Small Stock Farming: The Imperatives

Nichlas Mbingeneeko

The previous article focused on how farmers and breeders need to take care of and look after stud rams. This article will focus on the marketing of commercial goats. As a matter of fact, quality is a primary pivot on which the success and profitability of small stock farming hinge. Genotype and phenotype underpin quality. Any goat that a farmer markets must be appealing in terms of genotype and phenotype in order to attract the attention of the buyer and consequently tilt the scale in favour of the seller. In tilting the scale in favour of the seller, the weight or size of livestock is paramount.

In order to understand the demand and supply economics of goats, the farmer must first and foremost understand the large groups that purchase goats. The main purchasers of goats are ethnic groups. In the areas south of the veterinary cordon fence in Namibia, it is worth knowing that goats are primarily marketed on hoof to the lucrative market of South Africa. Goats are mainly utilized for the live market in South Africa. The majority of live goats goes to the informal market, predominantly Kwazulu-Natal, mainly for traditional and religious ceremonies. Surprisingly, the Kwazulu-Natal market does not necessarily want bigger goats, but the goats must be as white as possible. Since the entire goat is eaten after slaughtering, a smaller animal is always preferred. By so doing, nothing goes to waste.

Since the goat for the market of Kwazulu-Natal must be as white as possible, it goes without saying that the Boer Goat and the Savannah goat fit that market segment the best. It is, therefore, not recommended that a farmer farms with the Kalahari Reds if his/her target market is Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa. It is an inescapable reality that the Kalahari Reds generally fetch lower prices than the Boer Goats at commercial auctions south of the veterinary cordon fence in Namibia.

The farmer needs to study the market performance at all times and only sell his or her livestock when the prices are high. Ordinarily, in Namibia live goats fetch better prices at auctions during the months of June, July and August as well as October, November and December every year. The farmer is advised to sell goats that are in a condition that is aesthetically appealing to the buyers in respect of phenotype and level of fatness. Generally, auctions pay poor prices for lean livestock. The farmer is further urged to sell livestock preferably between the age of five months and two years, i.e. grade A & AB. The live weight of auction livestock must be ideally > 33 kg. Also, the farmer needs to sell livestock in bulk, but not one by one.

In small stock farming, everything needs to start with the end in mind. The farmer needs to adopt a strategic approach to marketing. A strategic approach to marketing is informed by a strategic approach to mating and kidding. In view of the aforesaid, the farmer needs to release the rams into the ewes during the months of August and September first, and again during the months of December and January. By so doing, the farmer will be in a position to sell in the middle of the year and again at the end of the year. Consequently, the farmer will spread the risk and thus not put all his or her eggs in one basket. However, the goats that were mounted during the months of December and January will give birth during the months of May and June when the grazing starts getting dry. Generally, the month of July is extremely cold and results in lots of fatalities during kidding. Therefore, farmers are advised to withhold rams from ewes during the month of February every year.

Regrettably, market access restrictions of livestock north of the veterinary cordon fence in Namibia suppress livestock marketing tremendously in the northern communal areas. The next article will focus on mitigating the effects of the drought.

Nichlas Mbingeneeko is a renowned small stock farmer and a stud breeder of repute. His stud known as Skuilhoek Stud (in Aranos district, Hardap Region) consists of the Boer Goat, Damara Sheep and the Veldmaster Sheep. If you subscribe to genetic superiority, make Skuilhoek Stud your supplier of choice. His next production auction will be on 13 June 2024 @ 18h00, in Windhoek, Agra/Bank Windhoek Ring, Namibia, onsite & online auction. Nichlas Mbingeneeko wrote this article in his personal capacity.

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