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Split Ranch Grazing Strategy [Botswana]

Riaan Dames Grazing Strategy

technologies_3217 - Botswana

Completeness: 92%

1. General information

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Technology

Key resource person(s)

SLM specialist:

Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
University of Botswana (University of Botswana) - Botswana

1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

When were the data compiled (in the field)?


The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


1.4 Declaration on sustainability of the described Technology

Is the Technology described here problematic with regard to land degradation, so that it cannot be declared a sustainable land management technology?


2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

Riaan Dames Grazing involves grazing half the available area for a full year, which concentrates livestock density enabling sufficient grazing pressure to maintain the grassland in an immature, high-quality state, while resting the other half for a full year, which allows optimal recovery of plants from the previous full years grazing. The technology allows simplicity and requires less fencing infrastructure than more complex grazing systems, thereby reducing costs and increasing profits without compromising sustainability or ecological function. The technology can also be used under a planned grazing strategy in pastoral-wildlife grazing systems to create heterogeneity for wildlife and livestock.

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


The Riaan Dames Grazing Strategy, otherwise known as Split-Ranch Grazing (SRG), was developed by Riaan Dames in the North West province, South Africa, while working for the Department of Agriculture. It is a fundamentally-different technology to grazing management in comparison with popular rotational grazing management systems in many western countries and contains several conceptual advances over rotational grazing systems. One key difference is that SRG provides a full-year uninterrupted recovery period for rangeland after grazing which enables grasses to maximize nutrient recovery over all the main pulses of nutrient mineralization (when microbes break down organic matter in the soil and release nutrients for plant uptake - mineralization occurs in pulses associated with rainfall events) in the early wet season (most nutrient mineralization occurs in the early wet season) and to maximize root growth and associated nutrient storage over the late wet season and early dry season (most root growth occurs in the late wet season/early dry season when plants translocate nutrients from above ground components to below ground components). Optimal recovery periods should ideally, therefore, encompass the full wet season and the early dry season. This is in contrast to rotational grazing systems where recovery and grazing periods are apportioned across the wet season and early dry season, with resting periods likely not falling in key periods of nutrient uptake and root growth. A major problem with having both grazing and recovery periods in the same season is that grassland is able to mature during recovery periods, greatly reducing forage quality and grass growth rates, thereby likely negatively impacting animal production. Another major problem is that complex rotational grazing strategies invest much in a complex and expensive fencing infrastructure. The solution to these problems is to introduce a fundamentally-different strategy to rotational grazing where some paddocks are grazed the whole year to prevent grassland maturation and other paddocks are rested the whole year to optimize recovery. In addition, paddocks should be as few in number and as large in size as is possible to maximize livestock access to functional resource heterogeneity (different types of resources needed by herbivores at different times and for various purposes, which are distributed across landscapes), thereby improving adaptive foraging options for livestock (have greater ability to move across landscapes to reach needed resource types), while also reducing costs of fencing infrastructure establishment and maintenance. Livestock are maintained in the paddocks planned for grazing until the mid-dry season to ensure that grasses in the rested paddocks have completed root growth and ceased all growth (fully rested and recovered). A full years rest allows maximum uptake of nutrients and maximum storage of these nutrients in deep, strong root systems and crowns, and ensures sustainability. Thus when these grasses are grazed in the next season they have not only efficient root uptake of moisture and nutrients from the soil but also can re-allocate nutrients stored in roots to leaf production after each grazing event, resulting in a productive supply of high-quality fresh leaf to livestock over the growing season. Movement of livestock into the year-long rested paddocks halfway through the dry season ensures that they have a large reserve of forage for the dry season. Concentration of livestock on half the available area (half the paddocks are rested and the other half grazed) ensures sufficient grazing pressure to maintain grassland in an immature, high-quality and rapidly-growing state for maximizing forage quality, leaf production and livestock production, which is further enhanced by greater adaptive foraging options in large paddocks. The technology was started in North West province South Africa, and is now being taken up in Botswana and Namibia. A model example is Tiisa Kalahari Ranch in the Ghanzi region of Botswana, run by Mr Kevin Grant. The ranch has been partitioned into several four-paddock cells, each with their own cattle herd. Cattle graze two paddocks while the other two are rested for a full year. Cattle enter the rested paddocks in the mid dry season (July) once forage is depleted in the two grazed paddocks, which have developed a large reserve of forage to sustain the livestock until the rains arrive. This technology (SRG) has been employed at Tiisa for almost six years. The ranch was in a degraded state at the start of the technology owing to decades of poor grazing management by previous owners. Indications are that the rangeland has been steadily recovering with increases in abundance of high-quality grasses. Monitoring programs are being established to monitor the trends in cover of the various grass species over time.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

2.4 Videos of the Technology

Comments, short description:

Tour of several ranches using the split ranch grazing strategy: April 2016, North West Province, South Africa. The video was compiled by Ibo Zimmerman.




