Moves to improve the quality and marketability of emerging and subsistence farmer livestock in the Eastern Cape is starting to take a different turn with the establishment of three feedlots in the Transkei with the Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency (ECRDA) having already injected R6,1 million in the roll out in the last year.
Three cooperatives made up of about 20 members each, have gone a step further and put in a further R250 000 of their own funds to buy a stake in each of the feedlots. The cooperatives aim to become commercial feedlot owners. The cooperatives are Lingomso Lamangundwane in Zigudu Village in Cofimvaba, Masichume in Ncora and Mqanduli Feedlot in Mqanduli. Members of the Lingomso Lamangundwane cooperative contributed R51,000 while the Masichume and Mqanduli cooperative members each contributed R100 000.
“Feedlot development is informed by the failure of straight livestock marketing where cattle presented for sale by emerging and subsistence farmers are in such a poor condition such that the animals are “half dead”. Before being fed at the feedlots most of the cattle for about R4,000 each, but after 75-day feeding period they sell for up to R13,000 depending on the breed. ECRDA funded the development of the feedlots starting from feeding kraals, feedlot equipment, feed, water supplies and the first capital toward labour remuneration to the value of R6,1 million.
“We are delighted that individual community members decided on their own that their contribution to the success of the feedlots would be a voluntary financial injection of between R3,000 to R5,000 per member to buy equity in a feedlot. This is significant as ECRDA only presented the feedlot concept to community and the agency asked for a commitment from them. The communities decided on financial commitments in order to demonstrate ownership and commitment to the feedlot project,” says ECRDA livestock specialist Mathemba Maphuma.
Maphuma says R2 million was spent at Zigudu, R900 000 at Ncora and a further R3,2 million at the Mqanduli Feedlot. In Mqanduli ECRDA bought feedlot equipment because a process to secure a site is underway for building kraals and for feeding of animals.
Each feedlot has received a tractor, hummer mill and a feed mixer. In Ncora and Zigudu ECRDA also implemented water reticulation, bought feed, tractor trailers and fenced around the feeding kraals. In Ncora the agency also bought haymaking equipment and a fine seed planter. Cooperative members also benefitted from exposure trips to a commercial feedlot in Kei Bridge which is owned by Thompson Farming to see how it works.
“We want cooperatives to own the cattle they are feeding there. Currently, they are inviting subsistence farmers to feed their cattle at the feedlot for 75 days after which they would be sold because they would have reached marketable conditions. Farmers then pay over to the feedlots the costs of feeding after their cattle are sold. For three years ECRDA will provide the budget to the feedlots. After this period, the agency will only provide monitoring support,” says Maphuma.
At Zigudu and Ncora the cooperatives intend to apply for loans to buy their own cattle to be fed on the feedlots so that they sell them for their own account. In Mqanduli a kraal is being at Ngqwarha and the agency has advertised for water reticulation and a storage shed.
Currently the cooperatives are relying on commercial feed which is very expensive for feeding the animals in the feedlots.
“As a result we have a developed a strategy of producing some of the ingredients locally to minimise the feeding costs. At Zigudu we are putting up irrigation on 15 hectares that will produce lucerne and grain that will be used as ingredients for the feed. At Ncora we have assisted the cooperative to plant grass that they are baling already which will be used as an ingredient in the mixing of their own feed. The intention is to cut feeding costs by half. In the process, we are hoping by year three to start making a profit,” Maphuma adds.