'Nature's method of grazing': Non-Selective Grazing (NSG) as means of veld reclamation in South Africa

Journal Article


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title

South African Journal of Botany

Journal ISSN
Volume Title

University of Cape Town

Acocks was concerned with the past, present and future state of South Africa’s vegetation and in the 1960’s, together with several farmers in the eastern Karoo, developed a grazing system which he thought would restore the vegetation to its former pristine condition. Acocks felt that the grazing systems advocated by the Department of Agriculture at the time were partly responsible for the degraded vegetation of the region as these systems encouraged livestock to graze selectively, thereby overgrazing the more palatable species in the vegetation. He felt that by forcing animals to graze all species non-selectively, the more palatable elements would be able to out-compete the less palatable species and dominate the vegetation as he believed they once did in pre-colonial times. Acocks found theoretical support for his argument which also relied on relatively long rest periods between grazing events and suggested that this non-selective grazing system simulated the way in which the pre-colonial ungulate herds utilised the vegetation. Although Acocks never conducted the key experiments needed to test his ideas, his approach was supported by several farmers in the eastern Karoo who conducted trials on their farms to test the principles of the method. The approach advocated by Acocks, however, was in direct contrast to that proposed by the Department of Agriculture who were concerned about the comparatively high stocking rates advocated under Acocks’ Non-Selective Grazing (NSG) system. Their own experiment on NSG found that it reduced plant cover and increased erosion and they believed that it would lead to further widespread degradation if implemented. Although Acocks was employed by the Department of Agriculture as a Botanical Survey Officer he was not a Pasture Research Officer and it was this latter group of employees who had the responsibility of researching and advocating appropriate grazing systems for South Africa’s rangelands. Acocks was, therefore, instructed not to promote NSG in his official capacity. Despite this, Acocks’ writing in the last ten years of his life is infused with the ideas of NSG which continue to influence the development of range management systems to the present.