Nguni project goes from strength to strength

More than 144 upcoming livestock farmers at 47 sites across the North West have already begun transforming their activities into commercial Nguni cattle producing operations. Among them are 56 women and 25 youths. The Nguni is widely acknowledged as an outstanding beef breed for optimal production under harsh African conditions.

The Industrial Development Corporation, the department of agriculture and rural development and North-West University (NWU) launched the North West Nguni Cattle Development Project in 2007. Aimed at job creation and the transfer of skills, the project is overseen by a board of trustees comprising two representatives from each of the partners.

The board's vice chairman, Professor Sevid Mashego of NWU's Mafikeng Campus, said that candidates need fenced land with grazing, water and a carrying capacity of at least 60 cattle. In the case of leased land, the lease should be for a minimum of five years. Once a farmer has applied, a technical team and a local extension officer visit the applicant to inspect his land.

"Participants are not allowed to mix Nguni with other cattle. They may have a maximum of 15 other cattle, but they have to get rid of the bulls," he explained.

Each participating farmer or group of farmers receives a loan of a bull and 11 heifers. This is complemented by a grant of 12 heifers. The cattle have all been immunised against tuberculosis and heart water.

In addition, farmers receive a starter pack of medicines for calves. North-West University and the Taung and Potchefstroom colleges of agriculture provide basic training in veld and beef cattle management, as well as about diseases such as tuberculosis, brucellosis and heartwater. Farmers then have five years to grow their herds before returning a bull and 11 heifers to the project.

The project sites are visited regularly and a full-time project manager, Andrew Mathe of the department, as well as extension officers and a technical team support farmers. When calves are born, heifers are kept but steers marketed at 18 months through feedlots and abattoirs.

Farmers may use the money to reinvest in their cattle, for example, to buy feeds and licks. After two or three years, participants exchange bulls to prevent inbreeding. Before farmers are due to return the loan cattle, the project manager helps them identify animals that are suitable to be returned. In May this year, the very first recipients of cattle returned a herd of 84 cattle to the project. The animals were handed over to new beneficiaries on the same day.

Mashego said, "One of the strengths of the project is its solid support structure. Beneficiaries have the necessary skills to manage their herds, all sites are fully functional, livestock mortalities have been reduced and the calving percentage exceeds 85."

The trustees, who visit the farmers once every year, have the power to remove cattle if they're not looked after.

"Since 2007, warnings were issued to two farmers, but no cattle have been removed," he said.

This article was supplied and approved by the Mail & Guardian's advertisers. It forms part of a larger supplement.

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