Split Ranch Grazing Strategy [Botswana]

Riaan Dames Grazing Strategy

technologies_3217 - Botswana

Completeness: 90%

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 project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Book project: Guidelines to Rangeland Management in Sub-Saharan Africa (Rangeland Management)
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

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:

Split Ranch Grazing involves grazing half the available area for a full year - concentrating livestock. The consequent grazing pressure maintains the grassland in an immature, high-quality state, while resting the other half, allowing optimal recovery from the previous full years grazing. The technology is simple, requiring less fencing than more complex systems, without compromising sustainability or ecological function. These concepts can also be used for management in pastoral-wildlife systems to create habitat heterogeneity (short and tall grassland).

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


The Split Ranch Grazing Strategy (SRG) was developed by Riaan Dames in the North West province, South Africa. It is fundamentally different to popular rotational management systems and contains several conceptual advances. One key difference is that SRG provides a full-year uninterrupted recovery period for rangeland after grazing. This enables grasses to maximize nutrient recovery over the main pulses of nutrient mineralization in the early wet season, and to maximize root growth and associated nutrient storage over the late wet season and early dry season - when most root growth occurs. Optimal recovery periods should ideally, therefore, encompass the full wet season and the early dry season. This contrasts with rotational grazing where recovery and grazing periods are apportioned across these two periods, with resting periods often not occurring 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 negatively impacting animal production. Another problem is that complex rotational grazing requires strategies investing much in a complex and expensive fencing infrastructure. The solution is a fundamentally different strategy where some paddocks are grazed the whole year to prevent grassland maturation and other paddocks are simultaneously rested to optimize recovery. In addition, paddocks should be as few, and as large as possible, to maximize livestock access to functional resource heterogeneity, thereby improving adaptive foraging options, while reducing costs of fencing (fencing can even be replaced by using physical boundaries (e.g. roads, rivers, etc.) and herding the livestock.
Livestock are maintained in the grazing paddocks until mid-dry season to ensure that grasses in the rested paddocks have completed root growth and ceased all other growth – thus fully rested and recovered. A full years rest allows maximum uptake and storage of nutrients in deep, strong root systems and crowns. 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. 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, 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. 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, which have developed a large reserve of forage, in the mid dry season (July) once forage is depleted in the two grazed paddocks. This technology (SRG), used on the award-winning Danielskuil ranch in South Africa, has been employed at Tiisa for six years after being in a degraded state. 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

Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • evenly spread over an area
If precise area is not known, indicate approximate area covered:
  • 10-100 km2

Longitude: -21.60026 (decimal degrees)
Latitude: 21.48969
Not restricted to any size of land - any size ranch

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:
  • Semi-nomadic pastoralism
  • Ranching
Animal type:
  • cattle - dairy
  • cattle - non-dairy beef
  • goats
  • sheep
Products and services:
  • meat
  • milk
  • whool

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.

Number of growing seasons per year: 1
Mostly one growing season but can be in a bimodal rainfall region
Livestock density: 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 Water supply

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

3.5 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • pastoralism and grazing land management

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

Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

SRG 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 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 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. 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 or they can be actively moved between diagonals during the grazing year according to the rancher’s 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.


Richard Fynn

4.2 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

Specify how costs and inputs were calculated:
  • per Technology unit
other/ national currency (specify):

Pula (BWP)

4.3 Establishment activities

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

4.4 Costs and inputs needed for establishment

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour Labourers paddocks 7.0 24000.0 168000.0 100.0
Equipment Water trough, fitting and piping paddocks 7.0 8000.0 56000.0 100.0
Equipment Solar pump paddocks 7.0 20000.0 140000.0 100.0
Equipment Fencing paddocks 7.0 80000.0 560000.0 100.0
Equipment Boreholes paddocks 7.0 20000.0 140000.0 100.0
Other Loading facilities 1.0 30000.0 30000.0 100.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology 1094000.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology in USD 1094000.0

4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

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

4.6 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
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology in USD 9.0

Maintenance costs are difficult to quantify but mainly keeping the fences clear of brush and replacing poles !
Most of labour costs are probably assigned to this over a year !
Water reticulation also a cost. A cost of P5000/MTH would be a good estimate.
Bales of hay cost 7-9 USD in Botswana depending on availability.

4.7 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 SRG 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, to overcome this. It also aims to improve the quality of forage during the wet season so that supplementary feeding is not needed for fertility improvement.

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:

While Split Ranch Grazing is mainly applied in semi-arid climates with a long dry season, the relevance of 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 used 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 did so spontaneously, i.e. without receiving any material incentives/ payments?
  • 91-100%

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 mineral 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

When were the data compiled (in the field)?


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 online information

Title/ description:

Grazing Strategy of Riaan Dames


Links and modules

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