North West Province, South Africa

Name of videographer:

Ibo Zimmerman

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment



Region/ State/ Province:

Ghanzi Province

Further specification of location:

Ghanzi, Tiisa Kalahari Ranch


Longitude: -21.60026 (decimal degrees)
Latitude: 21.48969

2.6 Date of implementation

If precise year is not known, indicate approximate date:
  • less than 10 years ago (recently)

2.7 Introduction of the Technology

  • Through interaction with Riaan Dames

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • improve production
  • reduce, prevent, restore land degradation
  • conserve ecosystem
  • protect a watershed/ downstream areas – in combination with other Technologies
  • preserve/ improve biodiversity
  • create beneficial economic impact

3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied

Grazing land

Grazing land

Extensive grazing land:
  • Semi-nomadism/ pastoralism
  • Ranching
Main animal species and products:

The technology can be used for ranching cattle, sheep or goats or using planned herding of these livestock types according to the key concepts outlined in the technology. Products would be meat, wool and to a lesser degree, milk.

3.3 Further information about land use

Water supply for the land on which the Technology is applied:
  • rainfed

Mainly rainfed but some irrigation of improved pasture for dry season forage would be fine

Number of growing seasons per year:
  • 1

Mostly one growing season but can be in a bimodal rainfall region

Livestock density (if relevant):

At conservative stocking rates to ensure that animals are able to remain in the planned grazed paddocks until the mid dry season. Stocking rate will depend upon the local rainfall and soils and associated grass production. 10-15ha/ LSU in semi-arid regions

3.4 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • pastoralism and grazing land management

3.5 Spread of the Technology

Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • evenly spread over an area
If the Technology is evenly spread over an area, indicate approximate area covered:
  • 10-100 km2

Not restricted to any size of land - any size ranch

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

management measures

management measures

  • M2: Change of management/ intensity level
  • M4: Major change in timing of activities

It involves grazing management. Managing stocking rate and the time spent grazing or resting a paddock

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

soil erosion by water

soil erosion by water

  • Wt: loss of topsoil/ surface erosion
  • Wg: gully erosion/ gullying
soil erosion by wind

soil erosion by wind

  • Et: loss of topsoil
biological degradation

biological degradation

  • Bc: reduction of vegetation cover
  • Bq: quantity/ biomass decline
  • Bs: quality and species composition/ diversity decline

Preventing undesirable changes in grass cover and composition

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • prevent land degradation
  • restore/ rehabilitate severely degraded land

The key goals are to improve grass composition and cover, reduce soil erosion and to improve livestock production

4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology


Richard Fynn

4.2 Technical specifications/ explanations of technical drawing

Riaan Dames Grazing Strategy or Split-ranch grazing can be implemented as simply as dividing the ranch into two paddocks with livestock spending alternate years in each paddock (A) or the ranch can be divided up into several cells according to the ranchers needs, such as having to separate breeding herds, bull herds and weaners (B). In scenario A it is important to ensure good water distribution in each paddock to ensure livestock have access to the whole paddock. This simple scenario (A) is ideal for rural development schemes owing to minimal infrastructure costs and is easy for rural communities to implement. Another advantage is that it gives livestock much greater adaptive foraging options with such large paddocks. In scenario B a central water point provides a convenient way of changing the livestock between paddocks. The gates can be left open between diagonal paddocks to allow livestock freedom of access to either of the diagonal paddocks (greater freedom of adaptive foraging) or they can be actively moved between diagonals during the grazing year according to the ranchers decisions. If paddocks are extremely large then other water points should be provided across the paddocks to allow livestock even access to all parts of the paddock.

4.4 Establishment activities

Activity Type of measure Timing
1. Building fences Structural At the start
2. Digging Boreholes Structural At the start
3. Setting up water reticulation and drinking troughs Structural At the start
4. Buildling animal loading facilities Structural At the start
5. Handling of livestock Management throughout the year

4.5 Costs and inputs needed for establishment

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour for building fences and animal loading facilities person days 100.0
Labour digging boreholes and setting water reticulation and drinking troughs person days 100.0
Labour animal handling person days 100.0
Labour etc
Equipment vehicles machine hour 100.0
Equipment pumps pieces 100.0
Equipment drinking droughs pieces 100.0
Equipment machines for digging boreholes machine hour 100.0
Equipment machines for building animal loading facilities machine hour 100.0
Equipment etc
Construction material poles for fences pieces 100.0
Construction material wire mesh for fencens meters 100.0
Construction material cement for boreholes and loading faclities kgs 100.0
Construction material water pipes pieces 100.0
Construction material etc

