I have over the years observed how much advice, information, education and personal experience on farming lie out there. The volumes are just too much to handle for a starter farmer. One publication would be advising you to build a livestock kraal in a certain manner, while another would advise that keeping livestock in confines is not a great idea. So, how does a starter farmer pick out the most relevant and workable advice to with which to work?
The answer is simple: go with what works for you best. But hang on; how will you know what will work best? Allow me to expand on this. First things first: why are you into farming? Is it for the joy of always looking at your products in admiration every day you wake up on the farm? Is it perhaps rather the yearning in you to produce the best quality of whatever you are farming with? Or is it simply a means to an end?
You would need to answer the above questions truthfully, as such answers will form the basis of what type of farming you will go into, how you will handle its operations and most importantly what you get out of it.
Ok, enough theory. Let’s get practical. If you start farming for the purpose of supplementing your income, then it would most probably make sense that you choose a farming mode that generates high yields with minimum supervision. Simply put, you need to make sure that the farming type or mode you choose will contribute to your objectives of farming.
When you are a novice in any field, it is understandable that you would most probably be overwhelmed by the information that is available out there. Take your time to go through all information at your disposal. Never take anything for granted. And, as you go through such information, consider how practical such information would be in your setup.
I have met a few new farmers in my life who attempt to apply advice in journals and agriculture publications to the letter; even in cases where such scenarios are not practical. For instance, would you simply strive for maintaining pure breeds in your kraal as a start-up farmer? While this may sound like a good idea, it is just not practical.
Lest you have a lot of money to plough into a farming enterprise that is yet to bear fruits, the start-up farmers I grow up knowing would take on any breed at the start of their farming activities. Then, over time, they would introduce a good bull into the herd and slowly start improving the quality.
The reason this was done so was so that the farmer can generate income fast enough, through quantity, to eventually venture into improving quality. Ask around; you will hardly hear of anyone who went straight into stud livestock breeding without first becoming either communal or commercial farmer. It’s just the nature of the beast; you will spend a lot of money without returns and probably lose some if you attempt it any other way.
The point above simply demonstrates that while quality is important in livestock farming – which is what many journals would tell you – it may not be ideal to take that advice if you are a start-up farmer right away.
Many might argue against this by reasoning that it is not only expensive but also time consuming in the end to eventually turn your livestock into the top quality you need. But I beg to disagree with this notion. The bottom-line; don’t spend money you have not made yet. That is unless you are conducting your farming as ‘trophy farming’.
Simply put, sift through advice and look for what works best for you. In fact, take even the advice given in this column with a pinch of salt by adapting it to your situation.