common nitrogen-fixing species that encroaches mesic environments in South Africa, but its competitive ability may be reduced within grasslands under extremely acidic conditions. Phosphorus enrichment can replenish important soil nutrients and further improve soil fertility. The effects of long-term P enrichment (70 years) and short-term cessation of P enrichment (3 years) has received little to no attention in South African grasslands, therefore this was investigated in the second experiment (Chapter 3). Phosphorus is an important macro-nutrient and essential for biological nitrogen fixation (BNF). Therefore, it is expected that long-term P enrichment would modify soil properties and indirectly influence plant cover percentage and composition. What was unknown was if the cessation of the P enrichment would revert plant cover and composition towards untreated/control conditions. In chapter 3, the results revealed that changes in plant cover among the three treatments of control, P enrichment and cessation of P enrichment were consistent. Furthermore, no difference was observed among the treatments for the ANPP, species diversity indices and richness. However, the Indicator Species Analysis proved that Setaria nigrirostris and Bidens pilosa were strongly associated with the cessation of P enrichment treatment. The third experiment (Chapter 4) provided the opportunity to assess the best models that predict species compositional changes and species richness declines. Here, it was clear that the enrichment of more nutrients shifted both grass and forb species composition. For grass species composition, the shift in cover-abundance was from the shorter Tristachya leucothrix (no nutrients added) species to Aristida junciformis (only LAN added) and Megathyrsus maximus (LAN + P added). For forb species composition, Cephalaria pungens occurred in a high cover-abundance in control plots and Bidens pilosa occurred in LAN + P enriched plots. Interestingly, LAN-only and LAN + P enriched plots showed the greatest shift in both grass and forbs when compared to ASU-only, ASU + P and P-only enriched plots. In terms of overall species declines, the models presented identified the number of nutrients added and ANPP as the best predictors. Light was not identified as a significant predictor. The results provided partial evidence for the nitrogen detriment hypothesis and biomass-driven hypothesis over the niche dimension hypothesis. The key findings from all the experiments highlight that the following factors: 1) nutrient-poor soils, 2) type of nitrogen used for enrichment, 3) soil acidification and 4) high soil aluminium concentrations are important in the observed changes in the soil chemical properties, species composition, species diversity, species richness and species growth dynamics on the UGNE. The results of this research project also emphasize the importance of long-term studies in assessing if the cessation of nutrient enrichment is a strategy for ecosystem rehabilitation. It was identified here that long-term nutrient enrichment heavily modifies a mesic grassland community and alternative rehabilitation methods may need to be implemented.
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    Drivers of vegetation change in the eastern Karoo.
    (2019) Du Toit, Justin Christopher Okes.; Kirkman, Kevin Peter.
    The Nama-Karoo Biome occupies much of the western central region of South Africa and transitions into the Grassland Biome along its eastern boundary along a gradual ecotone. The area is characterised by hot summers and long, frosty winters, relatively low rainfall, peaking in mid- to late-summer, with high inter-annual variability, and botanically by a co-existence of grasses and dwarf shrubs, with grass abundance positively related to average annual rainfall that increases from west to east. Biome shifts in response to changes in rainfall pattern and grazing have been suggested but never directly examined. Major drivers of botanical composition are rainfall and grazing by livestock. Fire is rare, occurring sporadically if high rainfall allows for good grass growth. This thesis focused on understanding the influence of rainfall, grazing, low temperatures, and fire on botanical composition at Grootfontein, a site in the ecotone between the Nama-Karoo and Grassland Biomes that is home to grazing trials up to 85 years old. The following specific questions were addressed: Question 1: Over the long term, has Grootfontein shown patterns of rainfall cyclicity or experienced directional change, and how might these have influenced composition and productivity? Using data from 1888 to 2012, cyclicity in rainfall was evident for periods of approximately 20 and 60 years. Rainfall has also consistently increased since the mid-1970s, and this increase corresponds with a general pattern of increased grassiness in the eastern Karoo. Question 2: How do rainfall and grazing, alone and in interaction, influence vegetation composition in the eastern Karoo? Compositional data from the 1960s and 2010s from various treatments at two sites at Grootfontein (Camp 6 and Seligman grazing trials) show a shift from dwarf-shrub- to grass-dominated vegetation, consistent with the increased rainfall over that time. An influence of grazing, both present and historical, was evident but secondary to the effect of rainfall. In some cases, there has been a shift to grassland. Data from the Camp 6 and Seligman grazing trials from the 1940s to the 1960s further indicate a combined influence of season of grazing and of rainfall. High-intensity summer-only grazing by livestock largely extirpates grasses and allows shrubs to thrive, while summer grazing in the form of rotational grazing or continuous grazing allow for a balance of grasses and dwarf-shrubs. Severe declines in both grasses and shrubs occurred apparently in response to drought, though the exact conditions required to cause such mortality remain unclear. Plant cover data from 2008 to 2015 from the Boesmanskop grazing trial showed that consecutive years of exceptionally high rainfall increased plant cover to nearly 100%, and increased the abundance of grasses. Competitive exclusion of dwarf-shrubs by grasses was not evident. Question 3: What have been the trends in minimum temperatures, frost, and potential growth season at Grootfontein, how might these have influenced botanical composition and productivity, and is there evidence of increasing temperatures consistent with global warming? This is addressed using minimum-temperature data from 1916 to 2014. Minimum temperatures were lower than are usually reported. Variability in minimum temperatures was high, including a cooling from the 1910s to the 1950s and a warming from the 1950s to the 2010s. The length of the growing season (last frost to first frost of the subsequent season) varied considerably, and may have the potential to influence botanical composition. Question 4: What is the influence of fire in Karoo vegetation? Based on the effects of a single fire on Grootfontein, fire killed some species while most species resprouted. Grasses appeared unaffected in terms of survival, several species of dwarf shrub (notably Eriocephalus ericoides and Ruschia intricata) were killed, and will need to re-establish by seed (termed nonsprouters), while most dwarf shrub species resprouted. This resprouter/ nonsprouter dichotomy was found to be evident at a range of other fire sites in the Karoo. Heavy grazing appeared to strongly impede the recovery of burnt veld, maintaining it as a sparse grassland dominated by annual species and occasional unpalatable shrubs. Should the grassiness of the Karoo continue to increase, then fire may become more frequent thereby maintaining a grassland state. The findings allow for greater understanding of interactions among rainfall, grazing, and fire in eastern Karoo ecosystems, and these are discussed in the context of an existing state-andtransition model of eastern Karoo vegetation dynamics. The importance of long-term rainfall trends, rather than short-term variability, are highlighted. Long-term increases in rainfall will likely induce a biome shift to grassland, concomitant with a drastic reduction in dwarf-shrubs. This will likely alter both long-term carrying capacity for livestock and the type of animals that may be optimally stocked. Increased grassiness will result in the increased likelihood of fire, and if post-fire grass fuel loads remain above a critical level, a fire/grass feedback loop may be initiated whereby dwarf-shrubs are largely eliminated owing to their slow rates of growth or re-establishment. Introduction of infrequent fire will likely result in resprouter-dominated vegetation proliferating. It is demonstrated that the resilience of Karoo veld may be higher than previously thought, with severe grazing, droughts, and fire not pushing veld beyond a threshold into a state of denudation. Thus the prospects of conserving Karoo landscapes despite historical management remain high. Some key future research efforts needed to improve our understanding of Karoo ecology include the life-histories of dwarf-shrubs, the conditions of drought and herbivory under which grasses and dwarf-shrubs die, and how and when perennial dwarf-shrubs and grasses regenerate. Based on historical trends, the continued existence of long-term research trials, such as those at Grootfontein, may be under threat and should receive attention.
