Investigating livestock dynamics in relation to livestock water productivity in smallholder mixed crop-livestock systems : a case study of Ntshiqo in the Eastern Cape.
Livestock provide net benefits such as food production (milk, meat), raw materials (wool), draught, manure, cultural practices, income and investment, and can improve the resilience of smallholder mixed crop-livestock farmers in developing countries, against external vulnerabilities such as water scarcity and climate change. A Livestock Water Productivity (LWP) framework represents ways to increase livestock production and benefits derived from animals without depleting water resources or causing environmental degradation for smallholder mixed crop-livestock systems. It is comprised of technical interventions (feed, water and animal management), supportive institutions and enabling policies. The research focuses on the technical feed management component of the LWP framework, in relation to livestock production in Ntshiqo, Eastern Cape. Sourveld regions in South Africa generally experience forage quantity and quality deficiencies during winter. The impact of a 17 month rest (exclosures versus grazed areas), a short (Oct 2014 - January 2015) and a full (Oct 2014 - June 2015) summer rotational resting experiment, on forage quantity and quality (Acid Detergent Fibre (ADF), Neutral Detergent Fibre (NDF), Crude Protein (CP) and Phosphorus (P)) were tested. Additionally, the influence of a protein lick on the body condition of sheep during the winter months (June - September) was tested. A significant difference (p<0.05) in forage quantity was found between the exclosures and grazed areas, and the short and full summer rest. No significant difference (p>0.05) was evident in the forage quality between the exclosures and grazed areas. There was a significant difference between the ADF values of a full and short summer rest, whilst no significant difference was evident between the other feed quality variables. The protein lick had a significant (p<0.05) positive effect on the body condition of sheep over winter. Fodder crops (vetch and oats), were a viable additional form of supplementary feed to improve forage quality and intake. Smallholder farmer perspectives were obtained from Focus Group Discussions (FGDs), which informed and supplemented the results of the technical feed management interventions. Additional alternative management interventions (burning, re-seeding) are proposed. Technical interventions have positive influences on LWP in smallholder farming systems in developing countries. A collaborative or integrative management approach is recommended for long term crop, livestock, land and water management, which are crucial in improving LWP in smallholder mixed crop-livestock farming systems.
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