AN Abuja lawyer, Mr. Felix Isimepken Okonti, has recommended the use of feedlot as a way out of disputes between farmers and herdsmen. He said feedlots would boost the country’s meat export capacity. In a chat with the Nigerian Bar Newsletter, Okonti said having feed lots would end open grazing. “As a lawyer, a rancher and feedlot operator, it behoves on me to lend my professional voice to the ongoing controversies about open grazing, grazing reserve, grazing routes, cattle ranching, and feedlot. “In the first place, open range is a land where livestock roam freely regardless of land ownership.
These tallies with the Fulani cultural belief that land is a free gift of nature or from God, just like sun, moon, air and water in lakes and rivers, which no man is free to lay hold on as to claim ownership. “This brings in the concept of clash of cultures as the Fulani world view of land is at variance with many sedentary crop farming communities and cultures where there is legally speaking regard to land ownership as a private property with rights to defend against its encroachment or criminal trespass.
“The clash of cultures of the Normadic Herdsmen and Sedentary Framers must be resolved through a well thought out strategy of development of management system that will create a buffer that will sustain the delicate balance in the ecosystem that supports both cultures,” he said.
According to him, open range or free grazing of animals may be both uneconomic, a nuisance, dangerous and a health hazard and may not be sustainable in Nigeria in the long run.
“Although this position is held against the temptation to resist being dragged into the ongoing debate on the clashes and crisis between the Normadic herders and sedentary farmers, of which a lot is being said.
“In Nigeria, combination of factors, such as global warming, receding Lake Chad, desert encroachment, population pressures on land, deforestation and poor water management have conspired to trigger up crisis of monumental proportion across all geopolitical and ecological zones.
“The major cause of it all is the leadership failures over decades that have accounted for failure for the development of management of Animal Agriculture which has lagged far behind the growth of human population.
“This is further compounded by the crises thrown up that are somewhat cultural, political, economic and ecological in nature.
“The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) 2016 statistics states that Nigeria has 20.6 million cattle herds and is ranked 14t globally against Brazil, ranked first, with 218 million herds and Ethiopia with 59.5 million herds (ranked first in Africa), South Africa 13.4 million and Botswana with just over two million, ”Okonti said.
According to him, while South Africa and Botswana are able to export cattle and beef products internationally, Nigeria cannot due to poor animal agricultural practices. This, he said, is mainly associated with the continued preponderance of open grazing of live stock across the land.
“This comes with animal health issues, as well as issues of acceptable international best breeding and grazing best practices, animal ration and feeding which go to affect their taste and structure of the meat.
“The toughness of our meat from cattle bred from open grazing will not make it acceptable to health conscious overseas markets as our cattle lack Identification and Tracing which are crucial for international market accept ability. “The practice of open grazing of cattle has been found to be no longer acceptable both from economic, environmental, health and social coherence points of view.
This has made a lot of practitioners, experts and policy makers to canvass for Ranching as a way of keeping cattle restricted to demarcate fenced land reserves to avoid the overrun of farmlands with the attendant conflicts such destructions will result to with crops farmers and other farming communities.
“My take is to canvass the adoption of the practice of feedlot over ranching as a way of attaining economic advancement through animal agriculture, environmental management, good animal health that translates to human health, national peace and food security,” Okonti said.
The lawyer said feedlot was first used in 1889 and has become a common and successful animal agriculture practice in Canada, South Africa and Ethiopia. ‘’A Feedlot is a parcel of land or yard on which livestock are intensively stocked, confined and some scientifically-planned rations and feeds are administered to the cattle or hogs for the market. “Feedlot can range in size from few plots of land to tens and hundreds of hectares of land against ranches which cover expansive land, requiring hundreds to thousands of hectares “In ranching, free range livestock is permitted. A ranch is a large parcel of land with assortment of structures used primarily for the raising of grazing livestock mainly cattle, goat and sheep.