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    The effect of high-density, short-duration stocking on soils and vegetation of mesic grassland in South Africa.
    (2018) Chamane, Sindiso Charlotte.; Kirkman, Kevin Peter.
    High-density, short-duration stocking (HDG) is currently gaining popularity amongst farmers in South African mesic grasslands but little is known about its potential impact on soil properties and plant species composition, particularly the forbs (herbaceous dicotyledonous and non-graminoid monocotyledon) which contribute more to plant diversity than grasses. Under HDG, animals are stocked at higher stocking rates and densities than conventional grazing systems and burning is discouraged. This study used a fence-line contrast approach to compare the long-term impact of “real world” HDG systems with rotational grazing systems at a lower stocking density (LDG) on soils and vegetation composition including forb growth habits at two study sites, Kokstad and Cedarville. An experimental trial was set up at Ukulinga Research Farm to determine the short-term effects of HDG compared with no grazing on plant species composition and demography of the selected perennial forbs. Another field experiment was used to determine the response of three mesic grassland perennial forb species (Afroaster hispida, Gerbera ambigua and Hypoxis hemerocallidea) to intense defoliation and interspecific competition with a grass species (Themeda triandra). Soils were more compacted under HDG but soil chemical properties did not differ between HDG and LDG at both Kokstad and Cedarville. There was a low percentage cover of desirable palatable grasses and high forb species turnover under HDG at Kokstad and low grass and forb species responses at Cedarville. There was high litter accumulation under HDG over the long- and short-term period. High litter accumulation reduces irradiance for plants, and may lead to lower basal cover. The intense grazing and trampling due to the higher stocking rate and stocking density under HDG resulted in less erect forb growth habits and more prostrate growth habits at Kokstad. A study of demography revealed that HDG threatened future populations of the grazing-sensitive species Afroaster hispida, Agathisanthemum chlorophyllum and Gerbera ambigua through increased mortality or reduction in the recruitment of large from small individuals. Intense defoliation altered the competitive response of A. hispida, it had a high competitive response when undefoliated but when defoliated its competitive response was reduced. Gerbera ambigua and H. hemerocallidea were not affected by the interaction between defoliation and competition. Findings from this study has shown that HDG potentially has a negative impact on soil health and vegetation composition of South African mesic grassland.
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    Seed production studies with weeping lovegrass Eragrostis curvula (Schrad.) Nees.
    (1976) Field-Dodgson, John Robert Clive.; Tainton, Neil M.
    No abstract available.
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    The development of cultivated dryland grass pastures for livestock production in the high rainfall areas of Rhodesia.
    (1979) Rodel, Malcolm George Wishart.; Booysen, Pieter de Villiers.; Elliott, R. C.
    No abstract available.
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    Radical veld improvement in South Africa with special reference to the Highland sourveld of Natal.
    (1970) Edwards, Peter John.; Booysen, Pieter de Villiers.; Scott, J. D.
    No abstract available.
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    Bushclump-grass interactions in a south-east African savanna : processes and responses to bush control.
    (1996) Jarvel, Leander Clement.; O'Connor, Timothy Gordon.
    The objective of this study was to investigate woody-grass interactions and the initial response of vegetation to bush control in the mesic Eastern Cape bushclump savannas. The occurrence of multi-species bushclumps, rather than single-trees, presented an interesting variation to an otherwise well-studied interaction. The effect of bushclumps on their local environment was characterized. Since all woody-grass interactions involve competition for irradiance, nutrients and moisture, a factorial experiment was designed to discriminate these individual and interactive effects. Mechanical and chemical bush control measures were investigated in a formal, replicated experiment. The herbaceous, woody and soil responses to bush control treatments, for the first two seasons, are reported. Bushclumps had a moderating effect on their microclimate when compared with the open grassland. Lower maximum and higher minimum temperatures, and higher humidity were the result of an 80-90% reduction in the irradiance regime. Soils beneath bushclumps were more fertile than grassland soils. The importance of bushclumps on sandier soils was discussed. Bushclumps were characterized by a sparse shade-tolerant herbaceous layer which contributed little to grazing capacity. An aspect effect increased grass production in the grassland on the south-facing side of bushclumps. Initial results suggest that the lateral spread of woody roots could be as far as 25 m. The factorial experiment tested the individual and interactive effects of irradiance (normal sunlight, 40% and 80% shade), nutrients (normal nutrient level, low and high nutrient addition levels) and moisture (low, normal and additional moisture levels) on the herbaceous layer. The interaction of 80% shade and high nutrients had a detrimental effect on herbaceous production. Deep shade did not affect herbaceous production, but Themeda triandra showed etiolated growth, aerial tillering, an increase in the number of leaves, and an increase in the proportion of stem under deep shade. The root mass of the herbaceous layer also decreased. This suggested that below-ground biomass production was impaired at the expense of maintaining aboveground biomass. The addition of nutrients significantly increased herbaceous production and resulted in a change in sward composition. Moisture was not an important factor in this experiment. Mechanical clearing in the bush control experiment resulted in a significant increase in herbaceous production. Panicum maximum colonized the ex-bushclump zone and contributed significantly to the increased production. Oversowing with Chloris gayana significantly increased grass yields. The two contrasting seasons revealed the importance of rainfall in affecting herbaceous production. The second season was characterized by lower soil fertility and a decline in grass quality. This was attributed to high grass production in the above-average rainfall season. A four-fold increase in woody stem density after two seasons demonstrated the coppicing ability of the woody layer once mechanically cleared. Most of the coppice occurred within the first season. Exceptional coppice growth characterized the second season. Acacia karroo recruitment was mainly from seed. Woody plants showed their susceptibility to chemical poisoning by dropping their leaves within the first season. Many of these individuals succumbed during the second season. Mortality was greatest in woody plants with a smaller basal circumference. Owing to the difficulty of accessing all woody stems in a bushclump, mortality in bushclumps was lower than that in the open grassland. Grass production in the bushclump and its periphery were significantly increased in both seasons. This was attributed to the increased productivity of mainly Panicum maximum which took advantage of the increased irradiance regime. Both the mechanical and chemical treatments displayed significantly greater grass production in the open grassland zone. This demonstrated the extent to which the woody layer had competitively dominated the herbaceous layer.
