Demarcation of potentially mineral-deficient areas in Central and Northern Namibia by means of natural classification systems

15 Aug 2013

Mineral deficiencies that lead to production losses often occur concurrently with climatic and management changes. To diagnose these deficiencies in time to prevent production losses, long-term monitoring of mineral status is advisable. Different classification systems were examined to determine whether areas of possible mineral deficiencies could be identified, so that those which were promising could then be selected for further monitoring purposes. The classification systems addressed differences in soil, vegetation and geology, and were used to define the cattle-ranching areas in the central and northern districts of Namibia. Copper (Cu), iron (Fe), zinc (Zn), manganese (Mn) and cobalt (Co) concentrations were determined in cattle livers collected at abattoirs. Pooled faecal grab samples and milk samples were collected by farmers, and used to determine phosphorus (P) and calcium (Ca), and iodine (I) status, respectively. Areas of low P concentrations could be identified by all classification systems. The lowest P concentrations were recorded in samples from the Kalahari-sand area, whereas faecal samples collected from cattle on farms in the more arid areas, where the harder soils are mostly found, rarely showed low P concentrations. In the north of the country, low iodine levels were found in milk samples collected from cows grazing on farms in the northern Kalahari broad-leaved woodland. Areas supporting animals with marginal Cu status, could be effectively identified by the detailed soil-classification system of irrigation potential. Copper concentrations were lowest in areas of arid soils, but no indication of Co, Fe, Zn, or Mn deficiencies were found . For most minerals, the geological classification was the best single indicator of areas of lower concentrations. Significant monthly variation for all minerals could also be detected within the classification system . It is concluded that specific classification systems can be useful as indicators of areas with lower mineral concentrations or possible deficiencies.