August 4, 2015

Kenyan cattle grazing goes mobile to protect grasslands and wildlife

Alistair Pole, African Wildlife Foundation

A recent visit to Ol Pejeta Ranch in Laikipia, Kenya, highlighted the value of using mobile bomas, or enclosures, in a mixed wildlife and livestock ranching system.

On the Manyara Ranch in the Maasai Steppe landscape of Tanzania we are developing such a system and are looking at many ideas to try and make the continuation of a livestock programme compatible with wildlife needs and tourism. The combined use promises a greater overall income in the long term.

Bomas show promise as a solution to the overgrazing of range lands

We learned from Ol Pejeta that livestock can be used as a tool to manage range lands – especially degraded rangelands. Old static boma sites provide ‘hot spots’ where grass growth is greatly improved. By having mobile bomas that can be moved every 2 – 3 weeks, not only do you enable the cattle to move around more and have access to a wider range of grazing but you are also improving the grassland by allowing livestock to remove woody overgrowth. Rotating the mobile bomas across degraded areas has a positive impact on grass regeneration.

On Manyara Ranch, much of the land in neighbouring communities has been degraded severely due to their cattle coming onto the property to graze. The policing of this activity has been difficult and largely ineffective. So we are also looking into new ways of dealing with this situation as well.

A mobile boma allows for the rotation of livestock between pastures. In this system, livestock eat woody overgrowth common to degraded grasslands, allowing for regeneration of the grasses once the livestock are moved to another field.

A mobile boma allows for the rotation of livestock between pastures. In this system, livestock eat woody overgrowth common to degraded grasslands, allowing for regeneration of the grasses once the livestock are moved to another field.

Bomas as a tool for community engagement and awareness-building  

Thanks to a grant recently provided by EcoAgriculture Partners, we were able to visit Ol Pejeta Ranch in Kenya and also develop a community cattle improvement scheme. We have purchased two mobile, predator proof bomas which have been erected close to the communities on highly degraded land. Fifty cows from the community have been chosen to spend a period of two months with some of the ranch high quality bulls. Through this process it is hoped that the majority of the cows will produce improved quality calves.

This project has allowed us to re-engage with the community in a much more positive way. It has given us the opportunity to discuss with them the issues of over grazing and use of predator proof bomas as well as improving the quality of their livestock.

It is also hoped that by using the mobile predator proof bomas with the community and their cattle, we can demonstrate to them the use of bomas for improving grazing and reducing incidents of livestock predation. If this looks positive then we would like to find a way to manufacture the mobile bomas locally and even try and subsidize them initially to get the community to start using them themselves.

Read more

Learn more about how the African Wildlife Foundation is using bomas in the Maassai Steppe.

From the blog, more on human-wildlife conflict: Felines in trouble, a Brazilian scenario

Alistair Pole is the Director of Land Conservation with the African Wildlife Foundation. Working on conservation across Africa, at the Manyara Ranch Pole oversees the development of a viable wildlife and livestock system that can provide tangible benefits to the neighboring communities. The photos were provided by the African Wildlife Foundation.
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  • Tom Franklin
    August 4, 2015 at 7:17am

    Thanks for the interesting article. Why not use portable electric fences and a solar charger ? I graze cattle in Ontario, Canada using rotational grazing in fixed paddocks but others use portable fencing. In a large area, run two long parallel fence wires. Have a third wire behind the cattle and a fourth in front. As the cattle eat, advance the third and fourth wires. When the length of the two long parallel wires is covered, reset them and continue moving the herd along.

    • Alistair Pole
      August 4, 2015 at 10:41am

      Hi Tom, the cattle here leave the bomas during the day and graze under the watchful eye of a herder or herders. the herders role is to take them to good grazing, ensure they get water and protect the cattle from predators. It is a much more free range system at the moment. They only enter the boma in the evening for protection against the lion, hyaena and leopards. The next challenge to implement on Manyara Ranch is an effective grazing system. Part of this will be to find a way to amalgamate the community cattle herds into single larger herds to have more efficient grazing which can assist in the over all rangeland management and not have consequences of erosion and over grazing. This is a challenge we are looking at now and hope to implement next year.