The age-old debate of quantity versus quality in farming rages on, with one side of farming preferring this, and the next side preferring the other mode. But that’s not what this column is about. Trust me, we have had more than enough share of this debate, akin to the chicken and egg scenario.
The central question I would rather have us deal with is this: since when has farming to increase the quantity of animals been a bad idea? When has it turned out to be old-fashioned and backward? There is surely something we are missing here, aren’t we?
Well, if you have been told otherwise, you have been misled, for there is absolutely a lot of money and satisfaction if farming for numbers. This is especially true for small-scale farmers, beginners and those who simply want to be able to have a cow or calf to sell every now and then.
Modern farmers with their fancy English and ‘by-the-book’ approach to livestock farming have unfortunately been sending the wrong signal about what farming actually is. To them, it is all about prestige in farming. Oh, how wrong they are!
Farming, although it does accord some form of prestige as one reaps the rewards of your hard daily toiling, was never about wanting to be seen in a certain light. Sadly, these perceptions have clouded many people’s judgement to such an extent that many do everything possible to achieve this unreal prestige.
Simple commercial farming, augmented by proper record-keeping, nutrition and general good upkeep of livestock continues to bear fruits for many established farmers in Namibia. Hence, stud farming isn’t the Alpha and Omega; there are many ways to castrate a rowdy bull!
Stud farming, where the emphasis is on the animal fulfilling the quality traits and standards of a certain breed, is undoubtedly a niche undertaking. And it pays well too, no questions asked! But to sell it as the better way of farming is wrong and misses the mark by a ‘hectare’!
Sadly, some who have heeded this advice now sit with a N$50 000 stud bull on communal land with limited grazing, and worst of all - the bull is expected to only service seven cows as that is all the farmer owns. Is this really a winning equation? I am not sure, but in my books such an equation is worse than Algebra, the slide rule or Pythagoras Theorem combined. It simply makes no sense.
The inverse of this scenario would have been a lower priced bull of say N$ 25 000, and to use the remaining half to add two or three heifers to the seven cows so that he grows his herd. This is especially true if the main focus of this farmer is to sell off calves at auctions when they mature, as he would get a higher calf turnover with more cows in his herd than the seven he currently owns - stud bull or not!
The bottom line here is that each farmer needs to do careful planning of his farming enterprise and truthfully tick the boxes that are relevant to him as a farmer, instead of going with the flow. If you find that you could get straight into stud farming without going the commercial route first, then plan properly on how you will achieve this feat. Don’t be fooled by the sweet allure of fortune you see in your daydreaming.
Farming requires a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get ahead. Therefore, a matured and responsible farmer would not just ‘go with the flow’ when it comes to critical decisions that would determine the success or failure of his farming enterprise.
That’s it for now. Let’s go to our kraals; those goats must be thirsty by now!