Ostriches show their price in harsh drought

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Whereas earnings from ostrich manufacturing have declined following the recent meat export ban attributable to the extremely pathogenic avian influenza outbreak, the birds stay a beneficial revenue contributor. Glenneis Kriel spoke to farmer Jolian du Preez, who survived the powerful instances and is now increasing his operation.

Ostriches prove their worth in harsh drought
The ostriches on Boetie Hutties are fed premixed feed throughout drought.
Photograph: Glenneis Kriel

When Klein Karoo farmer Jolian du Preez purchased his farm, Boetie Hutties, in 2017, his major goal was to farm greens, vegetable seed, ostriches and sheep.

At present, vegetable seed is his most profitable crop, whereas greens present a great money circulate booster by producing revenue over shorter time frames. The manufacturing of those commodities is restricted, nonetheless, by the provision of water and land, because the crops are rotated on 50ha beneath irrigation.

Because of this, diversifying into ostriches and sheep has made all of the distinction, as they utilise the 33ha of veld and land not beneath greens or vegetable seed manufacturing to spice up farm revenue.

“We ship the ostriches into the camps, then use the sheep to wash up what the ostriches have left behind,” says Du Preez.

Combined farmer Jolian du Preez is beneath contract to provide 600 ostriches a 12 months to Cape Karoo Worldwide.

The ostriches, specifically, had been invaluable through the drought, which had already began within the area earlier than he purchased the farm, however began affecting his operations considerably from 2019.

“Once I mentioned I needed to purchase a farm round right here, Amie Snyman, who’s now certainly one of my neighbours, went with me to have a look at some farms. Collectively, we determined that Boetie Hutties was the most effective purchase, because it has borehole water and receives water from the Olifants and Nels rivers.

“This means it nonetheless has [access to] slightly water, even throughout instances of drought,” he explains.

On the draw back, the farm, which is close to De Rust, is house to greater than 15 households, lots of whose members are retired or work on neighbouring farms.

“Having so many individuals who don’t work on the farm however dwell on it may well current social challenges. In an excellent world, on-farm housing must be reserved for individuals and their households who work on the farm.”

Settling in on the farm
Having a farming background, Du Preez knew the significance of getting a well-established market earlier than producing a crop. Even earlier than the farm was in his identify, he secured a contract to provide a school-feeding programme with greens similar to carrots, cabbage and butternuts.

A breakthrough got here in 2019, when he managed to signal a contract to provide Freshmark with inexperienced peppers. Sadly, the drought and COVID-19 put an finish to the deal.

“I finished supplying Freshmark after struggling enormous losses due to COVID- 19-related logistical challenges: the vehicles didn’t acquire or ship on time. As well as, availability of water decreased dramatically after that. However I hope to rekindle the settlement as soon as our water reserves have returned to regular,” he says.

In one other breakthrough, Du Preez secured a deal to provide vegetable seed to Klein Karoo Seed Manufacturing.

“They’ve actually gone out of their means to assist me succeed by offering manufacturing recommendation and help. Once I felt like giving up, their managing director, David Malan, instructed me they had been behind me and believed in me, which saved me motivated,” he says.

Sadly, his seed manufacturing needed to be restricted to 5ha of onion seed due to the drought, and this was downscaled even additional to a mere 1ha. As soon as the drought is totally damaged, nonetheless, he’ll be capable of produce onion and carrot seed on 8ha to 10ha.

To forestall a build-up of soil ailments, Du Preez rotates vegetable seed and lucerne, and avoids planting the identical crop on the identical land for no less than 4 years.

Together with most farmers within the area, he vegetation the SA Commonplace lucerne cultivar. He provides that though lucerne is pretty hardy, he needed to resow his lands a number of instances to keep up a great stand through the drought.

The drought additionally affected sheep manufacturing on Boetie Hutties. After shopping for the farm, Du Preez bought 60 ewes, and was pressured to cut back their quantity to 35 due to the dry situations.

“I needed to restrict the affect of the sheep on the veld. Our carrying capability is about 10 sheep/  ha beneath regular situations,” he explains.

The time had come for the ostriches to shine.

First batch of ostriches
Though ostriches don’t take as heavy a toll on veld as sheep do, they’re far more difficult to farm, says Du Preez. Happily, he knew what to anticipate from the beginning, having labored with the birds because the supervisor at Waaikraal, a neighborhood farm on the outskirts of Oudtshoorn.

He started in 2018, beginning small by shopping for and elevating 300 ostrich chicks on contract for an ostrich farmer within the area. The farmer provided him with feed, medication and recommendation.

