Livestock farming is the main agricultural activity in South Africa with a rich heritage of beef production. In many cultures, cattle are still used to measure people’s wealth and prosperity. Production in South Africa takes place across the country with various breeds of cattle.
Local production of animal proteins in South Africa is about 2,4 million tons each year. To supplement the additional requirements, the country imports from Brazil, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. (USDA Foreign Agriculture Service). In 2016 South Africa became a meat net red meat exporter for the first time. Currently, however, South Africa supplies mainly the commodity, or cheap beef market, and not the high-end, value-added beef market.
As income levels continue to rise in South Africa, the preference for meat products from local sources can continue to increase and this is an opportunity in the market that Mr Bodulo Mabote saw and grabbed with both hands.
Bodulo Mabote Investments is an agricultural business that was registered in March 2010 and Mr Mabote’s farm, Olyvenfontein, is in the Lejweleputswa District, 10km outside Boshoff in the Free State. Mr Mabote runs a commercial Bonsmara cattle operation from a 1 318ha PLAS (Pro-active Land Acquisition) farm.
Although the main focus of the farming enterprise is cattle, the business earns its revenue from producing red meat and vegetables. To improve his cashflow, Mr Mabote decided to also grow vegetables. The fresh produce is marketed to retail outlets in Bloemfontein and Kimberley. The farm is located approximately 60km from Kimberley and 130 km from Bloemfontein which makes it ideal for vegetable production. The farm has the ideal soil type for vegetable farming with sufficient water of which 9ha is under irrigation.
“I also farm with Dohne Merino sheep. I believe in mixed farming. You cannot sit the whole day watching calves grow. You have to do something, ” Mr Mabote says.
Mr Mabote employs two full-time workers on his farm and during the vegetable seasons an additional 12 seasonal workers.
In 2018 the Sernick Group and The Jobs Fund partnered to launch the Sernick Emerging Farmers Programme in the Free State. The programme is divided into three tiers. All the participants are given SETA accredited training and an opportunity to exchange their old stock with good quality cattle that fetch higher prices at the market.
A total of 660 farmers were recruited for the Tier 1 training as part of the Sernick Emerging Farmers Programme. In 2018, Mr Mabote joined the Sernick Emerging Farmer Programme and started attending intensive training in animal production at the Sernick training. From the 660, 300 farmers were selected for the Tier 2 and were equipped with technical skills to enable them to develop their own herds while maintaining healthy cash flows to meet their working capital requirements.
Another 31 of a potential 50 farmers were selected for the Tier 3 training from the mentioned 300 farmers, and they have been elected to develop their businesses into viable commercial entities with their own reproductive capacity. The best of these Tier 3 farmers will be selected to Tier 4 and will be given the opportunity to acquire shares in Sernick Wholesale, a new company that will be established to consolidate the group’s wholesaling operations. The Tier 4’s will also obtain shares in the Sernick Abattoir.
The initiative is a comprehensive intervention in which emerging black farmers are recruited, trained, set up and provided with supply opportunities through integration into the Sernick Group’s value chain. Farmers can’t apply to become Tier 3 farmers but are selected from the existing participants once they have successfully completed the training in Tier 2
A candidate for Tier 3 must be a fulltime farmer with enough land to farm with more than 100 cattle. The farmers must own the land or at least have a formal lease for more than 20 years. These farms are inspected by an independent surveyor to assess whether the farmers have implemented the formal training received. The farmers must have the necessary plans and financial management plans that indicate that they are farming in a viable and profitable fashion, and that they are implementing sustainable farming practices such as rotating grazing pastures.
In 2019 Mr Mabote underwent a strict selection process to qualify for the Tier 3 programme where he subsequently demonstrated his commitment by becoming the best student for that year in animal husbandry and was awarded the 2019 Sernick Farmer of Year.
The Sernick Farmer of Year said he chose Bonsmara cattle due to their motherly abilities to support, protect and grow their calves to top class marketable weaners off the veld. His ideal cow must calve annually, have sufficient milk, maintain a good body weight, and have a good temperament.
He attributes his success to the support he receives from his mentor David from Sernick, the fact that he is passionate about farming. “I adhere to a strict vaccination schedule for my cattle and remain vigilant to any sights of disease.”
2019 was a good year for Bodulo. In September 2019, at the ALFA show at the Afridome in Parys where the cream of the country’s livestock was judged, he also won the Sernick Emerging Farmer Carcass Competition: Single carcass.
Having been on the farm for the past 10 years, the drought experienced over the past couple of seasons also affected his farm. “I was hit hard by the drought but try to encourage my fellow farmers to think creatively outside the box to address all the issues related to surviving these circumstances. We must remain hard working and doing what we do to the best of our abilities.”
Mr Mabote believes that as farmers they have an obligation to also create sustainable jobs and to produce sufficient food for the country. “The Agricultural sector is key to our economy.”
Bodulo also has another love besides farming. He is often referred to as the artistic farmer by his friends because of his love for the Performing Arts.
Bodulo Mabote is highly motivated by Mr Nick Serfontein, owner of the Sernick Group. “He is very special to us, the black South African Farmer.”
“Our programme creates jobs, but more importantly it creates hope. We must believe that we can make a difference and push our efforts through. There are many black farmers who have genuine, honest and serious intent, dreams and aspirations to farm, and we must help them,” said Nick Serfontein, chairperson of the Sernick Group.