Planning is one of the most important aspects of managing any business. This is especially true for farms and agribusinesses due to their complexity and the inherent uncertainties (such as weather and commodity prices) associated with agriculture. It is essential that farm managers take time to adequately plan for all aspects of their businesses. Farm families are encouraged to adopt a whole farm planning approach as they develop strategies for the future success of their businesses.


Every landowner and every tenant farmer in this country owes it to himself and the future generations to protect and utilise the natural agricultural resources, namely soil, vegetation, water, and water resources, in such a way to ensure sustainable production. This is also known as optimal resource utilisation.

The following three requirements give an indication of what optimal resource utilisation actually means:

  • The natural resources should be utilised in such a way that it will be retained, conserved and even improved.
  • The farming practices must be in harmony with the nature of the natural resources.
  • The utilisation of the resources must be economical.

It should be the objective and ideal of every farmer to comply with these

Optimal resource utilisation and farm planning

Use the simplest veld management to provide the best farm facilities. (Source: Pixabay by Nicky)

To fulfil the ideal of optimal resource utilisation, the farmer has several aids at his disposal. One of the physical aids that can be applied to utilise the natural resources optimally, is farm planning.

Where crop farming is of no importance, farm planning will be about the provision of facilities for good veld management and also to prevent and to combat erosion.

On a properly planned farm, veld management can be administered in such a way that the physiological needs of plants will be taken into consideration, which can lead to a good and vigorous veld cover.

Farm planning makes it possible to protect the soil and water resources and these protected resources furnish economic benefits in the long run because sustainable production will be possible. Increased financial results can even be obtained in the short run, because the provision of the necessary facilities makes it possible for better veld management as well as better utilisation of the veld.

What is farm planning?

Fences, both primary and secondary, are used to separate grazing areas for livestock. (Source: Pixabay by Bruno /Germany)

Farm planning is a concept that can be interpreted in different ways. It varies from the provision of the minimum facilities to implement the most primitive form of veld management to the provision of sufficient facilities to implement veld management with all the herds on the farm to the highest standard.

As an example, it was assumed that most of the farms in the Northern Cape in South Africa are already planned. A study showed that it varies from totally incomplete to complete according to the present norms of the Department of Agriculture. Many farmers are satisfied that their farms are planned, but according to farm size and grazing capacity, they have only half of the camps that they really need.

Several matters have to be considered when starting with farm planning.

A few physical considerations are:

Separation of veld types

Each veld type should be managed differently because animals use them differently. (Source: Pixabay by Lynn Greyling)

It is essential that the existing fences should be identified on an aerial photograph or map of the farm. Use this map to indicate the different veld types that are found on the farm and also how effectively these veld types are separated by the existing fences.

Veld types should be separated because animals utilise the different veld types in different ways and therefore each veld type should be managed according to its own requirements. When the different veld types are indicated on the farm map, it should be used as a framework for further planning. Primary fences separate different veld types and secondary fences subdivide the specific veld type into smaller camps.

It sometimes happens in practice that problems are encountered to
separate veld types on a specific farm.

Here are some examples:

Fences were constructed without taking the separation of veld types in account. The problem can be solved by removing that fence and reconstructing it in the correct place, but farmers are usually not willing to do that because of the cost implications.

It is not always practical to separate veld types effectively, but it is essential to put a fence as close as possible to the transition between veld types. A small portion of unpalatable grazing might be incorporated in a larger camp with palatable grazing, but not vice versa. Remember that the farm plan only gives an indication of where the fence should be constructed, but in the actual construction the fence must be placed as close as possible to the transition line.

For sustainable production, landowners should protect and use soil, vegetation, water, and water resources responsibly. Your livestock should not deplete all the natural resources in each pasture. (Source: Pixabay)

It sometimes happens that different veld types alternate over a short distance. Such heterogeneous veld should be separated from more homogeneous veld and should then be treated according to the most vulnerable veld type in that camp.

Sometimes the position of a certain veld type in respect of water sources is very difficult to separate from other veld types because of the cost implications to supply water to that camp. The value of that specific veld and its vulnerability should be compared to the cost of supplying water.

The provision of a sufficient number of camps

Make provision for sufficient camps for all the herds on the farm to administer good veld management. Determine the number of herds on the farm as well as the extent to which the number varies from time to time. The herd number varies considerably, but with herd sizes of around 50 LSUs (large stock units, namely cattle) veld and stock management will be reasonably simple.

In next month’s edition of Farm management and planning part 2, we shall look at camp sizes, how to determine it, veld management, and the cost and financing of farm planning. Stay tuned for more.