Grazing management without rancour – Part 3
Continued from Monday
Improved yield responses of improved crops to applied fertilizer had to be convincingly demonstrated to farmers before they could now adopt the practice.
Similarly, pasture and livestock responses to grazing e.g. changes in soil nutrient status and botanical composition following grazing, trampling, defecation and urination; animal live weight changes and necessity to reduce livestock numbers or to withdraw entire herds to permit pasture resting and regeneration; have to be initially illustrated to pastoralists to persuade them against their habitual production pattern. Regrettably, well organised and standard livestock grazing trials are hard to encounter in Nigeria because, owing to the intricacies of grazing operations, pasture evaluation with animals are prosecuted largely via the green feed (cut-and-carry) system. Grazing experiments, to be credible, should last at least two years but experts would in fact recommend a minimum duration of five, seven or more unbroken years, incorporating the wet and the dry seasons.
Some funny Nigerian researchers conducted four-week wet-season grazing studies and drew untenable and far reaching conclusions from their findings. A grazing investigation can only be successfully administered by a group, with individuals contributing to different aspects of the management package. For post-graduate work, the design should be such that one or two students examine grazing in all its ramifications and wind up after two to four years for a new set to continue. Undergraduate activities may be superimposed on aspects of the appraisal e.g. daily, weekly or monthly observations and data collections, which can constitute theses projects.
The Fulani herdsmen’s ideology that no human can claim land ownership, that they will go anywhere and in whatever way they can, to get pastures for their animals, cannot but cause collisions as this embraces encroachment on others’ property such as grazing fields, plantation crops, live fences as well as ornamental plants in residential areas with inconsiderate impunity. It is in record too that field crop farmers are sometimes also guilty of intentional trespassing as many of them shift from their usual bases to crop in grazing reserves and cattle routes. But how does one justify pastoralists’ animals’ raid of farms to consume non-grass crimps such as yam, cassava and cocoyam tubers? Or is it an aspect of fending for their livestock that the herdsmen should go on rampage, killing male and “grazing” female farmers when they are legitimately engaged in tilling ground, weeding or harvesting on their crop farms? Judging from these farmers’ disastrous experiences in many states of the federation, if the Federal Government fails to speedily, control the spate of incursion right now, the nation may wake up one morning to discover itself already completely sacked by the 25million-strong, proficiently armed herdsmen. One recalls how the Boko Haram problem built up slowly at first and gradually metamorphosed into a dilemma of almost unmanageable proportions. In a sustainable grazing land management, government should clearly demarcate grazing from cropping lands and subsidise the costs of: (a) pasture development, (b) range improvement, (c) grazing animal handling, and (d) supplementary feed provision. Investments in ranching can be substantial and warrants government intervention in terms of organising bank loans at greatly reduced or nil interest rates and dependable insurance schemes against production risks.
Other necessities for sedentarisation include paddocks, bull holding centres, dairy centres, water sources (streams/rivers, wells, dugouts and earth dams), mineral licks, water troughs, dipping wells, motorable roads, schools, administrative offices, and staff quarters with qualified technical personnel, range guards, abattoirs and veterinary clinics.
• Prof. Akinola, a forage scientist, retired from Ladoke Akinola University of Technology, (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso. He resides in Ilesa.
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