As the country continues to battle with high youth unemployment, the Agriculture sector has been found as one of the sectors that can help in abating the plague. Youth have been implored and are continuously implored to tap into various Agriculture activities and opportunities. It is however important for aspiring youth farmers to consider certain things before they get into the desired farming activity. It is in this regard that Farmers Magazine Botswana had a brief interview with one of the top cattle breeders that this country has being Rudi Lemcke of Lemcke Ranches in Ghanzi.
According to the award winning Rudi Lemcke, the first thing that aspiring young cattle breeders have to bear in mind is that farming is a demanding exercise or activity that requires hard work and dedication. It also requires someone who is always available at the farm. Lemcke cautioned young farmers about the tendency of depending on someone else to look after their animals.
“If you are going to leave your cattle in someone else’s care, it is not going to work,” said Lemcke adding that if farmers are going to need herd boy(s) they should look for someone who is “clean with cattle”- this is someone who is passionate about livestock.
It has been said that experience is key and this is why Lemcke also believes that learning from people who have made mistakes is one vital factor in determining the success of the farmer’s project. This is because people who have made mistakes are well placed to give the right guidance considering their background in terms of what they went through in as far as farming is concerned.
The place or location of the farm also plays a critical role in determining the success of the project. Lemcke said that the aspiring farmer has to make sure that the place they choose to farm in has enough graze. This calls for farmers to be alert and avoid overstocking which may lead to overgrazing. Lemcke also encourages farmers to fence their land because by this they will be able to do rotational grazing.
The bull one buys also plays a big role. Lemcke argues that when buying the bull one has to make sure that the bull they buy will be able to adapt in the farming conditions of the country especially considering the fact that the farming conditions in Botswana are not so friendly. The bull bought has to be productive. He also cautioned that the bull or the cow that wins at the Agriculture shows are not always the right ones to buy as the farming conditions in the country vary adding that the cow bought has to be able to calf every year.
As for the bull, Lemcke said “it does not make you a good farmer to buy one good bull in South Africa, but it makes you a good farmer when you use that bull effectively.” He added that it does not mean anything to be boisterous about one good bull but have nothing to show in as much as calves of the said bull are concerned. Lemcke said that the most important aspect in cattle breeding is the output giving an example saying that the cost of a calf is around P3 500.00 and if one has 100 cattle and 80 are calving one will get P280 000.00, but if you have 100 cattle and only 50 are calving the figure reduces to only P175 000.00.
He said that the weight of the calves at weaning age is also important because this is where the farmer can suffer losses. He gave an example saying if a calf weighs 250kg at weaning age then the price of the calf will be P 3 100.00 and if the weight is 200kg then the price will drop significantly to about P2 300.00.
Meanwhile Lemcke also pointed out that the farmer also has to take into consideration where they want to keep their animals- either in the feedlot or in the veld where they will be just supplying the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC). Lemcke pointed out as the Lemckes they have come to the realization that the weight of cattle differ. He said that in their last eight months in the feedlot they have realized their cattle pick weight differently. FMB