Rediscovering the value of the Blinkhaar Ronderib Afrikaner
06:34 (GMT+2), Mon, 31 October 2011
On Prof Paul Wessels's Free State farm, the indigenous fat-tailed Blinkhaar Ronderib Afrikaner has proven its ability to produce effectively from the veld with little management, giving it the edge over other sheep breeds. Mike Burgess reports.
While buying 30 Blinkhaar Ronderib Afrikaner-type ewes in Northern Cape in the early 1990s, Prof Paul Wessels realised just how tough these sheep really are.
“This old guy had this flock in a camp of at least 200ha with stones, aloes and swarthaak,” he recalls. “Six of us went into the camp to herd the sheep. When we’d finished he congratulated us and said it was the first time they’d ever been in a kraal!”
Those 30 ewes, plus a few more sheep from former Afrikaner sheep breeder Dirkie Liebenberg north of Upington, formed the basis of the Krapfontein Afrikaner flock, named after Prof Wessels’s farm near Bloemfontein. They continue to amaze him, even after 20 years.
Flourishing on the veld
The Krapfontein flock fluctuates from 120 to 200 ewes, depending on sales of female animals. Prof Wessels leads a busy life as a gynaecologist and lecturer.
The sheep are left more or less to themselves, breeding in natural seasons in multi-sire flocks that need minimal attention and inputs.
That’s something more farmers should take seriously, says Prof Wessels. “We need to start farming with something that needs less input, and indigenous animals fit the bill. In future, labour will become more of a problem, as will admin and medication.”
Prof Wessels doesn’t supplement his flock, though the sheep may find rock salt he gives to his Afrikaner and Nguni cattle when sharing their camps. Nor does he give blanket inoculations, not even during the Rift Valley fever outbreak of the past two years. This helps preserve the animals’ natural resistance.
“I only treat the ill animals, the same as I’d treat humans,” says Prof Wessels. “I don’t treat all my patients in Bloemfontein with the same antibiotics.”
The Afrikaner sheep’s hardiness and ability to thrive with zero medication is what Prof Wessels most respects about his flock.
Contact Prof Paul Wessels on firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.krapfontein.co.za.
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Mike Burgess, Bloemfontein, Prof Paul Wessels, Free State, Blinkhaar Ronderib Afrikaner, ewe, ram, Grassfed, Mutton, Old-fashioned way, veld, Krapfontein, Afrikaner sheep, sheep, commercial, stud, breeding programmes