Archive Article: 1998/04/17 - Farmers Weekly

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Archive Article: 1998/04/17

17 April 1998

AT MALTAHOHE, 150 miles (241km) south-west of Windhoek, Hans Breiting farms 30,000ha (74,000 acres) with a jackal-proof fence 60 miles (97km) long around it.

The farm is dedicated entirely to rearing Karakul sheep. Originally from Afghanistan, these hardy sheep are bred mainly for the pelts of their young stock. They are slaughtered at 1-2 days old to keep the hair as short as possible and to avoid the stress of milking on the ewes.

Following the drought years of 1990-1996, Mr Breiting has rebuilt his flock from a low of 1000 ewes to the current 1500. Ideally he would like 3000. The lambing rate is 80-100% and he employs five full-time staff to look after the sheep. In theory the average rainfall on his farm is 170mm/year (6.7in/year), however from 1990 to 1997 the annual figure only exceeded the 100mm (4in) mark twice.

Karakul pelts currently sell at £12.50 each, but prices in the recent past have been as low as £1.20. There are 60 different grades which are shipped to Copenhagen for a biennial market.

As well as jackals, baboons are a problem as they can kill young stock, make holes in fences and vandalise water installations. Both jackals and baboons have a reward of £4 a head.

Despite owning 30,000ha (74,000 acres) with no debt, during the drought years the only way he stayed in business was by providing flights in his light aircraft for visiting tourists.

Hans Breiting has a 60-mile jackal-proof fence to protect his sheep.

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Archive Article: 1998/04/17

17 April 1998

NEAR Dordabis John Powell runs a 7300ha (18,000-acre) game farm. Fifteen years ago the farm was devoted entirely to cattle, but he has gradually sold them off to concentrate on the game side. The last of the cattle went two years ago.

He currently has 2000 game animals, spanning 14 species from warthogs and springbok to giraffe and oryx. He works on the basis of one cow every 12ha (30 acres), measuring other animals on this stocking rate (ie one kudu = one cow, one giraffe = two cows). It is important to know the exact number of game on his land to ensure that there is no over-grazing.

There are no fields but the boundary fence is 2.1m (6ft 10in) high and kept in good condition, ensuring no animal can get out on to a neighbours land. By Namibian law, game is not owned by the purchaser but by the person on whose land it stands.

Over a year he has 40 to 50 hunters on his farm, each shooting an average of five head for trophy. Each species incurs a different charge – a giraffe is £850 and a springbok £85. Mr Powell also has arrangements for shooting on 50 commercial farms on the basis that the farmer gets a fee for each trophy shot and keeps all the meat.

There are 450 registered game farms in Namibia and a further two more are registered each month in anticipation of the influx of tourism, the fastest growing industry in Namibia.

John Powell sold off all his cattle and now stocks 14 species of game.

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Archive Article: 1998/04/17

17 April 1998

FURTHER south-east towards the town of Leonardville, Peter Maartins farms 10,800ha (27,000 acres) on which he rears 50 breeding cattle, 500 Karakul sheep, 2000 Dorper sheep (a cross between Dorset Long Horn and Persian sheep) and 300 goats. He also has 150 breeding ostriches which after 20 years of rearing he is beginning the process of winding down production.

Ostrich farming in Namibia is starting to decline due to lower prices for skins. At the moment a top quality skin is worth £190 but lower quality skins are worth half that. Payment for these skins can often be after six months, and poorer marketing than competitors in the US is contributing to the decline in prices. At the peak of demand top breeding birds could be worth £10,000 each, now a breeding pair is worth only £1000.

On this mixed livestock farm the rainfall is more constant and the farm less prone to drought, though at 200-250mm/year (8-10in/year) its hardly wet. He works on the basis of one sheep every 2ha or one cow every 12ha. Jackals are a problem, but good fencing and a reward of £6 a head has kept losses down to five to 10 young stock killed a year.

His biggest problem is the Prosopis tree, originally imported onto his farm because of the excellent shade it provides. A very aggressive plant, it has reached a density of 20,000 trees/ha (8000/acre) on some parts of the farm. Spraying is ineffective against this invader.

Peter Maartins is winding down his ostrich unit due to low prices.

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Archive Article: 1998/04/17

17 April 1998

NINETY-five miles (153km) to the south-east of Windhoek near the town of Dordabis, Johann Engels farms 7000ha (17,000 acres). Average rainfall is 250mm/year (10in/year), low enough to ensure that bush encroachment does not cause serious problems.

His herd of 79 breeding cows plus followers is supplemented by bringing in 107 weaners weighing 300kg each to finish off 10 months later on the grass which has grown after recent rainfall, together with whatever supplements may be needed. He is thus able to regulate his stocking rate according to the supply of grass.

This is a very important consideration as in 1995 only 50mm (2in) of rain fell on his farm and the evaporation rate is 3.4m/year (11.2ft/year). Like Arne Gressmann, Mr Engels is keen to encourage game on his farm which he enjoys seeing. Game creates little competition for grassland as it mainly browses off the bush and it has the added benefit of being another source of meat. Registered game farms sometimes come to shoot trophies on his land too.

Johann Engels encourages game on his 7000ha farm to the south-east of the capital Windhoek.

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Archive Article: 1998/04/17

17 April 1998

ARNE Gressmanns farm lies 320 miles (515km) to the north-east of the capital Windhoek, near the town of Grootfontein. He farms 10,000ha (25,000 acres) on which he has 278 cows. They calf from May to June and October to December.

His annual rainfall is relatively high at 500mm/year (20in/year), though he has known as little as 150mm (6in) of rain in one year. During the drought year of 1995 he avoided having to cut livestock numbers by buying another farm with higher rainfall. However, interest rates of up to 21% have forced him to resell this farm.

Wages for the eight staff, plus mineral and salt licks, account for 28% of his turnover. The finished beasts are sold at 24-30 months of age and he gets about £1/kg carcass weight. Calving rates are 85% on which he hopes to make some improvement.

Mr Gressmanns biggest headache is encroaching bush, which has thrived with the reduction in browsing game. It now covers so much of his land that his stocking rate has been reduced from 8ha a cow 40 years ago to the present rate of 15ha a cow. The returns from the land are so low that most methods of bush control are too expensive.

Arne Gressmanns biggest headache is steadily encroaching bush.

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