In the Southern part of Botswana in the Barolong District lies the “infamous” small village called Metlojane. There is nothing much happening in this village that may grab people’s attention to the village. Like in most villages in the country, Metlojane is a remote area without much development such as electricity, infrastructure and others. However, it is in the same “infamous” village that one will find a passionate, and one of the best commercial farmers in the country being Hennie Schutte.
Mr Schutte is an award winning small stock farmer who keeps mainly the Doper sheep. Although initially he also had the Boer goat and the Savanna goat he has since decided to focus on the Dorper sheep as his farming land could not accommodate a large amount of animals. In an exclusive interview with Farmers Magazine Botswana, Mr Schutte revealed that he started small stock farming back in 2012 but said that he always had the heart for small stock.
Lack or shortage of land seemed to have turned to be a blessing in disguise for Mr Schutte as he did small stock farming after he managed to solicit a 65 hectares piece of land in the rural Metlojane. Upon the realization that the land was too small to practice any other farming activity, he then decided to follow his long time passion of small stock farming. According to Schutte, he is not just passionate about small stock farming but is passionate about quality small stock farming. Schutte currently has about 130 breeding ewes and aims to push this figure to 180 breeding females.
Meanwhile, lack of productivity in the small stock sector has greatly been attributed to management problems and it is for this reason that the award winning small stock breeder believes that for a small stock farmer to get good returns, he or she needs to practice good management. He argues that management is crucial in small stock.
For his part, Schutte ensures that; his animals are always in good condition, the lambs get sufficient milk from their mothers, the mortality rate remains as low as possible, and makes sure that the animals are well fed. Animals are checked on a daily basis to see if none of them depicts any signs of ill health. Schutte does not take the death of his animals lightly. He argues that he ensures that the mortality rate remains low because the loss of every lamb is the loss of a lot of money. He also gives his animals supplementary feed every day. For supplementary feeding Schutte plants silage and mixes it with other rations such as concentrate and lucerne.
Schutte’s good management practice saw some of his animals being endowed as grand champions at the Gaborone national Agriculture show since 2014.
Meanwhile, just like any other form of business or farming sector, small stock farming also has its own unique challenges. However, according to Schutte, these challenges may differ from one small stock farmer to the other. He however, argues that the most common challenges in small stock are land, weather, diseases and labour. Schutte argues that the land farmers often get is small and in most cases in far apart places. He holds the view that the weather challenge is an unfortunate one as there is not much that farmers can do except to take it as it comes. He also argues that diseases are a reality and the only effective way of mitigating this challenge is by vaccination.
Among all the above mentioned challenges, the labour issue seems to be the most worrisome and biggest challenge. According to Schutte finding reliable employees is a challenge in the country. He indicated that since November last year, he has had four employees, three of them being locals while one of them was a foreigner he said the employee who lasted from among the four employees was the one who took six weeks. He said he currently has one employee.
Meanwhile, Schutte argues that the most common diseases in small stock farming are Heart-water and Pasteurella. Schutte argues that it is important for the farmer to be able to notice quickly when his or her animals are not well. One of the signs is lack of appetite, he argues. To deal with these diseases, Schutte injects the animals with tetracycline for heart-water, and vaccinates them twice a year for Pasteurella.
Besides small stock farming, Schutte has taken a step further to assist fellow farmers where he can. He recently hosted silage making event in which Haskins and Sons was the main sponsor. This event came after the interactions he has had with his clients who always enquired from him about silage making, how it is made, how it used and preserved. It was then that he came with an idea to have an event in which he will share his knowledge with fellow farmers. Schutte said the feedback has been amazing thus far and this has given him the urge to continue hosting the event annually.
Meanwhile, still at the same event which he hosted recently, Schutte was awarded a Certificate of Excellence in Arable Farming by the Goodhope District Crop Farmers Association in conjunction with the Borolong SBCPO. FMB