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    Control of bush encroachment with fire in the arid savannas of Southeastern Africa.
    (1983) Trollope, Winston Smuts Watts.; Tainton, Neil M.
    No abstract available.
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    An assessment of Coastcross II Bermudagrass and kikuyu for growing out young beef animals.
    (1983) Bransby, David Ian.; Tainton, Neil M.
    The immediate aim of this study was to relate herbage availability, liveweight gain and stocking rate to one another under continuous and rotational grazing so that management recommendations could be formulated for Coastcross II Bermudagrass and kikuyu. In addition, these data would be used for an economic evaluation of growing out young beef animals on these two pasture species. The broad long term goal was to use this information to persuade farmers to make more use of planted pastures and thereby reduce the stocking pressure on the veld. Besides pursuing the primary objectives, the study offered an opportunity to make an observational assessment of the put-and-take technique for use in grazing trials. In relation to fixed stocking, variable stocking appeared to have no distinct advantage in this study. This conclusion is drawn from the fact that little success was achieved in applying put-and-take at a high level of precision. It was therefore recommended that future trials should make use of fixed stocking, except when variation in herbage availability is very large and predictable. In such cases the use of put-and-take would be warranted. Liveweight gain of animals was linearly related to herbage availability. In two seasons liveweight gain of animals on Coastcross was higher for continuous grazing than for rotational grazing at equivalent herbage availability, but in other seasons there was no difference between the two methods of grazing. At equivalent levels of herbage availability liveweight gain was higher in early summer than in late summer. Herbage availability decreased linearly witilin each season and on average, rotational grazing resulted in increasingly greater herbage availability than continuous grazing, as stocking rate was increased on Coastcross. However, no difference between the two grazing methods was evident on kikuyu. Finally, the relationship between liveweight gain and stocking rate was also described by a linear function. On average, the stocking rate at which maximum liveweight gain per ha occurred (SRmax) was higher for rotational grazing than continuous grazing on Coastcross, but not on kikuyu. However, no difference was evident between the two grazing methods in each season. During the study period annual rainfall varied from 506 mm to 990 mm. This offered a unique opportunity to examine the relation between some of the pasture production parameters measured and annual rainfall. The length of the grazing season and SRmax increased, but liveweight gain of animals at SRmax declined as annual rainfall increased. This caused seasonal liveweight gain at SRmax to increase initially, but then to reach a maximum and decrease as annual rainfall increased from 500 to 1000 mm. From this information it was possible to build two models which can be used to predict liveweight gain per ha and profit per ha from stocking rate and annual rainfall. These models can either be built into farm planning programmes or used directly by agricultural advisors. In tl1is thesis they have been used to show that there is a wide range in stocking rates and levels of annual rainfall within which it is possible to make substantial profits by grazing young beef animals on dryland pastures. This study has therefore provided forceful information which can be used to persuade farmers to make more use of planted pastures, and in so doing, conserve the veld.
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    Managing Lolium perenne L. (perennial ryegrass) in a sub-tropical environment in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
    (1994) McKenzie, Frank Ralph.; Tainton, Neil M.
    Lolium perenne L. (perennial ryegrass) generally fails to persist under the sub-tropical cpnditions of South Africa. Furthermore, little research data are available on how to manage this species locally. This study was designed to identify the management options, particularly with r espect to grazing defoliation, which would help enhance the longevity of perennial ryegrass pastures. This was addressed by: 1) reviewing on-farm management practices of perennial ryegrass in KwaZulu-Natal; 2) conducting a detailed two-year field study of the effects of grazing frequency (HF, MF and LF = high, medium and low frequency, respectively) and intensity (HI, MI and LI = high, medium and low intensity, respectively), rotationally applied with the addition of a continuous grazing treatment (CG), on parameters linked to persistency. tiller population dynamics, dry matter These included: (DM) yield and quality, perennial ryegrass vigour, weed invasion and root development; and 3) examining effects of different levels of applied nitrogen (N) during the establishment year on various parameters linked to persistency. These included: tiller population densities, DM yield and quality, perennial ryegrass vigour, weed invasion and root development. The review of on-farm management practices of perennial ryegrass growers in KwaZulu-Natal revealed that reasonably high rates of N application (e.g. 350 and 250 kg N ha¯¹ a¯¹ to perennial ryegrass as pure and clover-based stands, respectively) are important for pasture survival. However, a consistent distribution of the applied N is even more important (i. e. at least seven split applications of N onto pure stands of perennial ryegrass and five onto perennial ryegrass-clover). In terms of grazing management, the period of absence of animals from the pasture during summer was identified as the most important grazing variable affecting pasture survival (i.e. ≥ 21 days). Also, the length of the period of occupation by animals should be as short as possible, particularly during summer (i. e. ≤ 3 days). Paying careful attention to summer irrigation is also an important variable contributing to pasture survival. Grazing intensity was not highlighted as an important contributor to pasture survival. In terms of tillering potential, DM yield and quality (cellulose dry matter disappearance and herbage N) and perennial ryegrass vigour, perennial ryegrass followed definite seasonal trends. These were highest during autumn and spring and were lowest during the mid to late summer period. Perennial ryegrass was most susceptible to general sward degradation through poor management during the mid to late summer period when the danger from weed invasion is greatest and its growth potential, vigour and tillering abilities are lowest within these seasonal periods, grazing defoliation produced marked effects. In terms of tiller survival, DM yield, plant vigour, reduced weed invasion and root production, treatments incorporating low frequency grazing (e.g. LFLI and LFHI) generally out-performed (P≤0.05) those incorporating high frequency grazing, irrespective of the intensity (e.g. HFHI, HFLI, and continuous grazing (CG)). The defoliation treatment incorporating medium frequency and intensity (MFMI) (currently the recommended defoliation strategy for perennial ryegrass) was also out-performed in many instances (P~0.05) by the low frequency treatments (e.g. LFHI and LFLI) . During the establishment year, increasing levels of applied N increased (P≤O. 05) perennial ryegrass DM yields and herbage quality. Models predicting the response of DM yield and quality to applied N suggest linear responses up to 720 kg N ha¯¹ a¯¹. Further refinement of such models and the inclusion of animal production parameters is recommended. Maximum (P≤0.05) tiller population densities occurred at applied N levels of 480 kg ha¯¹ a¯¹. Perennial ryegrass vigour increased (P≤O. 05) with increasing levels of applied N up to 480 kg h¯¹ a¯¹, but individual tiller vigour decreased. Increasing levels of applied N up to 360 kg ha¯¹ a¯¹ suppressed (P≤O. 05) weed tiller densities. Increasing levels of applied N (up to 600 kg h¯¹) increased (P≤O. 05) the root organic matter (OM) per unit volume of soil in the top 5 cm of the soil and decreased root OM per unit volume in the 10 - 20 cm soil depth category.
