Judith Isele Turns Farm Into Shining Example

She remains one of the most talked-about and respected women in the Omaheke Region due to her diligence and unwavering faith with which she, as a single lady, has built the Farm Springbockvley of 9 500 hectares into a shining example of how increasing profits per hectare can be maintained with location-adapted cattle and sheep and resilient, sustainable rangeland management.

The farm is located on the west of the Kalahari in almost completely flat countryside. With an average yearly rainfall of 260 mm, Springbockvley is situated in an area of average production capacity, which provides appropriate forage for cattle and sheep alike. The farm has been managed according to the Holistic Management decision making framework since 1990 and is certified “Namibian Organic” by the Namibian Organic Association’s Participatory Guarantee System since 2013.

Springbockvley is subdivided into 60 more or less rectangular camps, ranging from 45 to 330 ha, with an average size of 160 ha. Livestock on the farm is run in three herds: the sheep breeding flock of up to 4 500 head of indigenous, small framed, fat-tailed Damara sheep, the cattle breeding herd of up to 450 head of indigenous small framed Nguni cattle (cows with calves and replacement heifers), and the herd of up to 450 head of oxen, young heifers and old cows together with the small flock of old ewes. The flocks and herds are moved through all camps according to a detailed grazing plan, which takes into consideration the differences in size, quantity and quality of forage in each camp, and factors such as different soil conditions, breeding seasons, compulsory vaccinations, weaning, marketing, special treatment of specific areas and problem predator species like black backed jackal.

The nutritional needs of animals at different times of the year are considered in the planning to optimise animal condition and production. The resulting average grazing periods vary between 4 and 8 days per camp throughout the year. During the growing season, the main objective is to grow as much forage as possible. To assure adequate recovery time, the needs of perennial grasses are considered while accounting for the needs of animals and people. For each dormant season a new schedule of animal moves is drawn up, combining the needs of animals and soil life (portioning out the available forage to their maximum benefit) with the need to prune grass tufts and work the soil surface to prepare both for the coming rainy season.

“Planned grazing has allowed increase stocking rates over the years, in spite of inconsistent rainfall which, since 1989, varied between a minimum of 60 mm (in 1995) and a maximum of 680 mm (in 2011). Stocking rates also varied, from a minimum of only 17 kg live animal mass per ha being stocked during the severe drought in 1995. Better rainfall together with growing resilience in rangeland management allowed increasing stocking rates more recently which culminated in around 48 kg live animal mass per ha stocked by the end of 2012. Although stocking rates tend to follow the ups and downs of the rainfall curve the latter is much more erratic. The trend in the stocking rate curves accompanied by healthy rangelands points to sustainable management practices resulting from proper soil preparation and plant treatment which aim to provide forage of more consistent quality and quantity even in years of low rainfall,” Judith WHO? AND WHO IS THIS JUDITH? explains to Farmers’ Forum.

From 2000 until 2012, meat production averaged 11.6 kg meat per hectare with highest annual production levels of more than 14 kg per hectare in 2003, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Treated with low stress livestock handling techniques, the adapted animals in combination with strict financial planning and the approach of “controlling costs while maintaining income, produces profit” provide for high efficiency of production. Since 1997 farming income improved steadily with almost constant levels of farming expenses of about one third of the income. Both farming income and expenses more than tripled since 1997. “Over the 16 years farming expenses remained on average 34 percent of farming income. Resulting net incomes (profits) averaged N$ 69 per hectare from 1997 until 2012 with a maximum of N$ 146 per hectare achieved in 2011,” notes Isele.

Source : New Era