Ostriches show their value in harsh drought

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Whereas earnings from ostrich manufacturing have declined following the recent meat export ban brought on by the extremely pathogenic avian influenza outbreak, the birds stay a invaluable revenue contributor. Glenneis Kriel spoke to farmer Jolian du Preez, who survived the robust 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 main goal was to farm greens, vegetable seed, ostriches and sheep.

Right this moment, vegetable seed is his most profitable crop, whereas greens present an excellent money move booster by producing revenue over shorter time frames. The manufacturing of those commodities is proscribed, nonetheless, by the supply of water and land, because the crops are rotated on 50ha below 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 below 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 below contract to produce 600 ostriches a yr to Cape Karoo Worldwide.

The ostriches, specifically, had been invaluable throughout 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 stated I wished 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 perfect purchase, because it has borehole water and receives water from the Olifants and Nels rivers.

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

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

“Having so many individuals who don’t work on the farm however reside on it may possibly current social challenges. In a super world, on-farm housing needs to be reserved for folks 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 title, he secured a contract to produce a school-feeding programme with greens reminiscent of carrots, cabbage and butternuts.

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

“I ended supplying Freshmark after struggling large losses due to COVID- 19-related logistical challenges: the vans 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 produce vegetable seed to Klein Karoo Seed Manufacturing.

“They’ve actually gone out of their manner to assist me succeed by offering manufacturing recommendation and assist. Once I felt like giving up, their managing director, David Malan, instructed me they had been behind me and believed in me, which stored 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 stop a build-up of soil ailments, Du Preez rotates vegetable seed and lucerne, and avoids planting the identical crop on the identical land for not less than 4 years.

Together with most farmers within the area, he crops the SA Customary lucerne cultivar. He provides that though lucerne is pretty hardy, he needed to resow his lands a number of instances to take care of an excellent stand throughout the drought.

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

“I needed to restrict the impression of the sheep on the veld. Our carrying capability is about 10 sheep/  ha below 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 tougher to farm, says Du Preez. Thankfully, he knew what to anticipate from the beginning, having labored with the birds because the supervisor at Waaikraal, a group 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 equipped him with feed, drugs 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 equipped him with 600 chicks, of which he stored half on the farm and despatched half to an outgrower in Beaufort West to unfold his geographical threat.

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

“I made a decision to make use of this grower as a result of he practises good stockmanship together with his sheep. The association is working nicely, however he misplaced just a few ostriches when he left the farm to help in a locust eradication effort. To stop this from taking place once more, I requested somebody from Beaufort West to check out manufacturing each day, as I can solely get there a few times every 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 yr. To attain this, he begins with between 800 and 1 000 chicks.

“You may 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 yr,” he says.

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

“You may’t anticipate 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 invaluable insights and recommendation, producers must 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 after I attain a dead- finish. But it surely’s an ongoing course of; ostriches are inclined to throw a curve ball as quickly as you assume you’ve issues below management.”

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

“Within the case of ostriches, an excellent stockman will admire how weak the chicks are, and so check out them recurrently, 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 needs to be prevented by elevating the temperature.”

An ostrich farmer additionally wants to start out out with good manufacturing materials, Du Preez stresses: this implies day-old chicks of fine 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 not less than two months upfront to make sure they arrive in time.

“Functions should be duplicated and accredited greater than as soon as, which is comprehensible due to all of the corruption within the nation. The purple tape, sadly, causes plenty 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’s best to then additionally convey 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, permit his dairy cattle to graze my lucerne land after it has been minimize,” he says.

Together with this, the assist of 1’s household is essential. “Farming is a tough life, requiring lengthy hours of labor and bringing plenty 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 in a position to realise this dream if it hadn’t been for the assist of my spouse Rosina, who works full-time as a nurse to assist maintain the farm operating,” he says.

Electronic mail Jolian du Preez at [email protected].



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