4.6 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Type of measure Timing/ frequency
1. Maintenance of fences Structural Throughout
2. Maintenance of water pipes and pumps Structural Throughout
3. Maintenance of vehicles Structural Throughout
4. Animal handling Management Throughout
5. Supplementary feeding (if needed) Management dry season

4.7 Costs and inputs needed for maintenance/ recurrent activities (per year)

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Plant material supplementary feed bale 1.0 9.0 9.0 100.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 9.0

Bales of hay cost 7-9 USD in Botswana depending on availability

4.8 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

Fencing and infrastructure have been shown to be major factors increasing establishment and maintenance costs and reducing profits. Thus this technology aims to reduce these costs by having fewer larger paddocks, which also has benefits for the animals. Another major cost is that of supplementary feeding, especially if forage is depleted during the dry season. This technology aims to ensure that a reserve of forage is created for the dry season so that expensive supplementary feeding is not needed during the dry season, and aims to improve the quality of forage during the wet season so that supplementary feeding is not needed for fertility improvement (conception rates of females).

5. Natural and human environment

5.1 Climate

Annual rainfall
  • < 250 mm
  • 251-500 mm
  • 501-750 mm
  • 751-1,000 mm
  • 1,001-1,500 mm
  • 1,501-2,000 mm
  • 2,001-3,000 mm
  • 3,001-4,000 mm
  • > 4,000 mm
Specify average annual rainfall (if known), in mm:


Specifications/ comments on rainfall:

Most Riaan Dame Grazing Strategies (RDGS) are applied in semi-arid climates with a long dry season. However, similar technologies have been applied in high rainfall regions with great success. In fact, the relevance of Split Ranch Grazing (SRG) is likely to increase with increasing rainfall because of the greater decline in forage quality as grassland matures in higher rainfall areas; hence the greater need to concentrate grazing pressure to prevent grassland maturation.

Indicate the name of the reference meteorological station considered:

Department of Meteorological Services, Botswana

Agro-climatic zone
  • semi-arid

Can be operated in semi-arid, sub-humid or humid environments

5.2 Topography

Slopes on average:
  • flat (0-2%)
  • gentle (3-5%)
  • moderate (6-10%)
  • rolling (11-15%)
  • hilly (16-30%)
  • steep (31-60%)
  • very steep (>60%)
  • plateau/plains
  • ridges
  • mountain slopes
  • hill slopes
  • footslopes
  • valley floors
Altitudinal zone:
  • 0-100 m a.s.l.
  • 101-500 m a.s.l.
  • 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
  • 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
  • 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
  • 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
  • 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
  • 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
  • > 4,000 m a.s.l.
Indicate if the Technology is specifically applied in:
  • not relevant
Comments and further specifications on topography:

Any situation is appropriate

5.3 Soils

Soil depth on average:
  • very shallow (0-20 cm)
  • shallow (21-50 cm)
  • moderately deep (51-80 cm)
  • deep (81-120 cm)
  • very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
  • coarse/ light (sandy)
Soil texture (> 20 cm below surface):
  • coarse/ light (sandy)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • medium (1-3%)
If available, attach full soil description or specify the available information, e.g. soil type, soil PH/ acidity, Cation Exchange Capacity, nitrogen, salinity etc.

The ranch has deep Kalahari sands in some sections and shallow rocky soils on calcrete in other sections. Nevertheless the technology is appropriate for any soil type

5.4 Water availability and quality

Ground water table:

< 5 m

Availability of surface water:


Water quality (untreated):

good drinking water

Is water salinity a problem?


Is flooding of the area occurring?


5.5 Biodiversity

Species diversity:
  • medium
Habitat diversity:
  • medium

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Sedentary or nomadic:
  • Sedentary
  • Semi-nomadic
Market orientation of production system:
  • commercial/ market
Off-farm income:
  • less than 10% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • average
Individuals or groups:
  • individual/ household
Level of mechanization:
  • mechanized/ motorized
  • men
Age of land users:
  • middle-aged
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:

The technology can be applied under commercial ranching situations using fenced paddocks to control the spatial and temporal distribution of livestock or it can be applied by semi-nomadic pastoralists using planned herding to control the spatial and temporal distribution of livestock.

