Lessons Learned On A Game Drive in South Africa 

Recently we went to a game reserve and Ian made some really great observations that I’d like to share with you all. This experience was wonderful. Ian and Pam took us to a private game reserve one weekend for lunch and a game drive. For Jessica and I this was our first game drive and we were super excited. We went to a place called Nambiti. They have The Big 5 there and many other African animals.

For the game drive you ride in a big Land Rover with 4-5 rows of bench seats which sit up pretty high. This makes for excellent game viewing. I was sitting behind Ian on the game drive and it was incredible to hear his comments on how the land was being managed. He also made some profound observations about some of the animals there which is what I’d like to share with you.

At one point we got incredibly close to an adult Elephant. The Elephant was ripping off the tips of the grasses and the seed heads as fast as he could! Why? This is where the largest amount of energy is stored in the plants (Hydrogen). Ian was commenting about this and the driver/host of the game drive was amazed at Ian’s observation. These guys/gals that take people on game drives are pretty knowledgeable about the wildlife and their habits etc. But, they were surprised by Ian’s depth of knowledge of grazing animals.

After the Elephant had a nice bite to eat, he decided to go have a drink of water. At this point the Elephant walked out of his way about 50 yards to go get a drink from a certain spot in the stream. This meant that the Elephant had to expend extra energy and come closer to us in order to a get a drink. Why would he do this? Well the Elephant took a drink from a pool of agitated water just below a small waterfall. You might be saying to yourself, “OK, so what’s the big deal?” It’s a big deal let me tell you! The Elephant chose to drink here because the water is more oxygenated. Oxygenated water kills these things known as Anaerobes. Anaerobes are basically small organisms that thrive in water when there is no Oxygen present. Hence the name Anaerobe which translates to “without oxygen” for the non-scientific people, myself included. So by drinking from the Oxygen rich water, the Elephant was avoiding the Anaerobes. This might not seem like a significant thing. However, Elephants are almost the size of a school bus. Can you imagine how much water they have in their bodies? Thousands of gallons. I’d say they are around 60% water. Water quality is more important than grass quality, given the fact that the animal’s body is comprised of such a high percentage of water. Have you thought about your water quality lately?

These observations can be applied to how we care for and treat our livestock. If wild animals are grazing the tips of grass plants when they have an unlimited selection of grass, brush and trees, don’t you think it makes sense to micmic them with our domesticated livestock? If these same wild grazers are going out of their way to drink oxygenated water, don’t you think we should be providing our livestock with clean, oxygen rich water? It’s amazing the things you can notice when you observe. Ian has changed the way I think and look at the world around me. He always tells me that people don’t observe their animals anymore. Were too busy. We are running off to do this and that around the farm or ranch. One of the most powerful and profitable things you can do is observe your animals. They are talking to you (No, not literally!) Will you listen?

Chris Stelzer

Chris Stelzer is a published Author, founder of Agricultural Insights and creator of many resources that help family farmers and ranchers grow their businesses. His flagship courses are the Grazing Mastery Program and The Farm Marketing Mastery Program. 

Chris Stelzer

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