Theme 1: Rangeland/Grassland Ecology--Oral Sessions

Description

Within each foraging itinerary, herders can intervene in the forage selection process, encouraging herds to use highly palatable and less palatable rangeland resources. Such a herding strategy could prevent rangeland degradation and increase livestock productivity. The objectives of this study were to examine forage availability and identify factors influencing stocking rates around night resting places on a ranch in Laikipia County, Kenya.

Forage availability was measured along six regularly spaced transects around night resting places corralling one herd of camels, one mixed herd of goats and sheep, and two herds of cattle, with biomass sampling points at 50-, 150-, 250-, and 350-meter distance from the night resting places. Every four days, herbaceous biomass was collected at each sampling point and classified into monocotyledonous plants, dicotyledonous plants, and litter. Pooled samples of biomass were analyzed for their nutrient content. Activities of herders and herds were monitored. Stocking rates were calculated for the sampling points using georeferenced data of foraging itineraries recorded in 20-second intervals, area densities of herds measured by a hand-held global positioning system receiver, and live weights of all animals determined monthly.

Except for the herd of camels, the distance to the night resting places had no effect on stocking rates. Not forage nutritive value, but palatability of dominant species on sampling points mainly influenced stocking rates, and thus forage availability. All livestock species sought patches dominated by Cynodon dactylon, possibly being overgrazed. Patches dominated by either Andropogon contortus or Themeda triandra were underused, as indicated by biomass accumulation. Thus, the efforts of the hired herders in this study did not lead to the desired herding effects. Therefore, motivating herders to design foraging itineraries utilizing diverse vegetation patches intentionally is crucial to an efficient use of rangeland resources, while meeting the nutritional requirements of animals.

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Effects of Herding on Rangeland Use Efficiency in Kenya

Within each foraging itinerary, herders can intervene in the forage selection process, encouraging herds to use highly palatable and less palatable rangeland resources. Such a herding strategy could prevent rangeland degradation and increase livestock productivity. The objectives of this study were to examine forage availability and identify factors influencing stocking rates around night resting places on a ranch in Laikipia County, Kenya.

Forage availability was measured along six regularly spaced transects around night resting places corralling one herd of camels, one mixed herd of goats and sheep, and two herds of cattle, with biomass sampling points at 50-, 150-, 250-, and 350-meter distance from the night resting places. Every four days, herbaceous biomass was collected at each sampling point and classified into monocotyledonous plants, dicotyledonous plants, and litter. Pooled samples of biomass were analyzed for their nutrient content. Activities of herders and herds were monitored. Stocking rates were calculated for the sampling points using georeferenced data of foraging itineraries recorded in 20-second intervals, area densities of herds measured by a hand-held global positioning system receiver, and live weights of all animals determined monthly.

Except for the herd of camels, the distance to the night resting places had no effect on stocking rates. Not forage nutritive value, but palatability of dominant species on sampling points mainly influenced stocking rates, and thus forage availability. All livestock species sought patches dominated by Cynodon dactylon, possibly being overgrazed. Patches dominated by either Andropogon contortus or Themeda triandra were underused, as indicated by biomass accumulation. Thus, the efforts of the hired herders in this study did not lead to the desired herding effects. Therefore, motivating herders to design foraging itineraries utilizing diverse vegetation patches intentionally is crucial to an efficient use of rangeland resources, while meeting the nutritional requirements of animals.