By Taruvinga Magwiroto
We continue with our discussion about raising livestock off the veld. We will discuss some regional variations, implications for animal nutrition and management.
For purposes of animal nutrition, the veld in Zimbabwe is divided into three: the sour veld; mixed veld and sweet veld.
Sour veld-: Found in the high rainfall, highveld areas from Goromonzi to Chegutu, Bindura to Chinhoyi and everything in between. This veld is dominated by annuals, meaning grasses which complete their life-cycle in one year. This region also receives high rainfall, therefore higher rates of mineral leaching which affects the nutritional quality of the grasses. In nutrition terms, the sour veld can maintain animals in good body condition up to around May, beyond which the grasses become dry and woody (lignified).
Lignified grass is difficult to digest. The rumen microflora require specific substrates (energy, plus non-protein nitrogen) to allow them to flourish and attack this dry mass vigorously. Furthermore, because of high rainfall, soils in the highveld tend to have marginal deficiencies in minerals-phosphates, calcium, zinc etc. And of course high rainfall also means higher burden of parasites: ticks, flies and worms are problems in the highveld; together with the attendant vector-borne diseases.
Management implications: Supplementation is key. In the absence of supplementation, I have seen cases of “poverty deaths” in Chegutu and Goromonzi. Lactating (suckling) cows and newly weaned animals are at particular risk. The animal dies of hunger but the rumen will be full of undigested, brown masses of grass! Supplementation can be done in two ways. You can buy either nutritionally balanced compounded rations from animal feed companies, or you can make home-made mixes. The basic concept is the same: multi-minerals (plus vitamins), energy, protein. Deworm to reduce worm burden: you don’t want worms to be competing for the little food your animal is getting.
Sweet Veld-this covers the low rainfall, hot low-veld areas of Masvingo, Matabeleland, parts of Zambezi Valley. This is cattle country. They grow big and fat off the “sweet” perennial grasses and the browse is palatable and nutritious throughout the year. Furthermore, due to the heat, the incidence of internal parasites is much lower. Flies, particularly the tsetse can be a problem. I once worked in Msambakaruma (Kariba), and I saw some impressive Mashona cattle, but trypanosomiasis and wildlife-transmitted diseases were a problem. Remember the low-veld areas are also usually the interfaces between wildlife and human settlements, so diseases abound.
Management implications: This is cattle country. Though the veld may not be highly productive in terms of herbage quantity (limitations of water), the veld quality is high and animals can be kept safely without supplementation throughout the year. Disease management according to local risk. Need for big grazing areas though (extensive production).
Mixed Veld – This coincides with the Midlands region. Its roughly an equal mixture of the above veld types, a sort of hybrid. Animals will lose some weight during part of the year, and you may need to supplement if you want to maintain a certain level of productivity. Plus certain areas (e.g. Chivhu) has some serious mineral deficiencies, particularly phosphorus so supplementation is important.
Management implications: As for sour veld.
See you next time, your feedback is crucial as always. Happy farming!