Using rain-use efficiency to explore livestock production trends in rangelands in the Transkei, South Africa
AbstractWe qualitatively describe the condition of communally managed rangelands in the Transkei, South Africa, using GIS and high resolution near-infrared imagery. Using livestock census data from 28 magisterial districts in the Transkei, we explored the trends in livestock biomass from 1923–1998. The area had been subjected to intensive herbivory by domestic livestock during that period, and the high livestock biomass had been blamed for the perceived degradation or ‘overgrazing' of the region. Our assessment used the concept rain-use efficiency (RUE) (kg dry matter ha–1 mm–1) to determine whether there is evidence of change in the efficiency of the system to produce domestic livestock. We calculated RUE from annual livestock numbers and the mean annual rainfall for each district. We found no evidence of a decline in rain-use efficiency between the two assessment periods (1923–1944, 1945–1998). There was evidence of a shift in the ratio of sheep to goats between 1923 and 1998, with goat numbers increasing (greater than twofold) relative to sheep in eight districts. This trend may be associated with changes in the structure of vegetation. We conclude that this region is not showing evidence of system run down that affects domestic livestock production.
Keywords: biomass, cattle, degradation, goats, livestock, rain-use efficiency, rangeland, sheep
African Journal of Range & Forage Science 2007, 24(1): 43–50