Beef up cattle using continuous grazing method

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The Duminies of Duminy Boerdery in Vryheid make use of an extensive continuous grazing system.

Much of the 9 000ha property comprises of 13 grazing camps ranging from 470ha to 840ha in size.

This system of large camps in which their cattle roam and graze as they desire has been used by the Duminy family, semi-retired father Boetman and his two sons, Jaco and Martiens, since 1998.

“I actually got the idea of using one-camp [continuous] grazing from my late uncle who’d been using it on his 500ha farm in our area since 1945. His entire farm was just one large grazing camp.

“And his cattle always had far fewer ticks, were sick less often, required less supplementary licks, and were generally in better condition than mine on the conventional rotational grazing system I was using at the time,” Boetman recalls.

To make absolutely sure he was doing the right thing, Boetman compared cattle in a conventional rotational grazing system with those in a continuous grazing system.

He also sought advice from beef production experts from the then Stock Owners’ Organisation, and from discussions with Dr Jock Danckwerts of the Agricultural Research Council in the Eastern Cape.

According to Boetman, Danckwerts had been running trials on various grazing systems over 10 years. His conclusion was that light, but permanent, grazing was “by far the best” in terms of achieving optimal beef cattle production without causing degeneration of the veld.

Surviving the drought

The Duminies agree that one-camp grazing was a saving grace for their beef enterprise during the recent three-year drought.

“Each of our large camps has more than one water source in the form of springs and dams. When one water source in a camp dried up during the drought, the cattle in that camp could walk to another water source. This took a large management burden off our shoulders,” says Boetman.

Another reason the Duminies opted for one-camp grazing is because they had noticed that within two weeks of moving cattle into a new camp in a conventional rotational grazing system, a significant number invariably came down with redwater and gallsickness.

This does not happen regularly to the cattle on Duminy Boerdery because they have adapted to the conditions in which they spend most of their lives.

“Our extensive grazing system also means that we don’t have to provide hay to our breeding stock,” says Jaco.

“There’s enough grass throughout the year in each of our large camps.”

Read more about how they manage their 13 extensive grazing camps on Farmer’s Weekly

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