In the previous article on farm man­agement and planning we focused on optimal resource utilisation and farm planning. When planning for the provi­sion of a sufficient number of camps, the ultimate question is how many camps are needed for each herd?

With camps, it will be possible to maintain the condition of the veld and even improve it, provided that animal numbers are kept within reasonable limits. With six camps or more per herd, it is much easier to comply to the requirements of short grazing and long resting periods.

On most farms there are small herds or rams, bulls, dairy cows and calves, sick animals, animals for slaughtering, horses, and donkeys. Make special provi­sion for these different herds to continu­ously practice good veld management. A few smaller camps will provide the solution. It is crucial that no camp, not even the so-called house camp, should ever be subjected to overgrazing.

Size of camps

When a farm is divided into camps, the sizes of camps should be considered. The sizes of camps should be limited in order to graze the camps as evenly as possible. The accessibility of the ter­rain also has an influence on the size of a camp. The more inaccessible the ter­rain, the smaller the camps to prevent unnecessary stress on the livestock.

The required sizes of camps can be determined by using the following formula:

From this formula it is quite clear that an increase in the number of camps per herd will result in smaller camps and vice versa. On farms in the extent of 10 000 hectares or more, there may be exceptions, but for the purpose of sound veld management it is recom­mended that camp sizes should not exceed 250 hectares.

Although it is very difficult to deter­mine the carrying capacity in practice, camps should be divided in such a way that the carrying capacity of the dif­ferent camps are more or less equal. If there are basically no real differences in carrying capacity, the camps should theoretically be equal in size, in which case it will be much easier to regroup the camps in different grazing systems.

The management of livestock and the availability of labourers also have an influence in determining the sizes of camps. It is common knowledge that large camps have an adverse effect on the pregnancy rate of animals. To save on labour expenses and to ensure a good pregnancy rate, it will pay off to use smaller camps.

The maximum number of camps depends on the size of the herd, the size of the farm and the grazing capac­ity of the farm.

It can be calculated as follows:

Shape of camps

The ideal shape will be a square. Where homogeneous veld types prevail and water could be distributed without any troubles, square camps would be an easy option. The fact is that veld types are usually not homogeneous, roads and railway lines are present and even the shape of the farm could ham­per the construction of square camps.

Where multi-camp systems are intro­duced and also to save on the cost of the distribution of water, it is common­ly found that the water is supplied at a central point. A watering camp with only one drinking trough for the whole system seems to be a good practice. With good management it was found that this practice leads to less tram­pling than in the case where each camp around the central point was supplied with its own drinking trough.

Cost and financing of farm planning

The cost of implementing a complete farm plan is very high. The terrain, the size of the camps as well as the number of wire strands in a fence will determine the eventual cost.

It is not a given that a well-planned farm will produce a higher revenue, but there are many examples proving better results if farm planning goes hand in hand with sound veld and stock management.

Short term financial gains are not guaranteed after implementing the farm planning operation, but even so proper planning will ensure that natural resources are retained and it will se­cure long term sustainable production. The emphasis must stay on sound veld and stock management practices.

As farm planning is a costly under­taking, the farmer must try and finance it out of his profits. Commercial banks are eager to provide the necessary funding, but as this is a long-term project, it will be more appropriate to secure funding developed for farming.

Farm planning and veld management

Farm planning is not a goal in itself but a way to implement sound veld and stock management practices. In doing so, the soil and vegetation will be utilised in such a way that it will be retained and even improved, to even­tually obtain higher production.

Farm planning will not be successful when it is assumed that more camps mean more herds and even more ani­mals. In reality, farm planning implies that the grazing could be utilised more discreetly and that a higher produc­tion can be obtained with the same number of or even less animals. When a farm is planned, it demands that the manager should have a sound knowl­edge of the principles of veld manage­ment to utilise his veld management facilities correctly.

The carrying capacity of a farm does not improve immediately after the camps are constructed. After a long period of sound management, it may be possible that the carrying capac­ity improves by a few large stock units. Because most farms are already stocked to capacity and even more, there is no justification for an increase in stock numbers. The wise farmer will continuously attempt to reduce rather than increase his stock numbers. Sur­plus grazing within a season does not justify the increase of stock numbers and must rather be perceived as a reserve which can make a contribution to maintaining stability.

In conclusion

Every farmer has an obligation towards himself, his successors, and his country to utilise the natural resources effec­tively. Farm planning is a valuable asset to accomplish that. The farmer must take the different veld types in account as well as the different herds and the type of veld management that he intends to administer before he actually plans his farm. Without sound management, farm planning might be dangerous!

A few concepts

Grazing capacity gives an indi­cation of the number of hectares needed to support one large stock unit for a period of one year without doing harm to the veld.

Carrying capacity of a farm is the number of large stock units that can be kept at a certain grazing capacity without damag­ing the veld.

Stocking rate is the number of large stock units that is kept at a specific time on a certain area without taking into account the grazing capacity or carrying capacity.