The Sernick Group held its second farmer’s day on the 1st of May 2018 at their Liebenbergstroom farm just outside of Edenville in the Free State. The day was attended by farmers from as far as the Eastern Cape and Namibia and also streamed live via Facebook for those who were not able to attend the day in person.
The theme for this year’s farmer’s day was “Setting New Benchmarks” and topics discussed included the much-debated land reform act, the current political landscape, market prospects, the future of agriculture in SA and beef prices going forward. Mr. Theo Venter, well-known political and policy analyst from the North West University School of Business and Governance and Prof Johan Willemse Agricultural Economist returned as speakers. They were joined by Mr. Dan Kriek, President of Agri SA and Mr. Schalk Pienaar, Chairman of AGBIZ. Additionally, Mr. Nick Serfontein, Chairman of the Sernick board and Phillip Oosthuizen, Head of Research and Economics at Sernick gave a brief overview of the group’s past and current activities.
“After the success of last year’s framer’s day and given the current discourse around land reform and food security, we felt there was a demand for another farmer’s day where farmers and interested parties could have a sober and informed discussion about the topics that affect us directly,” says Serfontein.
“Despite the uncertain political and economic climate that was present during last year’s farmer’s day, many attendees left feeling positive and optimistic. We wanted to reproduce that optimism this year and I believe we succeeded,” he adds. The speakers were overwhelmingly optimistic, but honest about the aforementioned topics and there was a palpable sense of buoyancy towards the agricultural climate.
Theo Venter gave a brief overlook of what happened after last year’s farmer’s day and a political forecast with regard to the upcoming elections. While the political landscape is still shaky, Venter pointed out that President Cyril Ramaphosa has been able to restore the confidence of foreign investors in a very short time. A positive outlook as a long-term foreign investment is a good indication of a healthy economy. However, the discussion around land reform could not be sidestepped and Venter made a valuable observation that both farmers and all South Africans should keep in mind – the land in question is, for the most part, not agricultural land but rather land that is in closer proximity to cities and can be used for housing. Lastly, Venter called on role players in agriculture, including farmers, to participate in the national forums, to assist where the government does not have the capacity in a cooperative and constructive way and to think of multi-faceted solutions to help solve a complex problem such as land reform.
Dan Kriek followed Venter with his take on the land reform debate offering attendees with a constructive outlook. Kriek advocated a partnership approach to the complex problem and called on existing farmers to think outside of the box to assist emerging farmers through partnerships and financing models such as Sernick’s Emerging Farmers Development Programme. Kriek highlighted saying, “Agri SA believes that through functional public-private partnerships, innovative financing models, maximising the effectiveness of the market, unlocking the potential of communal areas and using expropriation with compensation, land reform can be sped up significantly without disrupting the economy or food production.”
After a short break Prof Johan Willemse, a well-known analyst and speaker within the agricultural community took the podium with his uncanny humour and optimism. Prof Willemse reminded farmers to stay focused on the growth of their business and not get side-tracked by the ever-changing nature of politics. Fortunately, consumer trust in the economy, Willemse said is slowly returning which has a direct effect on the beef prices and consumer expenditure in general. He urged farmers to think of innovative ways to build consumer trust and used Sernick’s Homegrown Bonsmara branding as such an example. When farmers produce products of high quality that the consumer comes to know and trust, it will help pull them through the tough times despite increasing beef prices. He ended off by encouraging farmers to find strategic ways to lower production costs, such as investing in good genetics so that when the market experiences an upwards cycle, farmers can still stay profitable.
Schalk Pienaar added to the day’s positive mindset by imploring farmers to stay level-headed in an ever-changing environment and to be sensitive to consumer trends. Pienaar also touched on the topics such as blockchain transactions, cryptocurrency and big data, briefly discussing how these technological advances could aid farmers in the future. Though most important was his appeal to farmers to develop business traits such as competitiveness, creativity, know-how and exemplary production management among other things in order to survive the dynamic South African market.
Finally, Phillip Oosthuizen discussed the Why, How and What of red meat production. He identified food production for the growing population as the primary objective. Precision agriculture was defined as the method to ensure an increase in food production with limited resources. The Sernick Precision Feedlot Project, completed in 2015, was used as an example where the profit maximising feeding period was determined for different beef breeds. This was done by using each breed’s genetic potential to perform in combination with relevant market prices. Oosthuizen stated that, “Marketing and technological innovation can give you a competitive advantage in the short term, but in the long term, it can define your relevance in the industry.”
Studies like this have set the groundwork for the Sernick Group’s “Setting New Benchmarks” ethos. Precision farming is the future of agriculture or as Serfontein formulates it, “You can’t manage what you don’t understand. You can’t understand what you don’t measure. What you don’t measure, you can’t control.” The product of this is Sernick’s proven economic efficient Bonsmara genetics, which will be presented at its 40th Production Auction on the 1st of June 2018.
To end off the day attendees were treated to a consumer sensory tasting that was held to evaluate the beef attributes of different meat aging methods and periods. A total of five different treatments were presented to each consumer which included wet aging seven days, wet aging 21 days, dry aging seven days, dry aging 21 days and no aging treatments. The data is in the analysing process and will be used for the Sernick Homegrown Bonsmara Beef Brand.
The videos are available for viewing on the Sernick Group’s Facebook page which you can find @sernickgroup and the speaker presentations are available for download on the website www.sernick.co.za under News. For more information please contact Sara-Lea van Eeden at firstname.lastname@example.org