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    The development of stocking rate models for three veld types in Natal.
    (1990) Turner, John Robert.; Tainton, Neil M.
    The overall objective was to develop stocking rate models for three veld types. namely the Lowveld. the Southern Tall Grassveld and the Natal Sour Sandveld. in Natal. Sub-objectives were to determine the 1) residual herbage mass at the end of the summer, 2) residual herbage mass at the end of winter and 3) individual animal performance under grazing conditions, and the effect of stocking rate on these three variables. Multiple linear regression component models were successfully developed to meet all three of the sub-objectives for each of the three veld types. Results show that veld condition is an extremely important factor determining animal production from veld, and that stocking rate on veld in good condition could possibly be double that on veld in poor condition. Stocking rate did not have the expected impact on individual animal performance in the summer. although it did have an important moderating influence under any particular set of environmental conditions. Stocking rate did. however. have a marked effect on herbage production and therefore on herbage availability in winter and so also on the ability to overwinter cattle without having to supply additional supplementary feed. Stocking rate in summer therefore had a major indirect effect on animal production in the winter. Carryover of residual herbage from one year to the next is probably not as important in these veld types as in some other parts of the country.
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    Soil loss and run-off in Umfolozi Game Reserve and the implications for game reserve management.
    (1988) Venter, Johan.; Tainton, Neil M.; Schulze, Roland Edgar.
    Two management blocks were set aside in Umfolozi Game Reserve (UGR) to compare different management approaches. In one, the non-cull block, a noninterventionist policy was followed and no large mammals were removed, while the other, the cull block was subjected to the same game removal treatment as the remainder of the reserve. The main objectives of this study were to determine the relationships between vegetation, soil surface variables and both soil loss and rainfall run-off, to derive predictive models for run-off and soil loss based on vegetation and soil surface variables, to determine the relationship between different levels of soil erosion and the production potential of soils, and to determine the relationship between different levels of soil erosion and herbaceous species diversity. Rainfall simulator trials and natural run-off plots were used to collect quantitative data on soil loss and run-off. Bivariate scattergrams showed that the relationship between soil surface and vegetation variables plotted against soil loss was curvilinear. "Susceptibility to erosion" showed the highest positive correlation, and "surface cover" the highest negative correlation with soil loss. The relationship between annual run-off and both the soil surface and vegetation variables was also curvilinear, with "soil capping" showing the highest positive and "litter cover" the highest negative correlation with run-off. Using multiple regression analysis it was found that "susceptibility to erosion" and predictors of annual soil loss. "surface cover" were the best "Soil capping" and "percentage contribution of run-off. forbs" were the best predictors of annual No clear relationship between either soil loss and stocking rate, or run-off and stocking rate was apparent in the two experimental blocks, and the differences in soil loss and run-off could not be explained by differences in stocking rate alone. There were however defects in the experimental design which invalidated the assumption that the stocking ~ate diffe~entia1 management blocks would inc~ease with time. between the two Because of the above deficiency, an a1te~native study a~ea on the weste~n bounda~y fence, which allowed fo~ pai~ed sampling sites on eithe~ side of the fence, was chosen. Ge~lach t~oughs we~e used to measu~e soil loss. The g~eatest va~iabi1ity in soil loss was explained by the position of the plots on the slope ~athe~ than whethe~ the plots we~e in UGR o~ in adjacent KwaZu1u. Simi1a~ly, diffe~ences in topog~aphy, ~athe~ than diffe~ences in 1anduse, exe~ted an ove~~iding effect on A-ho~izon depth, he~bage accumulation and g~ass species ~ichness. Conside~ing the ~esu1ts obtained, the opinion that a noninte~ventionist policy would lead to a decline in vegetation p~oductivity and to a 10ng-te~m ~eduction in species dive~sity appea~s to be unfounded. Finally, based on the data collected and on a ~eview of cu~~ent scientific 1ite~atu~e, changes to the Natal Pa~ks Boa~d soils policy and objectives a~e suggested, and the objectives a~e t~ans1ated into ope~ationa1 management goals.
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    Ecological effects of fire in the montane grasslands of Natal.
    (1985) Everson, Colin Stuart.; Tainton, Neil M.
    Although controlled burning has been used to manage Highland Sourveld grasslands, little was known of its effects on the vegetation. This study examined the effects of past fire treatments on veld condition,species composition, dry matter production, quality and canopy recovery growth rates of these grasslands. Also, six techniques of estimating the species composition of grasslands were compared in order to decide on a standard technique for monitoring these grasslands. From this work it was concluded that the wheel point method is the most satisfactory. Veld condition scores were significantly lower in grassland protected from fire than where veld had been burnt or burnt and grazed at regular intervals. Frequent defoliation was found to maintain the grassland composition largely unchanged over a period of 30 years. Individual species were, however, found to react strongly to defoliation frequency. Plant demographic studies were therefore carried out to explain this differential response to burning. Three Decreaser and two Increaser I species were studied. In all species examined, recruitment of secondary tillers was stimulated by regular burning, each species being well adapted to a regular fire regime. Differential responses to burning were best explained by the combined effects of the different reproductive capacities and mortality rates of tillers of these species. A biennial spring burning regime was shown to be most suitable for maintaining the most important grass species at their present levels of abundance. Annual winter and biennial spring burning did not result in significant differences in dry matter production. Maximum net roductivity was approximately 230 g/m² in both treatments, placing them amongst the more productive areas of Southern Africa. Examination of canopy recovery growth rates showed that there is little difference in the percentage canopy cover at the end of the growing season when veld is burnt annually in winter or biennially in spring. However, differences in season of burn resulted in exposure to erosive forces at different times of the year. The results of this investigation have highlighted the importance of regular burning during the dormant period in the montane grasslands of Natal.
