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A 2011 survey of Namibian cattle farmers showed the majority kept their calves in the bush with their grazing mothers, although the majority also believed kraaled calves were safer from predation. Perhaps this is partly due to fear that the kraaled calves do not gain as much weight as calves in the bush due to less access to milk and grass, and are therefore, less valuable to the farmer. Another study may disprove this theory.

carrying calves to safetycow

In December 2008 – January 2009, 121 calves were born on a Namibian farm in the Waterberg Conservancy. 68 were sent to a camp about 6 kilometers from the farm house and 53 stayed in the kraal located near the house. The bush calves were allowed access to grazing and their mother’s milk each day with limited human supervision. The kraaled calves did not graze, only given access to their mothers once a day and were frequently observed by humans. At four intervals (January, March, April, and May) both groups of calves were weighed to determine current weight and rate of weight gain. After the second weighing the kraal calves were given daily access to grass as is standard procedure at their age. After the third weighing, both groups were put together in the bush, accompanying their mothers.


The kraal calves at the original weighing in January were slightly heavier (see Table),due to the fact that they were born about 2 weeks earlier. At the March weighing, the bush calves had doubled their average weight and surpassed the kraal calves by 9 kilograms on average, gaining 2 kilograms more than the kraal calves each week. By the third weighing in April, the two groups were close with the bush calves still having an almost 3 kilogram lead. The weight gain per week of the kraal calves had stayed the same despite their access to grass for the past month while the bush calves significantly decreased in weight gain per week. At the fourth weighing, all the calves had been grazing with their mothers since the last weighing and the weights were almost equal. The kraal calves gained a narrow lead by fractions of a kilogram and averaged more weight gain per week.


14/1/2009 63.9 54.5
18/3/2009 100.1 (+4 kg / wk) 109.3 (+6.1 kg / wk)
9/4/2009 115.7 (+3.9 kg / wk) 118.2 (+2.2 kg / wk)*
8/5/2009 137.1 (+5.4 kg / wk) 136.8 (+4.7 kg / wk)

The average weight of each group of calves is shown plus the gain per week. The bold font in the last row signifies that both groups had been in the bush since last weighing.
*NOTE: The drop in kg/wk gained in the April weighing of the bush calves may be due to the fact that they were kept in the kraal overnight before weighing without access to grass.


Conclusion The two groups of calves were so close in weight that it gives no credit to giving calves early access to grass and exposing them to increased danger of predation. The extra weight gained early on seems to be weight they would gain anyway when given access to grazing later.

Survey and Research by Shelly Rothman


calf carcass dragging caracass enticing lions calf carcass
AfriCat - Ministry of Environment & Tourism a joint effort at HWC Mitigation - Calf carcass tied to AfriCat's CCCP vehicle. AfriCat dragging carcass to Etosha National Park fence. Carcass dragged into ENP, enticing lions off neighbouring farm.
kraal building upgrading a community kraal kraal building lion tracks lion with animal carcass 500px
AfriCat upgrading a community kraal. Lion tracks. Loss of stock.
kraal building marienhoehe community kraal kraal building stronger kraals kraal building methos herdsmen reinstated
Marienhoehe Community Kraal Stronger kraals that are predator proof are vital. Herdsmen reinstated.



Shelly Rothman


Human/wildlife conflict is an ancient, worldwide issue. While learning about it for my BSc degree in conservation biology in 2007, I met a Namibian cattle farmer. What the university taught me about predators and what he taught me about living with the predators were on very different sides of the spectrum. In 2009, I had the opportunity to travel to Namibia to do research to find a middle ground; a way for the cattle farmer and the predators to live together. This year, I surveyed Namibian livestock farmers, as well as government and non-government wildlife organisations in order to gather information from the rest of the country.

The research

The 11,000 hectare farm on which the original research was conducted is located in the Waterberg Conservancy and was experiencing regular and severe calf predations to leopard and cheetah. The mission of the research was to find a method of non-lethal predator deterrence. Guard animals, specifically donkeys, were highly lauded as such a method for cattle herds.

At that time, I split the farm’s winter herd of calves in half for their first three months; one half remained in the kraal, receiving only their mothers’ milk once a day, the other went into the bush with their mothers allowing them regular access to milk and grass. The herd in the bush received a group of female donkeys with their offspring. Weight measurements of each calf herd were taken in January, March, April and May.

The expectation was that the herd in the bush would be more economically beneficial as they would put on more weight faster. The weight measurements showed this was true, however, upon releasing the kraaled calves into the bush after three months they quickly caught up in weight. The losses to the two groups were nearly equal concluding that donkeys were not economically viable as guard animals since they did not earn their food and water which could have instead been used for cattle.


Acknowledgements I would very much like to thank all of the farmers who took the time to share their views as well as The AfriCat Foundation, Cheetah Conservation Botswana, Cheetah Conservation Fund, Harnas Wildlife Foundation, and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. Also, a big thanks to Boas Mponjo, Kaiporo Kandjii, Annatjie du Preez, and Dr. Paul Zedler.


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