Livestock farming for meat production is the largest agricultural sector in South Africa, generating over R6.7 billion per annum. The sector employs over 1 million people of whom approximately 40% are in the informal sector. Nevertheless, consumption outstrips production by 15%, making the country a net importer of red meat.
South Africa’s rangelands, varying from grasslands to arid shrublands, provide the core source of fodder for the country’s commercial, communal and subsistence livestock grazing practices. Overgrazing and desertification are reducing the productivity of these rangelands, which could significantly reduce production capacity in the near future and is causing large-scale land degradation.
It is essential to more effectively manage the ecological systems that make up the rangelands, if the economic and biodiversity assets are to be maintained. In addition to the impacts of overgrazing, many livestock farmers use lethal trapping methods (poisoning and gin traps) to deter predators from killing livestock. These methods are aimed at target species, such as leopard, caracal, jackal, badgers and birds of prey. These traps also indiscriminately kill other species such as tortoises, aardvarks, porcupines and buck. In addition, killing the top predator not only threatens the functioning of an ecosystem, but attracts other predators into a region, which has been shown to increase livestock losses. In response, various initiatives have formed to promote good grazing practices and predator-friendly livestock management.
The Biodiversity and Red Meat Initiative
The Biodiversity and Red Meat Initiative (BRI) comprises of over 50 communal livestock farmers in the Kamiesberg, Northern Cape. In partnership with CSA, these farmers have committed to following a guideline detailing good practice around stocking rates, wetland and fire management, land stewardship, and predator-friendly livestock management. In exchange they are given much needed assistance with infrastructure and extension services.
In association with Nurture, Restore and Innovate, CSA has conducted an ecological baseline assessment, which will be repeated in 5 years. Research is also being done into various predator-friendly livestock management options such as herders, bell collars, and guard dogs.
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