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    Potential of established pastures in the winter rainfall region.
    (1986) Van Heerden, Johann Myburgh.; Tainton, Neil M.
    The seasonal production of 11 pastures was evaluated in dryland and irrigated trials at eight sites in the Winter Rainfall Region. These data were related to climatic conditions using the Growth Index concept to produce a model for pasture growth. Under dryland at Tygerhoek, the animal production potential of lucerne and medic was compared in grazing trials. Lucerne was found to be the higher producing of the two. At this site also, the influence of chemical control of volunteer grasses in dryland pastures on animal production potential was tested. Weed control had a positive influence on animal production at low, but not at high stocking rates. Under irrigation at complex grass/legume Tygerhoek, the grazing capacity of a mixture was established under continuous and rotational grazing. While rotationally grazed pastures produced the highest yields, the clover component of these pastures proved to be most productive under continuous grazing. As a result, rotationally grazed pastures, could carry more animals, but animal production was generally highest under continuous grazing. Under irrigation at Outeniqua, seven grass and grass/legume mixtures were compared in grazing trials. Pastures based on fescue generally had the highest grazing capacity, but those based on white clover the highest animal production potential. These data were used to produce a climate:pasture:animal which was validated using independent This model was used to predict animal production model, grazing trial data. performance of two-species mixtures at a number of sites. These results suggested that while grass pastures allowed more animals to be carried than did mixtures, both animal performance and gross returns were highest in grass/legume mixtures.
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    The influence of fertiliser nitrogen on soil nitrogen and on the herbage of a grazed kikuyu pasture in Natal.
    (1994) Hefer, Graham Daniel.; Tainton, Neil M.; Miles, Neil.
    The work reported in this thesis was designed to develop a better understanding of the fate of fertiliser nitrogen applied to a tropical pasture under field conditions, with the eventual objective of improving the economy of livestock production off such pastures. This involved an examination of the concentrations of soil total nitrogen, ammonium nitrogen and nitrate nitrogen at different depths within the soil profile following the application of different levels of fertiliser nitrogen to a grazed kikuyu (Pennisetum clandestinum) pasture, as well as the influence of such applications on pasture yield and some elements of pasture quality. The trial was conducted over a two year period at Broadacres in the Natal Mistbelt. A labelled [15]NH[4]N0[3] fertiliser experiment was also conducted to ascertain how the labelled ammonium ion moved through the soil, roots and herbage after being applied in spring onto a kikuyu pasture. In the absence of fertiliser N, a total of 15.45 t/ha of soil N was recorded at an average concentration of 0.15%. More than 30% of the soil total N was, however, situated within the top 10cm of soil. organic matter (OM) content in the top 0-10cm of the profile was high (4.75%), reflecting an accumulation of organic matter in this zone. However, as organic C (and thus c: N ratios) declined with depth, so too did soil total N concentration. Not surprisingly, fertiliser measurably increase soil total N, N applications did not but indirectly may have affected soil N dynamics by increasing net mineralisation (due to its "priming" effect) thereby stimulating plant growth and thus increasing the size of the organic N pool through greater plant decay. Total soil N concentration did not change significantly from the first to the second season. This could be attributed to the fact that N gains and losses on the pastures, being over 15 years old, were probably in equilibrium. Generally similar trends in soil total N down the profile over both seasons was further confirmation of this. Before the application of any fertiliser, 331.9 kg NH[4]-N was measured in the soil to a depth of 1m, on average, over both seasons. This amount represented only 2.1% of the soil total N in the profile. The concentration of NH[4]-N followed a quadratic trend down the soil profile, irrespective of the amount of fertiliser N applied, with the largest concentrations accumulating, on average, in the 0-10cm and 75-100cm depth classes and lowest concentrations in the 50-75cm depth class. Laboratory wetting/drying experiments on soil samples collected from a depth of 75-100cm showed that NH[4]-N concentrations declined only marginally from their original concentrations. A high organic C content of 1.44% at this depth was also probable evidence of nitrification inhibition. Analysis of a similar Inanda soil form under a maize crop did not exhibit the properties eluded to above, suggesting that annual turn-over of the soil was causing mineralisation-immobilisation reactions to proceed normally. Addition of fertiliser N to the pasture significantly increased the amount of NH[4]-N over that of the control camps. Furthermore, the higher the application rate, the greater the increase in NH[4]-N accumulation within the soil profile. As N application rates increased, so the NH[4]-N:N0[3]-N ratio narrowed in the soil complex. This was probably due to NH[4]-N being applied ln excess of plant requirements at the high N application rates. On average, 66.7 kg more NH[4]-N was present in the soil in the first season than in the second after fertilisation. Although this amount did not differ significantly from spring through to autumn, during early spring and late summer/autumn concentrations were higher than in mid-summer. Observed soil NH4-N trends were also very similar to the soil total N trends within both seasons, suggesting that soil total N concentrations might well play an important role in determining soil NH4-N concentrations. Before fertilisation, only 45.6 kg N0[3]-N, representing 0.29% of the soil total N, was on average, found in the profile to a depth of 1m. The highest concentration of N0[3]-N was lodged in the top 10cm of the soil. Nitrate-N declined, on average, with depth down the profile. However, during the second season, even though the concentration of N03-N declined down the profile, it increased with depth during relative to that of the first season, suggesting the movement of N0[3]-N down the profile during this period. Fertilisation significantly increased the concentration of N0[3]-N above that of the control camps. Concentrations increased as fertiliser application rates increased, as did N0[3]-N concentrations with depth. This has important implications regarding potential leaching of N03-N into the groundwater, suggesting that once applications reach levels of 300 kg N/ha/season or more, applications should become smaller and more frequent over the season in order to remove this pollution potential. On average, 94.3 kg N0[3]-N/ha was present down to a depth of 1m over both seasons. However, significantly more N0[3]-N was present in the second season than in the first. This result is in contrast to that of the NH[4]-N, wherein lower concentrations were found in the second season than in the first. No specific trends in N0[3]-N concentration were observed within each season. Rather, N0[3]-N concentrations tended to vary inconsistently at each sampling period. Nitrate N and ammonium N concentrations within each month followed a near mirror image. A DM yield of 12.7 t/ha, averaged over all treatments, was measured over the two seasons. A progressive increase in DM yield was obtained with successive increments of N fertiliser. The response of the kikuyu to the N applied did, however, decline as N applications increased. A higher yield of 1.8 t DM/ha in the first season over that of the second was difficult to explain since rainfall amount and distribution was similar over both seasons. On average, 2.84% protein N was measured in the herbage over both seasons. In general, protein N concentrations increased as N application rates increased. On average, higher concentrations of protein-N were measured within the upper (>5cm) than in the lower <5cm) herbage stratum, irrespective