Ranching is a long existing agricultural practice that involves raising of livestock, which commonly includes grazing animals such as cattle and sheep, on designated land structures. Usually in many countries, a ranch would be an open space secured with a fence made from strong wood.
In some parts of South America, Mexico, New Zealand and Australia, ranching is an age-long and common method used by ranchers to raise livestock in the countryside.
In Nigeria, especially in the North where cattle rearing is more prominent, pastoralism is the common method used. There, land is open for pastures without any individual ownership and animals are allowed to graze without restrictions. This free movement of animals is of course beneficial in that it avails the animals continuous pasture to feed on.
However, pastoralism and the mobility of large animals can be detrimental to the environment as it causes extensive removal of vegetation. It causes soil compaction as a result of animals stomping on the topsoil and results in extensive loss of soil through erosion by wind and rain. Even more significant demerit of this unrestricted movement is the communality and intrusion of land by livestock herders. With communality, no livestock owner owns any piece of land as it belongs to a group of people. Meanwhile, herders lead their flocks to other land areas with vegetation even when these areas are out of their communal property.
Thus, as much as pastoralism makes vegetation available for livestock, its demerits make it a less recommendable method of rearing livestock. A good alternative method is ranching which secures land boundaries and encourages farmers to grow their own pasture.
Although this system has the disadvantage of movement restrictions, it is beneficial in that
it enhances land use by making use of marginal or range areas that cannot support any meaningful crop farming. It is a controlled system that enables the production of healthier animals and better products. With the quality of product from ranching, foreign exchange can be generated through the sale of livestock products.
Ranching facilitates creation of employment opportunities as it develops the livestock value chain. Animals reared in a ranch are also protected from predators and do not intrude other farmer’s properties. Hence, ranching is a highly recommended farming practice.
But, ranching also has its own demerits which is why it has not been a well applicable method of livestock production in Nigeria. A major flaw of the ranching system is that it is a cost intensive farming system which many cattle-herders are not willing to incur. It requires the construction of fences, grain stores, feedlots, and watering places.
Also some herdmen perceive ranching schemes to be an obstruction of freedom and as a forceful imposition by technicians and livestock assistants that are not exactly in the livestock business.
Moreso, ranching business which was suggested by the government of Nigeria in the previous year required building them near populated areas. These are areas that prevent livestock expansion, making it difficult for ranchers to increase breeder stock.
In recent times, in order to curb the Farmer-herder clashes that have resulted in loss of lives and properties in Nigeria, the government has continued to propose and set policies pertaining to offering herders designated land areas for their activities. However, for proper implementation of any form of movement control initiative for cattle herders, it is important that all the above stated demerits of both farming system be considered so as to facilitate effective production and satisfaction.