If you are a hands-off farmer, then small stock rearing is not for you. Small stock farming requires double the hours you would put in large livestock such as cattle. They require constant care and tending. By their very nature, goats and sheep are livestock that flourish only with the constant attention of their breeder, lest making losses is what you are after.
Many cattle farmers - especially those who had been farming with the bovines traditionally since time immemorial - tend to look down on small stock farming, often dismissing gains from such farming as small change. Well, compared to cattle, goats and sheep profits are generally a fraction of what cattle would fetch. But hang on; this theory could be wrong. It all depends on the type of farming you do, some would argue.
Let’s admit it; farming with small livestock in communal areas is even harder. There are hardly any camps to control their grazing and browsing, leaving your animals open to the effects of nature. Predators are the small stock farmer’s worst nightmare. They lurk in the shadows and wait for the unsuspecting livestock to make their way into the open grazing fields before pouncing on them. Most common are the leopard, jackal and caracal.
Also, small stock are more prone to theft, especially in the communal farming settings where control and monitoring is often difficult due to the open grazing nature. Farmers are losing livestock daily to theft by unscrupulous individuals who fancy the chance of scoring a quick buck. The livestock is then sold below market value, a huge loss to the farmer concerned.
Despite these hardships, goats and sheep are worth keeping. Not only do they act as a remedy when you need emergency funds, but they also add splendour to your farming operation. Some farmers have gone on and made huge successes in their farming operations by only farming with small stock.
They have managed to pay off farms, put children through university and even save for retirement - all with money made from small stock farming. They have profited from small stock farming due to years of investment into it and constant monitoring - you too could if you apply the same formula.
Given Namibia’s arid climate and the consequential prolonged periods of drought, it would be wise to consider making the leap to small stock farming. They are less prone to drought conditions compared to cattle. Goats effectively utilise their ability to both graze and browse and usually live through the worst of droughts.
Small livestock have the advantage of lambing at least three times in two years. This is a great advantage, especially to emerging farmers who would want a few numbers behind their names before going the elite farming route.
So, if you are caught between choosing if you should go with large livestock or otherwise, do not be fast to dismiss small stock farming. Many farmers profiled in this supplement have made good money from small stock and they continue doing so.