of the amount of N applied. Similar bi-modal trends over time in protein-N concentration were measured for all N treatments and within both herbage strata over both seasons, with concentrations tending to be highest during early summer (Dec), and in early autumn (Feb), and lowest during spring (Oct), mid-summer (Jan) and autumn (March). spring and autumn peaks seemed to correspond with periods of slower growth, whilst low mid-summer concentrations coincided with periods of high DM yields and TNC concentrations. The range of N0[3]-N observed in the DM on the Broadacres trial was 0.12% to 0.43%. As applications of fertiliser N to the pasture increased, N0[3]-N concentrations within the herbage increased in a near-linear fashion. On average, higher concentrations of N0[3]-N, irrespective of the amount of fertiliser N applied, were measured wi thin the upper (>5cm) than the lower <5cm) herbage stratum. A similar bi-modal trend to that measured with protein-N concentrations was observed in both seasons for N0[3]-N in the herbage. High concentrations of N0[3]-N were measured during spring (Nov) and autumn (Feb), and lower concentrations in midsummer (Dec & Jan), very early spring (Oct) and early autumn (March). During summer, declining N0[3]-N concentrations were associated with a corresponding increase in herbage DM yields. A lack of any distinctive trend emerged on these trials in the response of TNC to increased fertilisation with N suggests that, in kikuyu, applied N alone would not materially alter TNC concentrations. Higher concentrations of TNC were determined in the lower <5cm) height stratum, on average, than in the corresponding upper (>5cm) stratum. This may be ascribed to the fact that TNCs tend to be found in higher concentrations where plant protein-N and N0[3]-N concentrations are low. A P concentration of 0.248% before N fertilisation, is such that it should preclude any necessity for P supplementation, at least to beef animals. Herbage P concentrations did, however, drop as N fertiliser application rates were increased on the pasture, but were still high enough to preclude supplementation. Even though no significant difference in P concentration was measured between the two herbage strata, a higher P content prevailed within the lower <5cm) herbage stratum. On average, 2.96% K was present within the herbage material in this trial. The norm for pastures ranges between 0.7 and 4.0%. On these trials, applications of fertiliser N to the camps did not significantly affect K concentrations within the herbage. The lower <5cm) herbage stratum, comprising most of the older herbage fraction, was found to contain the highest K concentration in the pasture. The presence of significantly (although probably biologically non-significantly) less K within the herbage in the second season than in the first may be linked to depletion of reserves of · this element in the soil by the plant and/ or elemental interactions between K and other macro-nutrients. An average Ca content of 0.35% within the herbage falls within the range of 0.14 to 1.5% specified by the NRC (1976) as being adequate for all except high-producing dairy animals. Increasing N application rates to the pasture increased the Ca content within the herbage . No significant differences in Ca concentration were found between the upper (>5cm) and lower <5cm) herbage strata over both seasons, even though the lower stratum had a slightly higher Ca concentration, on average, than the upper stratum. Calcium concentrations did not vary between seasons, probably because concentrations tend rather to vary according to stage of plant maturity, season or soil condition. However, higher concentrations of the element were measured in the second season than in the first. The reason for this is unknown. On average, 0.377% Mg was present within the herbage over both seasons. This compares favourably with published data wherein Mg concentrations varied from 0 . 04 to 0.9% in the DM, with a mean of 0.36%. All camps with N applied to them contained significantly more Mg in their herbage than did the material of the control camps. On these trials, the Ca :Mg ratio is 0.92: 1, which 1S considered to be near the optimum for livestock and thus the potential for tetany to arise is minimal. Magnesium concentrations remained essentially similar within both herbage strata, regardless of the rate of fertiliser N applied. As in the case of Ca, Mg concentrations within the herbage were significantly higher in the second season than in the first. Calcium:phosphate ratios increased, on average in the herbage, as N application rates increased. This ratio was high in spring, dropped off in summer and increased again into autumn, suggesting that the two ions were following the growth pattern of the kikuyu over the season. The K/Mg+Ca ratios were nearly double that of the norm, suggesting that the pasture was experiencing luxury K uptake which may be conducive to tetany in animals grazing the pasture. This ratio narrowed as N application rates were increased, probably as a result of ion dilution as the herbage yields increased in response to these N applications. The ratio was low in spring (October), but increased to a peak in December, before declining again to a low in March.
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    Towards formalized adaptive management in succulent valley bushveld.
    (1993) Stuart-Hill, Gregory Colin.; Tainton, Neil M.
    This study was designed to provide the means for implementing formal scientific vegetation management 1n the succulent valley bushveld of the eastern Cape, South Africa. Nowhere in the world has a detailed, effective and practical veld management system being developed entirely from research, and even the most successful management systems rely heavily on the intuition of people. A process, formally called 'adaptive management', combines this intuition with scientific testing and the overall objective of this study was to provide a framework for formalized adaptive management in succulent valley bushveld. On analyzing the process of adaptive management, the following knowledge 'tools' were identified: (i) a management system for immediate implementation; (ii) a technique for vegetation assessment; (iii) a technique for monitoring vegetation change; (iv) a technique for monitoring forage use and recovery; (v) a list of key forage species; (vi) a model to set initial stocking rates; (vii) a method of recording essential information; and (viii) a database of ecological principles. Providing these 'tools' became the goals of this study. These topics covered almost all facets of rangeland science, and the approach was to address these in a 'top down' manner, rather than sub-optimize by specializing on anyone component. Most of the 'tools' were achieved to a greater or lesser extent and are presented as a series of publications. However, a central tool, that for monitoring vegetation change, remains outstanding despite comprehensive testing of a range of traditional botanical methods. Indeed, critical review revealed that this 'missing tool' is a problem which is common in all vegetation communities in South Africa - despite the impression created by vegetation researchers that adequate techniques are indeed available. This is serious because land managers are not able to evaluate the impact of their efforts and the government is unable to monitor the effectiveness of their research and extension services, costing millions of public monies annually. The implication also, is that vegetation cannot be managed scientifically (management implies monitoring). Either formal adaptive management is not practicable, or researchers are operating from an inappropriate paradigm; specifically that of providing techniques for their research projects and claiming that these (or derivatives of these) are adequate for farm or regional scale monitoring. More generally, research has often become an end in it's self, with research quality being judged by criteria which are of little significance to the real world and which damage efficiency. Perhaps, the real value of vegetation research lies in the experiential learning which the researcher gains not the inevitably parochial results.
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    The bioeconomic implications of various stocking strategies in the semi- arid savanna of Natal.
