Post Office strike causes delivery delays

The strike at the South African Post Office and the backlog in parcel and other postal item deliveries is causing delays in the delivery of items ordered from Boer Goats SA.

Reports of delays of up to six weeks in the delivery of books, DVDs and other items ordered have been received. Boer Goats SA apologises for this delay but it is unfortunately out of our control. We are more than happy to courier items to customers if they prefer. This would incur an additional cost that will be quoted on request. This would be an interim measure until normal postal services are restored.

Customers can track their parcel by visiting the official SA Post Office website (http://sms.postoffice.co.za/TrackingParcels/) or by visiting this website: http://www.trackmyparcel.co.za/. Enter the tracking number emailed to you by Boer Goats SA and the location and status of your parcel will be displayed.

Livestock prices drop as supply increases

Livestock prices on local markets are dropping sharply as volumes of slaughter animals climb in the face of the drought afflicting the central and western parts of South Africa. Neighbouring southern African countries are also facing a bleak winter as rainfall has been significantly below average.

With quality and quantity of pasture very low as the sub-continent goes into winter, producers have been forced to sell off excess stock before their condition drops and prices drop even further. Feedlots are reporting slow sales into the retail markets as a slowing economy squeezes consumers and volumes drop. Crop losses in the major cropping areas of the country have also forced maize prices higher, catching especially intensive producers in a pincer.

Farmers are advised to sell off older and lower producing animals while their condition is still good to maximise the return on forced sales. A core of prime productive animals should be retained to ensure rapid flock growth when the rain returns in the new season. Licks specifically formulated for drought conditions should be made available to animals in good time to reduce weight and condition losses on animals. Many farmers are preparing for their breeding season for spring kidding now and especially these animals should be receiving the best quality feed available on the farm. This will ensure strong healthy kids and maximise the kidding yield.

New Boer Goats SA website now online

The Boer Goats SA website has undergone a total redesign and upgrade and was taken online on 12 March. The new site has some significant improvements that will enrich the visitor experience. The improvements are aimed at making information access on the website easier and more intuitive, while also expanding the Boer Goat information available.

One of the major drivers behind the complete redesign of the site is to allow 2-way communication, especially when it comes to visitors obtaining advice and information related to Boer Goats in general and to management in particular. In this regard, the Forum should prove invaluable to visitors as information will be readily available with a few keystrokes. The old e-mail based system did not provide the turn-around times visitors want and the administrative load had become too great due to the significant growth in visitor numbers.

Ordering of products and services as well as registrations for training courses can now all be done on-line with a streamlined EFT payment process. A number of the products will also be available for on-line download.

Another exciting development that will be implemented later in the year is an on-line training course that can be downloaded in modules. This development has been driven by demand from countries outside of Southern Africa where the cost for students to attend live training courses is often high due to air travel expenses.

The changes include:

  • A News page will allow readers to comment on articles placed.
  • The Forum will greatly expand the information available and allow user interaction with much shorter turn around times.
  • Products and services will be more easily available via the E-commerce page that will also allow EFT payments.
    The products available will be expanded and certain products will be available for on-line downloads once payment has been received.
  • Adverts can be placed directly on the Classifieds page by users after registering.
  • Registration for Training Courses is now even easier with an on-line booking system.

Drought causing concern

Drought conditions in the central and western parts of South Africa will have a negative impact on livestock and crop farmers this year. It is becoming more likely by the day that maize crops in large areas will be significantly lower than long term averages. A number of farmers are facing total crop losses as rain stays away and the season draws to a close.

Veld grazing is in a poor condition with some stock farmers already having used their winter grazing reserves in many districts of the summer rainfall area. With winter approaching, the price of maize – a key component in livestock feeds and licks – has risen significantly with further increases likely. The cost of roughage such as lucerne (alfalfa) is also rising as farmers buy in stocks for the winter months.

The fact that many livestock farmers are selling off breeding stock to reduce pressure on scarce grazing, has depressed livestock prices, resulting in a financial pincer of rising input costs and depressed livestock prices. These depressed producer prices have not been passed on to the consumer at retail level. It remains to be seen if the consumer will see the benefit of lower producer prices.

The challenging farming conditions come at a time of record fuel prices in South Africa, officially attributed to rising crude oil prices worldwide as well as a weakening Rand. The ANC government has recently announced even more taxes and levies on the fuel price, a major element contributing to fuel prices higher than South Africa’s neighbouring countries who buy the bulk of their fuel from South Africa.

