Agriculture

Impacts of livestock farming include effects on arthropods and a range of related ecological processes. Grazing by sheep may indirectly affect web spider populations by changing vegetation structures available for web construction, or directly by trampling the spiders or their webs. We tested these two potential impacts by surveying spiders along transects and found that web spider abundance was 52% lower in a sheep grazing area compared with inside the adjacent Tierberg-LTER (Long Term Ecological Research) sheep exclosure. This reduction in web-spider abundance could be due to the 10% lower shrub cover in the sheep pasture than in the exclosure. Further support for the hypothesis that web spider abundance is affected by shrub cover came from spider abundance being higher on densely vegetated mounds, termed heuweltjies, than in the surrounding shrub matrix in both the exclosure and the sheep pasture, with heuweltjies showing cross-fence differences, consistent with grazing impacts. In addition, there may be a direct effect of trampling, as suggested by experimental removal of webs. By depressing spider populations, sheep grazing may affect a number of ecological factors, such as trophic relationships or nutrient cycling.

Plant growth forms likely respond differently to disturbances such as trampling. We investigated the trampling effect of 1 600 sheep encamped at night in temporary enclosures (kraals, corrals or pens), which were relocated weekly. To examine trampling effects and regeneration rates of the various growth forms we compared vegeta- tion composition, canopy cover and foliar nitrogen inside and outside kraals, between one and 12 months after the trampling event. We predicted that inside kraals (1) succulent and non-succulent shrubs would be affected more severely than grasses, (2) perennial plant cover would decrease compared with annual plant cover, (3) foliar nitrogen concentrations would increase, and (4) vegetation recovery would be affected by time and rainfall since last use of the kraal. Grasses and shrubs (succulent and non-succulent) responded differently to kraaling. Density and diversity of succulent and non-succulent shrubs decreased, while annual and perennial grass cover inside and outside kraaling areas did not differ. Foliar nitrogen was greater inside kraals. Both succulent and non-succulent shrub cover increased over time after kraaling irrespective of the rainfall. Our study demonstrates that short-term intensive trampling and dunging creates nutrient-rich, heterogeneous patches that may enhance restoration of degraded production landscapes.

Conflict between predators and small-livestock farmers is a global phenomenon adversely impacting the preservation of wildlife, the well-being of livestock and human livelihoods. Such conflict is pervasive in the Karoo region of South Africa but its contemporary history and various causes remain poorly understood. In this study, we interviewed 77 small-livestock farmers in the Central Karoo between July 2014 and March 2015 to (1) assess the spatio-temporal distribution and severity of the reported predation problems with the main regional predators of livestock (black-backed jackal, caracal and baboon) and (2) describe the perceived reasons for changes in predator numbers. Farmers reported that serious predation problems have increased since the 1990s for all three predators. Jackal predation appears to have re-emerged, particularly since the 2000s, while baboon predation seems to have escalated rapidly since 2014 for select farmers. Farms with more rugged terrain were more likely to experience serious problems with baboons and caracal but ruggedness did not predict the year of onset of problems. Farmers perceive predator numbers to be increasing and attribute this trend to declining government support for predator management, changes in farming practices and the associated increase in suitable predator habitat, from which they can recolonise commercial farms.

Municipal commonage land in South Africa is currently utilised by resource-poor black and coloured farmers. This paper analyses information from two case studies – the Karoo towns of Carnarvon and Williston in the Northern Cape. By comparing data between 2009 and 2018, we show that a significant number of these commonage farmers have increased their livestock holdings. In addition, several have moved their livestock onto ‘new’ commonage farms, purchased by Government, or on land leased from white commercial farmers. We argue that the concept of ‘economic class’ needs to be reintroduced to South African development analysis. The paper compares these proto-commercial farmers with the ‘kulak’ farmers of Russia in the early twentieth century (before the Soviet regime) and the early twenty-first century (after the collapse of communism). We concur with Russian authors that the emergence of new commercial farmers may constitute a new economic class. In South Africa, the situation is of course divergent, given that a strong class of commercial farmers exists. We suggest that the commonage farming phenomenon can make a contribution to current South African land debates.

Consumers are increasingly concerned to know where food comes from and how it is produced. Since South African lamb is usually produced on natural pastures and in arid areas, certain breeds have been specifically bred for arid areas, such as the Karoo region, renowned for its high quality lamb. Consumer’s perceptions of Karoo lamb (bred in the Karoo region) and non-Karoo lamb (bred on other areas in South Africa) were studied using means-end chain theory, focusing on the association pattern technique (APT). The main aim of the study was to determine consumer’s perceptions of Karoo lamb as a product of origin and furthermore to determine consumer’s willingness to purchase product of origin. The motivational structures show perceived differences between Karoo and non-Karoo lamb consumers. Karoo lamb is preferred mainly due to its brand which signifies confidence in local produce, its taste and high quality. Non-Karoo lamb was seen as good value for money that satisfies the required values of consumers not interested in knowing the origin.