5.7 Average area of land owned or leased by land users applying the Technology

  • < 0.5 ha
  • 0.5-1 ha
  • 1-2 ha
  • 2-5 ha
  • 5-15 ha
  • 15-50 ha
  • 50-100 ha
  • 100-500 ha
  • 500-1,000 ha
  • 1,000-10,000 ha
  • > 10,000 ha
Is this considered small-, medium- or large-scale (referring to local context)?
  • medium-scale

5.8 Land ownership, land use rights, and water use rights

Land ownership:
  • individual, titled
Land use rights:
  • individual
Water use rights:
  • individual

5.9 Access to services and infrastructure

  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
technical assistance:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
employment (e.g. off-farm):
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
roads and transport:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
drinking water and sanitation:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
financial services:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts


fodder production

Comments/ specify:

For details see:
Fynn, R.W.S. Kirkman, K & Dames, R. (2017).

fodder quality

Comments/ specify:

Forage quality improved by keeping the grass in an immature state. For details see:
Fynn, R.W.S. Kirkman, K & Dames, R. (2017).

animal production

Comments/ specify:

Benefit from improved forage quality and larger spatial scales for adaptive foraging. For detail see:
Fynn, R.W.S. Kirkman, K & Dames, R. (2017).

Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

water quantity

Comments/ specify:

Better soil cover and protection

water quality

Comments/ specify:

Better soil cover and protection

surface runoff

Comments/ specify:

Better soil cover and protection

Biodiversity: vegetation, animals

Vegetation cover


biomass/ above ground C


habitat diversity


6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

reliable and stable stream flows in dry season

Comments/ specify:

Better grass cover should improve water capture and stream flow

downstream flooding

Comments/ specify:

Better grass cover should reduce runoff rates and downstream flooding

downstream siltation

Comments/ specify:

Better grass cover should reduce runoff and erosion rates thereby reducing downstream siltation

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

How do the benefits compare with the establishment costs (from land users’ perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:


How do the benefits compare with the maintenance/ recurrent costs (from land users' perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:



This technology aims to reduce infrastructure and maintenance costs by reducing the amount of fencing
It also aims to reduce reliance on supplementary feeding

6.5 Adoption of the Technology

  • 1-10%
If available, quantify (no. of households and/ or area covered):

In Ghanzi region of Botswana probably about five ranchers have adopted the technology

Of all those who have adopted the Technology, how many have did so spontaneously, i.e. without receiving any material incentives/ payments?
  • 90-100%

They have adopted the technology because of seeing the results of those using the technology and from farmers day talks

6.6 Adaptation

Has the Technology been modified recently to adapt to changing conditions?


6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view
Management complexity is reduced - fewer paddocks and less frequent movement between paddocks
Establishment and maintenance costs are lower than complex rotational grazing systems owing to less fencing required. Livestock production increased relative to costs
Need for supplementary feed and licks reduced owing to livestock having greater adaptive foraging options
Rangeland condition improved
Rangeland condition improved - better grass cover and greater abundance of high-quality perennial grasses
Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
Conceptually the most robust grazing management technology, Extremely long recovery periods promotes sustainability

Low establishment and maintenance costs relative to production
Concentration of livestock on half the available area enables sufficient grazing pressure to prevent grassland maturation and loss of forage quality
Development of a large reserve of forage for the dry season through season long resting promotes stability and reduces needs for supplementary feeding (increased profits)
Very large paddocks combined with minimal forced movement of livestock promotes adaptive foraging options for livestock thereby reducing need for supplementary feeding and licks (increased profits)

6.8 Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks of the Technology and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the land user’s view How can they be overcome?
Less intensive management increases predation events on livestock Herding of livestock
Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
Potential over/under use of certain habitat type. Less control of timing and intensity of grazing distribution could result in damage to sensitive habitat types Monitoring by the rancher of impacts on vegetation and use of water point reticulation/ lick placement/herding to move animals to underutilized areas

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

  • field visits, field surveys

Many trips to Tiisa ranch to conduct monitoring work

  • interviews with land users

Have spoken to several land owners using the technology

  • interviews with SLM specialists/ experts

Have had much interaction with Riaan Dames who developed the technology

7.2 References to available publications

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Optimal grazing management strategies: Evaluating key concepts Fynn, R.W.S., Kirkman, K.P. and Dames, R. 2017. African Journal of Range and Forage Science 34 (2): 87-98

Available from where? Costs?

Taylor and Francis Publishers

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Towards optimal rangeland management. Fynn, R.W.S. 2015. Farmers Weekly 18: 56-59

Available from where? Costs?

Farmers weekly magazine

7.3 Links to relevant information which is available online

Title/ description:

Grazing Strategy of Riaan Dames


Links and modules

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