    (1994) Hatch, Grant Peter.; Tainton, Neil M.; Ortmann, Gerald Friedel.
    Climatic and market uncertainty present major challenges to livestock producers in arid and semi-arid environments. Range managers require detailed information on biological and economic components of the system in order to formulate stocking strategies which maximise short-term financial risk and minimise long-term ecological risk. Computer-based simulation models may provide useful tools to assist in this decision process. This thesis outlines the development of a bioeconomic stocking model for the semi-arid savanna of Natal. Grazing trials were established at two sites (Llanwarne and Dordrecht) on Llanwarne Estates in the Magudu area of the semi-arid savanna or Lowveld of Natal. The Lowveld comprises a herbaceous layer dominated by Themeda triandra, Panicum maximum and P. coloratum and a woody layer characterised by Acacia species. The sites differed initially in range composition. Llanwarne was dominated by Themeda triandra, Panicum maximum and P. coloratum, while Dordrecht with a history of heavy stocking was dominated by Urochloa mosambicensis, Sporobolus nitens and S. iocladus. Three treatments were stocked with Brahman-cross cattle at each site to initially represent 'light'(0.17 LSU ha-'), 'intermediate' (0.23 LSU ha-') and 'heavy' (0.30 LSU ha-') stocking. Data collected at three-week intervals over seven seasons (November 1986 to June 1993 or 120 measuring periods) provided the basis for the development of a stocking model LOWBEEF - OWveid BioEconomic Efficiency Forecasting) which comprised two biological sub-models (GRASS and BEEF), based on step-wise multiple linear regression models, and an integrated economic component (ECON). The GRASS model predicted the amount of residual herbage at the end of summer (kg ha-') and the forage deficit period (days) over which forage supplementation would be required to maintain animal mass. Residual herbage mass at the end of summer (kg ha-') was significantly related (P < 0.01) to cumulative summer grazing days (LSU gd ha-'), rainfall (mm) (measured 1 July to 30 June) and range condition (indexed as the sum of the proportions of T. triandra, P. maximum and P. coloratum). The forage deficit period (days) over which herbage mass declined below a grazing cut-off of 1695 kg ha-' was significantly related (P < 0.01) to residual herbage mass at the end of summer. The BEEF model predicted the livemass gain over summer (kg ha¯¹) which was significantly related (P< 0.01) to rainfall (mm) stocking rate (LSU ha¯¹) but interestingly not to condition. The economic component (ECON) reflected the difference between gross income (R ha¯¹) and total costs, which were based on fixed and variable cost structures (using 1993 Rands), including demand-related winter costs, to reflect net returns to land management (R ha¯¹). A conceptual model of range dynamics based on three discrete states, was to developed to summarise the effects of rainfall and stocking rate in semi-arid savanna. State 1, characterised by iocladus and S. nitens, was associated with heavy stocking. Movement towards State 2, characterised by T. triandra and P. maximum, was associated with periods of above-average rainfall. Drought conditions, which comprised a major system disturbance led to stability at State 3, dominated by U. mosambicensis. Post-drought recovery was influenced by predrought composition and stocking levels where tuft numbers, basal cover and seedbank were significantly reduced by increased stocking within a sward dominated by species of low stature such as Aristida congesta subsp Urochloa mosambicensis, Sporobolus nitens, Sporobolus iocladus and Tragus racemosa. It was suggested that extensive soil loss may lead to stabilisation across an irreversible threshold at a forth state characterised by shallow species such as Tragus racemosa Aristida congesta subsp. congesta. Sensitivity of optimum economic stocking rate net return to price and interest rate fluctuations, and wage and feed cost increases were examined for various rainfall and range condition scenarios. Net return and optimum economic stocking rate increased as rainfall and range condition increased through the effect of increased residual herbage mass at the end summer, decreased forage deficit periods and reduced supplementary feed costs. Net return was highly responsive to changes beef price where an increase in beef price led to an increase in optimum economic stocking rate and net return. The effect of reduced prices may be compounded by dry where supply-driven decreases in price may occur. This suggested that for dry seasons the optimum stocking rate was the lightest within the range of economic stocking rates. Although an increase in interest rates would increase variable costs and lead to reduced returns, the influence of interest rates on enterprises will vary in relation to farm debt loads. Increased labour costs would result in a corresponding decline in net return although optimum economic stocking rate would remain unaffected. Increased supplementary feed cost had little influence on net return relative to the effect of demand-driven increases in feed costs as rainfall decreased. The distribution of net returns for stocking strategies of 0.20, 0.30 and 0.40 LSU ha¯¹ and climate-dependent stocking (where stocking levels were varied in relation to rainfall and hence forage availability) and range condition scores of 10, 50, 80 and a dynamic range model were examined for a 60 year rainfall sequence (1931-1991). While a range score of 10 would see residual herbage mass decline to below a grazing cut-off of 1695 kg ha¯¹ before the end of summer, a range score of 80 suggested that, irrespective of stocking strategy within the range investigated, herbage would not become limiting. This suggested that irrespective of stocking strategy a range score of 10, established across an irreversible soil loss threshold, would reflect accumulated losses over the 60 year period. In contrast, a range score of 80 would lead to positive accumulated returns. A dynamic range model (where range composition was related to previous seasons rainfall) and a climate-dependent stocking strategy, suggested that herbage would not become limiting by the end of summer and forage deficit periods would be restricted to an average of 88 days per year. Such an approach would yield a higher accumulated cash surplus than fixed stocking strategies. Incorporation of stochastic rainfall effects allowed the development of cumulative probability distributions based on 800-year simulations to evaluate the risk associated with various stocking strategies. Range condition played a major role in determining the risk of financial loss where decreased range condition was associated with enhanced risk. An increase in stocking rate resulted in increased variability in returns. Although the risk of forage deficits and financial losses may be reduced with lighter stocking, this may be at the cost of reduced returns during wetter seasons. Increased stocking may increase the probability of higher returns during wetter seasons although this may at the cost of increased risk of forage deficits and highly negative returns during dry seasons. Importantly, ecological risk may increase as stocking is increased. A flexible or climate-dependent strategy, where stock numbers are adjusted according to previous seasons rainfall, combine financial benefits of each approach and reduce financial risk. Although errors may carry high ecological costs where, for example, the effect of an above-average rainfall season would be to increase stock numbers into a subsequent dry season, the probability of incurring such error was low. Current livestock production systems in the semi-arid savanna of Natal based on breeding stock may not be appropriate in a highly variable environment where low rainfall may require extended periods of upplementary feeding or force the sale of breeding stock. A change in emphasis from current systems to a mixed breeding system, where the level of breeding stock would be set at the optimum economic stocking rate for drier seasons, may decrease both financial and ecological risk. Growing stock may either be retained or purchased during wetter seasons to reach the optimum economic stocking rate for such seasons. although growing stock may display a greater tolerance to restricted intake (during dry seasons) than would breeding stock, additional growing may be rapidly sold in response to declining rainfall with no influence on the breeding system. Integration of wildlife into current cattle systems may be an important means of reducing financial risk associated with variable rainfall and profitability and ecological risk associated with woody plant encroachment.
