Mixed Farming Unlocks Rented Farm's Full Production Potential
Farmer's Weekly|December 04, 2020
Cash crop production is allowing Western Cape farmer André Cloete to add value to livestock production and mitigate fruit production risk on the farm he leases near Greyton. He spoke to Glenneis Kriel about his livestock and cash crop enterprises.
André Cloete

André Cloete has over the years distinguished himself as one of the first small-scale apple and pear growers to have reached commercial success. Moreover, he has achieved this on land rented from government under the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy.

While Cloete had little livestock farming experience when he started leasing Klein Ezeljacht near Greyton in the Western Cape in 2008, he decided to keep the 640 Mutton Merino sheep that came with the farm to boost his income and add value to land unsuited to apple and pear production.

“Animal production was included in the subjects I did for my agricultural diploma at Kromme Rhee Training Institute in the late 1980s. Before then and thereafter, however, most of my farming was focused on fruit production and irrigation,” recalls Cloete.

Fortunately for him, he crossed paths with a number of companies, such as Novartis and Virbac (animal health) and BKB (production and marketing), that went out of their way to help fill the gaps in his knowledge and experience.

“BKB made a huge contribution to my flock improvement by helping with the selection of animals. They also took charge of the shearing process and the marketing of wool and meat, which was a great help, because I simply couldn’t do everything on my own while also farming fruit,” he says.

The sheep, which have since increased in number to about 1 000, are shorn twice annually.

“I used to shear once a year in August, but last year decided to also shear in February to improve fly management,” says Cloete.

The wool has an average fibre diameter of 20 microns, with the length being generally good but varying from year to year depending on production conditions. He stockpiles the wool that is shorn in February until August, which helps reduce transport costs and gives him more wool to sort from.

GRAIN PRODUCTION

“Grain and livestock production go handin-hand in the Southern Cape,” he says.

Cloete initially asked one of his neighbours to help him out with sowing his grain, as most of his time was devoted to establishing and restoring the fruit orchards. The farm had 20ha of apple and pear orchards when he acquired it, and the area under production has since been expanded by 32ha.

“I had to do something on the 280ha available for crop production, as Nature Conservation prohibits planting on land that has not been worked for 10 years. Land that hasn’t been planted also becomes overgrown with grass weeds, such as bristle grass (steekgras), which contaminates wool, leading to quality downgrades, with a major impact on earnings,” he explains.

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