Combined with irresponsibly high energy costs forced on consumers by an ailing Eskom (the para-statal electricity corporation) irrigation farmers are being especially hard hit, with marginal producers switching to cheaper alternatives. These higher costs and reduced production are contributing to increasing commodity prices on a number of levels.

Farmers in the summer rainfall areas of South Africa have a long haul ahead of them before the start of the 2013/’14 rain season in around October/November this year.

More producers moving to naturally raised Boergoats

An increasing number of commercial producers are becoming disillusioned with the poor performance delivered by expensive breeding stock sold on high profile auctions. The majority of these Boergoats are raised under high-cost paddock-feeding conditions common among stud breeders today. Buyers complain that these animals cannot perform nor maintain condition under natural extensive farming systems.

Following an earlier article on this website, a number of commercial producers have contacted Boergoats SA to voice their concern over the seemingly lack of commitment by many stud breeders to the core values of the Boergoat breed. These values include the ability to maintain condition and prolifically reproduce under extensive conditions with minimum inputs. While the size and weight of animals offered on auctions continues to increase each year, performance according to the values detailed above, has significantly declined recently.

As an example of how skewed the situation has become, talk in the industry is that a certain breeder spent R500 000 on feed to prepare his show animals for the 2010 World Championship. Certainly animals prepared in this manner appear impressive but performance figures would surely be lacking. What is also noticeable is that catalogues on many club auctions contain very little information about the animals on sale. Essential information such as birth and weaning weights, parentage and other figures on which an informed buying decision can be based, are lacking.

Increasing production cost pressure will be the main driver of a return to common sense. Commercial producers will continue to demand a return on their significant investment in breeding animals. This will only be achieved if these animals can produce at an optimum level with minimum inputs under extensive conditions.

Growing concern over SA breeding direction

There is growing concern about the direction Boergoat breeding is taking in South Africa. Driven by overly exuberent prices obtained on local auctions, and the urge to continuously improve thereon, breeders are increasingly resorting to feeding full rations to their Boergoats from a young age already. By following this feedlot-like route, animals reach significant size and weight in a short period of time, often at the expense of the economically important traits for which the Boergoat has become greatly in demand around the world.

While a healthy market for good breeding stock is good for the industry and indicates confidence in the future of the small stock sector, a situation is developing where record-breaking prices obtained on auctions are the rule rather than the exception. At a recent auction the average price of does was around R15000 (US$1936) while the record price obtained for a doe was reportedly R45000 (US$5800). This is true of the livestock and game ranching industry in general in South Africa at the moment — in 2011 a buffalo bull on auction was sold for R18 million (US$2,32 million). There are a few driving factors behind this.

Government funding of emerging farmers and agricultural syndicates is an important element. Bidding with government money behind you normally doesn’t require much restraint nor knowledge of the product being bought. The increasing involvement of businessmen with capital from outside the agricultural industry and not primarily reliant on income generated from their farming activities is another driver. This is causing the development of — to use a commonly used term — a bubble, that is, in the opinion of many long-time producers, economically unsustainable in the medium to long term.

Certainly, some of the economically important factors of the Boergoat such as hardiness and adaptability, are being sacrificed to this new trend. This is a dangerous route to follow, given that the Boergoat has been selected for precisely these factors.

A growing number of established stockmen with a long animal husbandry history and significant breeding achievements are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the performance of supposedly top animals bought on auctions. They cite rapid loss of condition under natural grazing conditions, lack of libido, low fertility, inability to produce on natural veld grazing without significant feeding and poor functionality as some of their main concerns. The longer term issue for the industry in general will be the proliferation of inferior genetics at the expense of hardiness and adaptability. Particularly producers in the more extensive regions of South Africa as well as in Botswana and Namibia are concerned.

This is good news for producers of veld-raised animals, a model characterised by low input costs, significant natural disease resistance and only strategic nutritional supplementation as opposed to full feed rations. Interest in veld-ram projects is increasing and more potential buyers are seeking production data from producers before buying.

Boergoat producers should be jealously guarding and improving this truly indigenous breed, remaining true to its heritage of being able to profitably produce on minimum inputs under extensive conditions.

UPDATE
The previous record price for a buffalo bull was broken on 14 April when Chris Troskie, son of a South African film-maker, paid R20 million ( about US$2,4 million) for a buffalo bull at a game auction near Rustenburg, South Africa. Troskie narrowly outbid Cyril Ramaphosa, an exceedingly rich ANC businessman who obtained his fortunes thanks to crony capitalism and the ANC’s Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) laws. Neither of the above are farmers.