As food markets have become more globalized, consumers have become more concerned about the origin of the foods they eat with a decreased confidence in the quality and safety of foods produced outside their local region or country. Traceability systems address this concerns and the importance of establishing a link between a product, producer and place of production has therefore gained momentum as a trend.This paper describes the product attributes that influence the decision making process of consumers towards purchasing Karoo lamb. Karoo lamb is lamb meat that is specifically reared in the Karoo region of South Africa and has a distinctive taste associated with the grazing conditions in the Karoo. The information used in this paper was obtained in the first phase from three focus groups that were conducted to identify the product attributes that were critical in affecting the consumers’ preferences and choices regarding the product (lamb). In phase two conjoint analysis was used to measure the importance individual consumers attach to the different levels of the various product attributes and the utility they then attached based on their valuation of the complete product.Price as an extrinsic attribute was the most important factor in the decision making process of consumers when purchasing lamb. Safety and quality were also relatively important with food safety clearly an important consideration to consumers when buying meat. This is not surprising given the legacy of BSE and E-coli outbreaks that were given a lot of publicity in the press in the past. The origin attribute was however rated as of the lowest importance.Traceability can be meaningful to consumers but primarily in an indirect manner as the importance of traceability to consumers is in terms of its benefits such as safety and quality, in relation to aspects that they think are important regarding food in general. In the area for meat there is a need for fast and reliable systems to enable traceability along the full supply chain to provide safe and high quality food for the consumer as the end user with respect to origin.

This article analyses the way the general turn from mass consumption to the increased qualitative differentiation of products – the “quality turn” – manifests in the South African agro-food system and explores its implications in terms of market access conditions for small-scale farmers in particular. While most retailers’ food quality positioning is in line with consumer trends, based on conventional price-orientated strategies, the retail sector has been entering and driving quality related niche markets and is even proactively re-establishing the demand for products, such as in the case of Karoo lamb. As illustrated by the organic case, alternative quality trends provide an opportunity for value addition that could potentially lead to considerable price premiums and growth. This potential has, however, been left largely untapped by local suppliers. The article shows that the main vehicle for the institutionalisation of quality in South Africa has been the establishment of new certification schemes which are largely driven by the dominant retail sector. This sector captures most of the consumer purchasing power and sets the rules governing the system. Based on this analysis, the article then explores the implications of new food quality trends and the dominant role of the retail sector in small-scale farmers’ market access.

As a result of global climatic changes, the Western Cape faces a warmer future. This poses serious threats to agricultural commodities in the province, including sheep, goats and beef cattle. Changes in annual rainfall as well as changes to the spatial distribution, seasonal cycles and extremes in rainfall are also likely, even if the extent and direction of these changes are still uncertain. The SmartAgri project is focusing on the planning and preparation needed in the agricultural sector in order to deal with this threat over the next 10–40 years. Agricultural production is closely linked to climate and weather. These linkages are sometimes straightforward, for example seasonal total rainfall influencing rangeland productivity. More commonly they involve far more specific influences such as dry spell duration during spring or early summer. Higher temperatures are often tolerated as long as rainfall is sufficient.

However, temperature sensitivities can be much more complex, for example the reduction in animal fertility and milk production brought about by a heat wave. Thus, a discussion of the impacts of climate change on agricultural production requires focused attention to specific threats to specific animals and at specific times in the seasonal cycle. In addition, local conditions such as production potential and microclimate influence the extent of the threat.

The primary marketing of south Africa mohair has been the topic of much discussions and it has become a contentious issue since producer prices became unusually unstable, producer returns increasingly uncertain, and production consequently began declining. This dissertation has aimed to structure these discussions and issues and to critically analyse the South African mohair marketing system in the evolving global agribusiness environment.

1.
Gradients of animal impact known as piospheres tend to develop around artificial watering points, particularly in arid zones. Such grazing gradients represent a potential opportunity for differentiating the long-term effects of livestock activity from other environmental patterns. In this study, the impact of watering point provision on the plant cover, species richness and community structure of Karoo shrublands, South Africa, was investigated in the context of the evolutionary history and current grazing management practices of the region.
2.
The impacts of watering point provision were investigated by sampling plant cover and composition along transects placed at set distances, ranging from 10 m to 2200 m, from 11 watering points.