Rotational Grazing [South Africa]

technologies_1356 - South Africa

Completeness: 65%

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)
Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development of Kenya (MoA) - Kenya

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:


2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

Rotational grazing is a management system based on the subdivision of the grazing area into a number of enclosures and the successive grazing of these paddocks by animals in a rotation so that not all the veld (grazing area) is grazed simultaneously

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


Consequently, rotational grazing allows higher stocking rates than continuous grazing. The main principles of rotational grazing are: (1) Control the frequency at which pasture is grazed: adjustment of the rotation cycle ensures a good forage quality in each paddock. Pasture plants (including the most preferred and therefore overused species) are provided with a period of recovery or rest following grazing; (2) Control the intensity at which the pasture plants are grazed by controlling the number of animals which graze each paddock and their period of occupation; (3) Reduce the extent of selective grazing by confining a relatively large number of animals to a small portion of the veld: little opportunity for selection prevents domination of undesirable species. Intensity of grazing should be adapted to the climatic conditions: in drier areas recovery periods should be longer due to limited plant recovery potential and high sensitivity to misuse and degradation. The ratio between periods of occupation and absence determines the plant yield and vigour: the shorter the period of occupation in a paddock the greater will be the yield of the veld: a second ‘bite’ is avoided and consequently the recovery period is at least equal to the period of absence. However, the shorter the period of occupation and the longer the period of absence, the greater is the number of paddocks required in a rotational grazing system. Ideal resting periods vary with growth rate, and with the rate at which the veld loses its quality with maturity. Depending on the season, the climate and the use of irrigation, resting periods vary between 14 and 70 days, and even longer in the semi-arid grasslands (90–150 days). Appropriate stocking rates are assessed through 4 rating factors (defining the veld condition): species composition, basal cover, topography and soil erodibility

2.3 Photos of the Technology

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


South Africa

Region/ State/ Province:

Springbokvlakte region, Limpopo Provinc

Further specification of location:

Crecy area

Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • evenly spread over an area

2.7 Introduction of the Technology

Specify how the Technology was introduced:
  • through projects/ external interventions

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • reduce, prevent, restore land degradation

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

Grazing land

Grazing land

Extensive grazing:
  • Ranching

Major land use problems (land users’ perception): Mainly biological degradation: reduction of vegetation cover, decreasing vegetation diversity

Ranching: Yes

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

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

biological degradation

biological degradation

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

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • prevent land degradation

Secondary goals: mitigation / reduction of land degradation, rehabilitation / reclamation of denuded land

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

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology

Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

Technical knowledge required for field staff / advisors: high (layout of the camps and design of stock watering and grazing system)

Technical knowledge required for land users: moderate (implementation of the system, building of fences and stock watering system, maintenance)

Main technical functions: improvement of ground cover, improvement of topsoil structure (compaction), increase of biomass (quantity), promotion of vegetation species and varieties (quality, eg palatable fodder)

Change of land use practices / intensity level: change of grazing management

4.3 Establishment activities

Activity Timing (season)
1. Farm planning: including technical design of farm plan with grazing paddocks, rotational system and livestock watering system conducted mostly by extension workers or specialists from Dept. of Agriculture
2. Fencing
3. Establishment of stock watering system including the construction of a dam, windmill, drinking trough, pipeline and borehole
4. Establishment of stock watering system including the construction of a dam, windmill, drinking trough, pipeline and borehole

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 Farm planning, fencing, stock watering persons/day/ha 85.0 71.52 6079.2 100.0
Equipment Equipment area 1.0 1160.0 1160.0 100.0
Construction material Construction material area 1.0 45173.0 45173.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology 52412.2
Total costs for establishment of the Technology in USD 52412.2

Duration of establishment phase: 6 month(s)

4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Timing/ frequency
1. Fencing
2. Maintenance of windmill, pipeline, dam and drinking trough
3. Implementing the system (moving livestock from one paddock to another, attend to livestock watering requirements (opening and closing of valves and attending to windmill brake on windy days)

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
Labour Fencing persons/day/ha 32.0 99.15 3172.8 100.0
Construction material Material area 1.0 10213.0 10213.0 100.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 13385.8
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology in USD 13385.8

Above mentioned costs are merely and indication for a typical livestock farm of 500 ha.

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

Estimated establishment time for a 500 ha farm with 8 paddocks more or less 6 month(s). The establishment and maintenance costs depend on farm size and the details of the farm plan/ design of the paddock system including variables such as number of paddocks, number of stock watering points, number of boreholes, etc.

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
Specifications/ comments on rainfall:

Also 501-750 mm

Agro-climatic zone
  • sub-humid
  • semi-arid

Thermal climate class: subtropics

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.
Comments and further specifications on topography:

Slopes on average: Also moderate (6-10%)

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)
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.

Soil fertility is high and just soils with high fertility are used for cultivation

Soil drainage / infiltration is medium - good

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Market orientation of production system:
  • commercial/ market
Individuals or groups:
  • individual/ household
Level of mechanization:
  • mechanized/ motorized
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:

Difference in the involvement of women and men: mainly large-scale commercial livestock farmers (large areas allow for many grazing paddocks)

Population density: 100-200 persons/km2

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)?
  • large-scale

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

Land ownership:
  • communal/ village
  • individual, not titled
Land use rights:
  • communal (organized)
  • individual

Mainly individual not titled or partly communal village ownership

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts


fodder production

Comments/ specify:

In available dry-material

animal production

Comments/ specify:

Due to increased and better fodder

risk of production failure


production area

Comments/ specify:

Due to better drinking water availability

Water availability and quality

drinking water availability

Comments/ specify:

Through improved livestock watering systems

drinking water quality

Comments/ specify:

Through improved livestock watering systems

Income and costs

farm income


Socio-cultural impacts

food security/ self-sufficiency


Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

surface runoff




soil moisture


soil cover

Biodiversity: vegetation, animals

biomass/ above ground C


plant diversity


habitat diversity

Climate and disaster risk reduction

drought impacts


6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

water availability


groundwater/ river pollution


6.3 Exposure and sensitivity of the Technology to gradual climate change and climate-related extremes/ disasters (as perceived by land users)


The technology is tolerant to climatic changes: land users can adjust grazing and resting periods according to changing conditions

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

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

very negative

Long-term returns:


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

slightly negative

Long-term returns:



Establishment costs are very high and discourage many farmers from using a multi-paddock grazing system

6.5 Adoption of the Technology


There is a moderate trend towards spontaneous adoption of the Technology

Comments on adoption trend: Since 1994 rotational grazing has no longer been subsidised by the government (subsidies are restricted to small-scale communal and subsistence farmers). There is a moderate positive trend in adoption of the technology.

6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view
Rotational grazing allows higher stocking rates than continuous grazing
Adaptation to climate change and droughts

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?
Cost of construction or initial implementation convince farmers to see it as a long term investment to ensure sustainable production
Veld fires damage fences and drinking troughs prevent accidental veld fires by making fire bunds at the start of the dry season

7. References and links

7.2 References to available publications

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Tainton N.M. 1988. Veld and Pasture Management in South Africa. Shuter & Shooter, Pietermaritzburg in association with University of Natal Press, Pietermaritzburg

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Department of Agriculture and Water Supply. 1989. Veld management in the Eastern Cape. Government Printer, Pretoria

Links and modules

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