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Magalela From the Land – Farm animals are not cute, they are for business

October 6, 2012

One reason I have remained perpetually emerging is because every two years I abandon what I had started and move on to something new. Therefore, failing in the first rule of succeeding in anything to have focus and staying power.

A couple of months after I moved into my first plot, Mr Mvelase senior, whom I inherited from the previous owners confronted me in a typical seasoned worker to a cocky newly appointed manager who is still wet behind the ears. “So now you own the land, how are you going to use it”, he asked. I was baffled and he quickly suggested breeding indigenous goats as our vegetation was thorn veld.

Where to find them was an issue. That winter Mvelase and I spend weekends searching in the deepest of amahlanze. Many times we returned empty handed as I learned that goats are a sacred animal and not a business for those who possessed them. I went to a commercial farmer and begged to buy boar goat ewes in lamb. They had seen better breeding days but they were goats and soon to double in number. At the same time one of the families that had sent us packing when we requested a few goats from their thriving flock had an urgent need and was willing to sell one of its impressive rams. Thus I started my goat farming enterprise. The Mvelases continued through autumn and summer of 1997 searching for goats. Eventually we build our hooch pooch flock to 50 and were ready to sell. Our marketing strategy was not to impress financiers. Those that had sold us goats or refused to sell us goats sent buyers our way.
When all seemed to be well my cynical friend Roy visited and I proudly introduced him to my new kid, Vicky. “Oh no this is business. Do not give your goats names because you will be saying they are too cute to be slaughter and eaten. These are not pets, they are not cute,” he scorned. (I still kept Vicky but did not name any new ones.)
Then I had my coffee milk cow, bought from Roy. I had offered him R1000 for the aged cow and he has asked if I was buying the whole Jersey cow in calf or one teat. I coughed up R4000 and in a month I was getting 40m litres of milk everyday. My big plan was to sell amasi on a bike in the nearby villages but it never happened. I also had my dozens of eggs that I got from 12 layer hens I bought because they were available and I could afford them. That year I had litres of milk on the floor in my kitchen and dozens of eggs on the counters. I had no idea what to do with this much milk and eggs so I had a buy goat get milk and eggs promotion for my goat customers.
My next problem was being soft hearted. When customers became teary as they begged for females and lambs, which were ordered for their ancestral feasts. They had fantastic blackmail stories about how speculations goats, sold by competitor’s scared ancestral spirits with their thin cries and runny tummies… I did what no self respecting farmer does: Selling off the breeding stock and my prized flock of 100 dwindled to nothing. That is how my first set of ventures fell flat. I did not stay down though I got up and tried again. Next you will hear about Magalela the cattle farmer and sheep farmer.
So to the readers of this column, I may not have highflying technical advice to offer. But if your first try falters I say Vuka uzithathe.

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