1. Asses the potential of what you have in a methodic manner.
Assess the potential of your land and allocate different enterprises to the different soil potentials. Over time, make sure that the potential of your farm is realized in a profitable manner.
2. Plan your regenerative grazing carefully
Choose a regenerative grazing approach that suits you. Make sure your choice is appropriate for the amount of time you have available to spend on rangeland management and that it takes into account the severity of the predator problems on your farm. There are a number of grazing practices that will work with your existing infrastructure; however, careful planning and implementation is required. It is therefore wise to consider investing in an expert, someone who knows the approach, in order to help you with starting correctly. Change can be expensive if it is not planned and phased in carefully.
3. Identify nessecery interventions early
You need to understand whether any major interventions such as bush control and keeping water on your land are necessary and whether they are profitable, or whether changing your grazing approach (e.g. combining herds) is adequate.
4. Focus on your best camps first then carry over what works
Once you have selected an approach, do not try and manage your entire farm with limited livestock numbers. Always start your management approach with your best camps (i.e. those that will provide the best animal performance at the lowest cost), and then deal with the other camps at a later stage, when you have enough livestock. There is a lot that can be done that does not cost money: do what you can now, with what you have.
5. Animal performance first
Always remember: When the animals are present in a camp, the focus must be on animal performance; when the animals are out of a camp, the focus must be on the rest/recovery of the camp. If your wildlife numbers are high and spread all over the farm, then your rangeland management efforts will not succeed. If wildlife is not your main income source, you will need to reduce their numbers.
6. Don't cut more bush than nessecary
If you have established that bush control is necessary, it is vital that you only apply it to as much bush each year as you have livestock to utilise the extra grass and shrub growth effectively. Your choice of method will be determined by the severity of frost (which controls after-growth) and the aggressiveness of the bush regrowth in your area.
7. Biodiversity increases your production
Assess your farm to determine how much browse and grass is available now and how much will be available after bush-thinning for the animals. This will determine whether you should consider a combination of animals (browsers and grazers) that utilises as many levels of the available forage as possible. Plan for the adequate number of livestock to keep this extra growth stimulated. This stacking increases your stocking rate and production per hectare and ensures that the bush is being effectively utilised, which means you are making money out of it. It is vital to note that as biodiversity increases, your production and quality of forage will also increase. As such, you do not want a monostand of grass. A monostand of grass will reduce your resilience to drought.
8. Pick the right animals for your region
Your choice of grazing approach and the available bush and grass (or that you expect to be available after bush control) will enable you to choose the types of animals best suited for the farm’s conditions. All chosen animal types need to be low input, early maturing and adapted to your available forage. Use low maintenance bulls that give calves that are weaned at 50% of the cows’ weight. Select animals based on economic criteria. Remember, smaller cows can provide an increase in the stocking rate per hectare.
9. Stick to what works
Buy animals that have been managed in a similar way to yours, from as close to your area as possible as they will adapt to your conditions the fastest. The best adapted animals are those born on your farm. When you have enough cows (200 or more), you can consider closing your herd.
10. Check in on your animals regularly
Every day, check that the animals are full and that their dung has a healthy appearance. This ensures good animal performance and good fertility. If your grazing approach is improving your stocking rate and you are achieving good animal performance at a low cost, then your production and profit per hectare will increase over time.
11. Don't change things too quickly
Be careful not to increase the stocking rate too far on the current state of the veld. As the stocking rate increases, so does production, but at a slower rate. If you increase the stocking rate too far, your production per hectare goes down and your costs go up, because you have more animals. In this scenario, you will lose money by having a higher stocking rate. You need to aim for the optimum stocking rate appropriate for your current resource base, where production per hectare is maximised. Good production must always be from the veld (and when needed supported by lick); it cannot be obtained through supplementation. Do not chase high stocking rates if you are not getting good production from the veld.
12. Plan for potential disasters
Plan for drought resilience – starting again after every drought is not sustainable. Building your soil through a regenerative grazing plan is the main way to build resilience to drought. Always keep a drought reserve of one or two years’ worth, depending on your conditions. Choose a production system that suits your conditions. In an ox production system, the cow herd is 40% of the total; and in a cow-calf operation, the cow herd is 66% of the herd, which is more difficult to sell in a drought.
13. Destock early
Most importantly, when you determine a forage shortage, destock early (or do not buy in speculation animals) to enable your core herd to be taken through to the next rainfall period.
14. Plan, Do, Check, Act
Be on the land and observe what is happening with regards to planned or unplanned events. Assess the results. If positive results are observed, test this action on a larger portion of the farm and decide what to do. Be on the land with your animals as often as possible, so that you know what is going on and, where needed, adjust accordingly.
15. Record and share what you learn and learn from others
Keep learning from your farm as well as from what others are doing. Keep up to date with this fast-moving, farmer-driven regeneration process.