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Emerging Karoo farmer’s love affair with his cattle

“Farming should not be in your blood; it must be in your marrow, and you must have a great love affair with animals,” says Jannie Struis (68), a cattle farmer near Hopetown on the farm Spitskop. He farms with 64 Bonsmara cattle and also sells firewood to the local community.    

He makes a point of checking on his herd every day and adds. “It is healthy to be up and about early in the morning and go the veld, knowing what you see is not yours, but realise you have only been appointed as the guardian.”    

Jannie started farming with his brother Ben in 2003, but since 2012 he farms by himself. He has a lease on a piece of land (1 200 hectares) that belongs to the municipality, but he is responsible to keep the fences boreholes and windmills in working order. He was born and grew up in Hopetown. Before he embarked on the farming enterprise, he was employed by a mine in Lime Acres.   

Jannie’s farming background comes from a long way back when he learnt the tricks of the trade from his father. He says one has to grow up in a farming environment and realise a farmer does not work for money; a livestock farmer has no money! He has to save and have a nest egg for crises times when the drought comes; that is when he needs money.    

“My father was a farm labourer and as a child I ‘farmed’ with him over weekends and in the holidays. He taught me everything I know today.”    

“I earned my pocket money by collecting the bones of dead animals that I could pick up in the veld. I could buy myself a suit of clothes for my confirmation as a church member. At that time the suit cost me R15.” Jannie had little rain in the past number of years and the drought is choking the farmers. “I have to buy fodder for my cattle and the commercial crop farmers have been extremely helpful regarding fodder.”    

“We recently had strong wind which caused the pods of the camel thorn trees to fall. This helped us tremendously because the cattle like it and it provides nutritious additional feed,” says Jannie.

Jannie Struis, cattle farmer near Hopetown, are at his happiest when he is among his herd of Bonsmara cattle.

Jannie’s advice to beginner farmers:

• Farmers should realise it is not the number of people that count; it is the number of animals. You must know exactly how many animals can graze on your limited piece of land;

• The bones of dead animals should be picked up and done away with – it can be the cause of botulism  (lamsiekte);

• Farmers must provide salt with their fodder and give their animals salt in dry periods – it stimulates appetite and helps the cattle to eat dry grass;

• Make sure that you see your animals every day;

• Animals should be inocula ted against diseases; and

• You should work for those who will be farming 50 years after yourself; that is why it is imperative that you take good care of the land.

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