The impacts of season and livestock management strategy on the quality of diets selected by goats and sheep in the semi-arid rangelands of Namaqualand, South Africa
Access to good-quality forages is one of the major limitations to livestock production in semi-arid pastoral systems. This study aimed to determine whether there are differences in the nutritional quality of diets selected by herded and free-ranging goat and sheep flocks utilising Namaqualand Granite Renosterveld vegetation during the wet and dry seasons. Plant samples collected along the grazing routes of livestock were dried and analysed for their fibre, condensed tannin, total phenolic and mineral nutrient contents. The study showed that a large variety of forages were on offer and livestock groups selected different diets of which some were different to the total diet on offer. In general, significant deficiencies in phosphate, protein and energy in the diets selected by herded and free-ranging goats and sheep were observed in both wet and dry season. The quality of the diets selected by herded and free-ranging livestock was also found to be different from each other, with herded livestock generally selecting more nutrient-dense diets. Herding, therefore, allows livestock to access better-quality forage in the Namaqualand Granite Renosterveld rangeland, where it is generally poor.
Keywords: herding, Namaqualand Granite Renosterveld, pastoral livestock, protein deficiencies, small stock nutrition