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.