Pic of the Week #13

One Element Performing Many Functions

Some of you may already have seen this Pic on our social media pages but I am sure you will agree it’s a great one and I thought to share a little bit about our introduction of cattle onto the Tikologo site. In November 2015 a wild veld fire raged through the Tara Rokpa Centre and Tikologo sites burning everything in its path. Fortunately people, buildings and most infrastructures were spared but we realised that something had to be done in order to prevent future runaway fires. True to permaculture principle we knew that any solution to the problem should be as creative as possible and ideally perform more than just the function of preventing fires. With a little consideration we decided to try and use cattle and their natural behaviour to reduce our fire risks. In 2016 we designed a moveable cattle tractor (some of you may be familiar with chicken tractors) which we would cycle through the landscape, basically a cell grazing system. As we moved the system the cattle would graze off the long grass and we would be left with a firebreak.

This system although proving very effective was incredibly labour intensive as our minimal funds and infrastructure meant that the temporary electric fences had to be moved twice a week and water had to be carried via tractor trailer to the cell daily. Although difficult and tiresome the concept had proven itself and even before finishing the firebreaks last season the cattle firebreak system 2.0 was being conceptualised.

That brings us to the above photo showing the cattle for our new and improved system arriving at Tikologo this past week. We have set up a friendly agreement with a neighbour who lends us cattle so that we are protected from fire and he benefits from some free grazing. The benefits don’t stop there. We now have a permanent electrified laneway which we have placed so that it serves as a permanent firebreak. The placement also overlaps with some new access ways on the farm so the cattle are simultaneously helping to establish and maintain these new pathways. The 3rd and most exciting benefit from this new system is actually the interaction that the cattle have on the fertility and health of the land. Through proper management these animals can really help to improve the fertility of a property and we look forward to reporting back on the developments of this system and its benefits in the future.

With all that said it has not been smooth sailing these past few days as inevitable vulnerabilities in the design slowly reveal themselves in this case leading to some cattle free ranging way beyond their free range…

And with that it is time to go and check whether they are still where we left them.

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