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    Development and testing of a remote controlled oesophageal fistula valve for goats.
    (1993) Raats, Jan Gabriël.; Tainton, Neil M.; Trollope, Winston Smuts Watts.
    A remote control sampling technique was developed for the collection of oesophageal fistula samples from goats. Number and size of samples can be varied and collected throughout the day without disturbing the animal's normal feeding behaviour. The equipment developed and tested in this study consists of an oesophageal fistula valve which allows the fistula to be opened and closed, a rechargeable battery pack and motor to operate the valve, a portable radio and receiver to activate the valve motor, and a harness to attach the equipment to the body of the animal In addition, a closing device to effectively seal large oesophageal fistulae (> 1 050 mm²), which in turn is required to accommodate the valve, was developed. During field tests with the fistula valve, 10 % of I 027 sampling attempts failed due to blockage of the valve, and an average of 1.3 incidences of equipment failure were recorded per animal per sampling day, from an average of 9.9 extrusa collections per day. Observed feeding behaviour (grazing/browsing) as well as grass / bush ratio of fistula valve and standard fistula bag samples of four goats, formed the basis for the evaluation of this technique. In addition, extrusa recovery rates, measured under controlled conditions, were used in the evaluation of this sampling method. Differences in extrusa composition between the fistula valve and fistula bag techniques varied substantially during the browsing period within a camp and also between camps. Furthermore, during high frequencies of observed grazing, there were large differences between the fistula valve and fistula bag methods. During this study, the fistula valve technique provided a more realistic estimate (R²=.91) of the observed feeding behaviour of goats than the fistula bag technique (R²=.63). Under controlled conditions, the large oesophageal fistula, with or without the valve, enables high and consistent extrusa recovery rates (87 % recovery; SD 7.5).
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    Beef production from kikuyu and Italian ryegrass.
    (1985) Bartholomew, Peter Edward.; Tainton, Neil M.
    Four grazing trials to characterise cultivated pastures, in terms of beef production, were conducted in Bioclimate 3 of Natal. Dual purpose and British beef type cows were run on kikuyu at stocking rates from 2,81 to 7,30 cows plus calves per ha. During the eight seasons of the trial the seasonal rainfall varied from 580 to 933 mm. There was a positive linear relationship between rainfall and pasture yield with maximum yield of kikuyu being recorded during February - March. Stocking rate affected pasture yields only during favourable rainfall seasons. Crude protein (CP) and crude fibre (CF) of kikuyu fluctuated markedly within and between seasons. However, CP increased and CF decreased as stocking rate increased. There were significant relationships between stocking rate and (a) calf performance, (b) calf livemass gain, (c) period required to attain maximum mass, (d) period on pasture for the cows, and (e) cow mass change: Weaners were run on irrigated Italian ryegrass at 5, 7 and 9 weaners per ha for four seasons. Stocking rate had little effect on the growth pattern of the pasture but affected dry matter yields. Reducing the stocking rate resulted in increased pasture yields and CF content but reduced CP levels of material on offer. Steers exhibited higher gains than heifers but lower carcass grades and stocking rates for maximum gain per ha (SRmax). Livemass gains of 1315 and 1224 kg per ha can be expected at SRmax of 6,85 and 9,54 for steers and heifers respectively. Yearling heifers run at four stocking rates on kikuyu for one season showed a negative linear relationship between stocking rate and gain and a positive linear relationship between pasture height and gain. A SRmax of 8,85 allows for a livemass gain of 1 040 kg per ha. The effect of feeding concentrates on foggaged kikuyu was evaluated. Foggaged kikuyu can be used as a source of roughage for fattening steers. However, as the steers became adapted to the concentrate the intake of kikuyu declined from 39 to 19% of their daily intake. Regressions derived from the characterisation trials allow for developing beef systems for different situations.
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    An evaluation of irrigated ryegrass/clover pastures for fat lamb production in the Highland Sourveld of Natal.
    (1986) Du Plessis, Thomas Marius.; Bransby, David Ian.
    The primary objective of this study was to increase net farm income in the Highland Sourveld of Natal by developing pasture based fat lamb production systems. Secondary objectives included (a) determination of the most suitable pasture species or species mixture; (b) determination of the optimum level of N fertilization; (c) establishment of biological and economic optimum stocking rates; (d) projection of expected profit and (e) verification of proposals on a farm scale. Midmar Italian ryegrass was compared to selected legumes alone, and in mixtures with ryegrass in a small plot trial conducted over two years at a 3- and 6-week harvesting frequency under irrigation. Ryegrass in combination with red and white clover provided the highest yields for both harvesting intervals in both years. When this pasture was subsequently compared to ryegrass alone under grazing, no significant difference could be detected in lamb gains at 20 and 28 ewe-lamb units/ha, but at 36 ewe-lamb units/ha the lambs on ryegrass started losing weight at 30 kg, while those on ryegrass + clover continued to gain until a market weight of 40 kg was achieved. In a small plot trial little response was detected to added N above 175 kg N/ha on ryegrass + clover, and under grazing, no significant difference was observed between 275; 375 and 4,75 kg N/ha over two single year periods. Relationships between average daily gain (ADG) and stocking rate, ADG and disc meter height, and stocking rate and disc meter height were mostly well described by linear functions. Expected pre-weaning AOG was 150 g higher (p ≤ 0,01) than post-weaning ADG (100 g) in the first year, and a similar difference was observed in the second year. For the period common to all stocking rates an average maximum gain/ha of 824 kg was achieved at a stocking rate of 33,5 lambs/ha and a disc meter height of 4,5 cm. By lambing in April, lambs could be marketed in September at 40 kg and more weaned lambs could be grazed on the pasture and marketed in December, leading to an expected gain/ha of 1400 to 2200 kg, and expected profit/ha of R 1254 to R 2771, depending on stocking rate. When evaluated under farm conditions, this system produced 2060 kg live weight/ha and a profit of R 3206/ha. It is concluded from the present study that the fat lamb production system based on irrigated ryegrass + clover pastures can be recommended with confidence to farmers in the Highland Sourveld of Natal.