Thereafter, he utilized for a allow to supply slaughter ostriches and obtained funding and 400 day-old chicks from the Western Cape Division of Agriculture (WC agriculture division) in 2020.

In 2021, Cape Karoo Worldwide provided him with 600 chicks, of which he saved half on the farm and despatched half to an outgrower in Beaufort West to unfold his geographical threat.

These embody climatic occasions in addition to the hazard of an avian influenza outbreak, which might trigger large-scale mortalities and end in a manufacturing unit being positioned beneath quarantine.

“I made a decision to make use of this grower as a result of he practises good stockmanship along with his sheep. The association is working properly, however he misplaced just a few ostriches when he left the farm to help in a locust eradication effort. To forestall this from taking place once more, I requested somebody from Beaufort West to investigate cross-check manufacturing each day, as I can solely get there a few times per week,” says Du Preez.

The grower returns the ostriches to Du Preez after they attain roughly 45kg every.

Additional breakthroughs
Du Preez’s contract with Cape Karoo Worldwide stipulates that he should provide 600 birds a 12 months. To realize this, he begins with between 800 and 1 000 chicks.

“You possibly can work on a lack of about 30%, as ostriches are extraordinarily delicate to environmental stressors. We suffered our largest losses throughout a freak hailstorm in October final 12 months,” he says.

He sells the ostriches as soon as they attain a weight of 90kg, normally at 12 to 14 months of age.

“You possibly can’t look forward to costs to enhance earlier than promoting the birds, as there’s no telling what the market will do. It’s finest to promote them as soon as they attain 90kg to stop additional feeding prices consuming into your income,” says Du Preez.

A lot analysis has been performed and manuals written to information ostrich producers. Du Preez says that though these give beneficial insights and recommendation, producers have to adapt the knowledge to their situations and circumstances.

“The South African Ostrich Enterprise Chamber and its veterinarian, Dr Adriaan Olivier, have been an enormous support in serving to to streamline manufacturing practices for my wants and once I attain a dead- finish. However it’s an ongoing course of; ostriches are likely to throw a curve ball as quickly as you suppose you have got issues beneath management.”

He provides that good stockmanship, consideration to element, persistence and a love for the animals are equally essential to success. They contain perception into animal behaviour and the talents to work and handle livestock animals in a stress-free means.

“Within the case of ostriches, a great stockman will recognize how susceptible the chicks are, and so investigate cross-check them frequently, even in a single day. When chicks huddle collectively, for instance, it’s an indication that they’re chilly, and it might result in bruising and mortalities. This must be prevented by elevating the temperature.”

An ostrich farmer additionally wants to begin out with good manufacturing materials, Du Preez stresses: this implies day-old chicks of excellent genetic lineage obtained between September and November. He buys his chicks from the Oudtshoorn Analysis Farm, which belongs to the WC agriculture division and is understood for its good ostrich genetics.

The one draw back with this provider is that the birds can be found solely in batches of 30 to 50, whereas he would have most well-liked to take batches of 100 or so birds at a time to simplify record-keeping and manufacturing administration.

Overcoming obstacles
The WC agriculture division has been supporting Du Preez by supplying him with infrastructure to take his enterprise to a business degree, in addition to funding to assist cowl the price of feed, seed, fertiliser and different inputs.

He says, nonetheless, that the wheels of presidency flip slowly, a actuality he learnt whereas working at Waaikraal, so it’s essential to order inputs no less than two months prematurely to make sure they arrive in time.

“Purposes should be duplicated and accepted greater than as soon as, which is comprehensible due to all of the corruption within the nation. The purple tape, sadly, causes a number of stress, particularly for farmers who’ve by no means handled authorities earlier than.”

Du Preez urges new farmers to construct up networks and attend info days so far as doable. He additionally advises towards working in isolation.

“Farmers assist each other […], however it is best to then additionally carry one thing to the desk. My neighbour, Billy Kleyn, as an illustration, has helped to rid our streams and land of obstructions. I, in flip, enable his dairy cattle to graze my lucerne land after it has been lower,” he says.

Together with this, the help of 1’s household is essential. “Farming is a tough life, requiring lengthy hours of labor and bringing a number of uncertainty, particularly throughout instances of drought.

“I additionally needed to money in my pension fund to purchase this farm. I wouldn’t have been capable of realise this dream if it hadn’t been for the help of my spouse Rosina, who works full-time as a nurse to assist preserve the farm operating,” he says.

E mail Jolian du Preez at [email protected].



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