Namibia: Understanding the Livestock-Environment Interaction

The goals of livestock companies are to increase and maintain production which, in turn, puts pressure on the animal’s physiological abilities to perform.

These aspects of performance include reproduction, health, feed conversion, and general adaptability, among others.

The productivity of a livestock farm depends on three factors: the environment, the animal and the management regime applied. When these factors are separated at any time, the production potential of the animal can be significantly compromised to some degree.

Additionally, the role of each of these factors in determining productivity is influenced by various attributes highlighted below.

THE ANIMAL

The production capacity of the animal is mainly influenced by its genetic constitution or, overall, by its type of breed.

There are different breeds of livestock with different structural and physiological capabilities, which in turn influence their performance in a given environment.

Different breeds of animals differ in their ability to adapt to the environment, feed conversion, and resistance to disease, among others.

Additionally, personal preferences and management abilities also influence the breed of choice. However, the main driver of performance is the genetic-environment interaction. For example, sheep breeds such as Damara and Dorper carry different genetic attributes related to adaptability or weight gain that can be used as measures of performance given production goals and environment.

THE ENVIRONMENT

The production environment has a significant influence on animal performance. This is mainly attributed to climatic conditions, such as temperature and rainfall, landscape or topographical features, such as mountains and plains, and finally, the availability or quality of resources such as fodder and water. water.

The animal’s performance and survival depend on its ability to resist or adapt to changes in environmental conditions. However, animals native to the environment perform well compared to non-natives.

Moreover, adaptability is both spatial and temporal. Due to genetic-environmental interaction, an animal can adapt or adjust to a new environment when exposed to it over time, as its genetics are influenced to express adaptive traits.

It is also common for the productive potential of non-native animals to be compromised or, in extreme cases, to succumb to harsh environmental conditions.

MANAGEMENT

A livestock management plan should be based on production goals and set targets. Thus, to achieve these objectives, specific activities must be carried out.

The management regime should aim to harmonize the interaction of the animal’s genetics with its environment to ensure that production objectives and targets are met.

This includes practices such as health maintenance, food and water supply and general animal welfare (shelter) to ensure the animal is functioning optimally.

The breeding objectives are also influenced by the market, which also leads to the introduction of animal breeds responding to specific market demands, which in turn exert pressure on the animal and the environment.

For example, the demand for heavier slaughter or carcass weights will require animal breeds with such characteristics (large breeds) which, in turn, will require intensive feeding to maintain their production potential.

The environment or grazing area is put under pressure to support heavy breeds versus lighter breeds, for example – Limousin versus Nguni cattle.

In conclusion, livestock selection is not an independent practice, but should be guided by production goals and targets, however, the final choice should not compromise the animal’s potential, environment and capabilities. management, but ensuring sustainable agricultural productivity.

* Erastus Ngaruka is Technical Advisor: Breeding and Rangeland at Agribank.

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