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Impact of soil erosion associated factors on available feed resources for free-ranging cattle at three altitude regions: Measurements and perceptions

Yisehak, K., Belay, D., Taye, T., Janssens, Geert P.J.
Journal of arid environments 2013 v.98 pp. 70-78
altitude, biomass, botanical composition, cattle, cattle production, farmers, forage, free range husbandry, grasses, grazing, herbaceous plants, pastures, rangelands, shrubs, soil erosion, trees, Ethiopia
The study was conducted to assess the status and trends of soil erosion and relate the perceptions of farmers on cattle productivity and botanical indicators to measured ecological conditions of rangelands in three altitude regions of southwest Ethiopia. A total of 342 farmers were interviewed. In addition, the ecological condition of rangelands was assessed. Severe soil erosion, ranked as the primary restriction to free-ranging livestock, occurred predominantly in the lower altitude region (LAR) (P < 0.05). More farmers in LAR witnessed an inadequacy of palatable plant biomass, grazable pasture as well as increased gully formation and expansion, which are strong indicators of soil erosion (P < 0.001). In addition to a decrease in grass cover and productivity of cattle, botanical composition, species richness and grazing capacity of herbaceous plants, less fodder trees and shrubs were observed (P < 0.05). There was a corresponding increase in the percentage of bare ground and soil erosion status along the degradation gradients (P < 0.05). The reported shift in botanical composition, and especially encroachment of invading plant species, can be attributed to soil erosion (P < 0.001). The results suggest that erosion is associated with reduced availability of feed resources and is related to altitude variation.