The Rangeland Journal The Rangeland Journal Society
Rangeland ecology and management
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Impact of grazing system on rangeland condition and grazing capacity in Zimbabwe

J. Gusha A D , M. Masocha B and P. H. Mugabe C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Paraclinical Veterinary Studies, University of Zimbabwe, PO Box MP 167, Mt Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe.

B Department of Geography and Environmental Science, Faculty of Science, University of Zimbabwe, PO Box MP 167, Mt Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe.

C Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Zimbabwe, PO Box MP 167, Mt Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe.

D Corresponding author. Email: jtgusha@gmail.com

The Rangeland Journal 39(3) 219-225 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ15130
Submitted: 28 December 2015  Accepted: 1 June 2017   Published: 23 June 2017

Abstract

The influence of different land tenure and rangeland management systems on rangeland condition and livestock grazing capacity in African rangelands is not well documented. A rangeland condition assessment was carried out at 15 sites located in the communal grazing system, small-scale commercial grazing system and the large-scale commercial grazing system in Zimbabwe. Rangeland indicators assessed were: floristic composition, herbaceous biomass yield, shrub stem density and grazing capacity. Grass species composition and forage value were analysed using PROC FREQ procedure of SAS 9.3. Fisher’s exact test was performed to test for independence of the grass variables between grazing systems. A one-way ANOVA was used to test for significant differences (P < 0.05) in floristic composition, shrub stem density, herbaceous biomass yield and grazing capacity among the three grazing systems. It was observed that communal rangelands had significantly high levels of woody species, unpalatable wiry grass species, low biomass yield and were dominated by the invading shrub Helichyrsum kraussii compared with the other rangeland management systems. These results suggest that if control measures are not put in place, livestock production may not be feasible in communal rangelands in the near future because of high levels of rangeland deterioration when compared with the commercially managed rangelands. Furthermore, the observed high stem density of unpalatable woody species and the low grazing capacity of communal rangelands affect livestock production, a primary source of livelihood. This warrants a change in rangeland management system in favour of the rest-rotation grazing system, which is beneficial to both livestock and the range.

Additional keywords: domestic animal production, forage quality, grassland ecosystems, grazing management system.


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