VALOR Class III fellows had the pleasure of learning about the South African beef cattle industry during our international seminar. We started our day with an early morning drive to the town of Heilbron where we met with Solomon Maseou, an emerging farmer. Solomon farms on 600 hectares of land that was purchased by the government during the “willing buyer, willing seller” land reform. He and his wife raise about 135 brood cows and 100 ewes.
South Africa does not have an extension program comparable to that of the United States, which forces Solomon and other farmers like him to look to the private sector for assistance. He receives both production and financing support from the Sernick Group through their Corporate Social Investment (CSI) program. The Sernick Group is a 5,000-hectare farm that comprises a feedlot, bull testing station, Bonsmara bull stud, feed mill, abbatoir (slaughterhouse), and retail outlets. Bonsmara is a South African beef breed of Afrikaner (5/8) and Hereford or Shorthorn (3/8) cattle.
The CSI program is led by Patrick Sekwatlakwatla, who was our host for the day. The company’s CSI program includes training of emerging farmers in farm management, financial management, beef production, animal health, procurement of funding, and access to markets. During our visit to the Sernick Group, we met with a class of emerging farmers receiving production training from a volunteer farmer. It was a unique opportunity to have a conversation with these farmers about the training they were receiving and the challenges they face as farmers. Despite being thousands of miles from home, it was a humbling experience to hear that we face many of the same challenges.