The Herding Academy in Graaff-Reinet

ReStory narrators: Johan Brouwer and Sarah Cromhout

We started the Herding Academy as a holistic platform to share the ancient skill of herding livestock to sustainably preserve nature. Through herding we anticipate and address environmental, socio-economic, cultural and financial challenges on both livestock and game farms as well as reserves.

The Karoo is currently in the throes of a dreadful drought which has been plaguing the area for the last seven years. What follows is a story of restoration work done in the Graaff-Reinet area through ponding and brush packing. The photos present a picture of better times. However, the pondings are still doing remarkable even during this drought.

Graaff-Reinet dam, 26 November 2019

Ponding and brush packing

The soil responds remarkably quickly when the nitrogen, water and mineral cycles are kick-started. However, we found that this can be extremely capital intensive. Meanwhile, animals have the same effect and they generate an income stream.

The hoofs of the herds create a mini-ponding effect which means that if they are left to graze naturally (not selectively), ponding and mulching will have the same effects. Proofs are done both by hand and with machines. We found, however, that we had to pack everything with Acacia to provide shade, protect it from animals and give rest. Seed was not sown at all anywhere.

The use of kraals and a grazing plan

The following are examples of kraal areas. The green circles indicate erosion areas where there are no kraals while yellow areas indicate where sheep are kept in kraals for only one night at a time.

Grazing plan with the date, the duration of stay and the herd size etc. clearly marked.

The impact of the careful use of kraaling linked to a grazing plan that advances the discipline of rotational grazing based on field’s capability can be seen in the four final pictures of four 25m x 25m enclosures right next to each other.

The control site shows no increase in grass cover over a year.  The enclosure with brush packing did see an increase in non-grass species.  The enclosure kraaled with sheep did see a remarkable increase in grass cover.

Control site – no intervention
750 sheep kraaled at night for three consecutive nights
Brush packing only
750 sheep kraaled at night for one night only

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