Troskie’s bid topped Cyril Ramaphosa’s of R19,5 million. Ramaphosa, who owns Phala Phala game farm near Bela Bela, spent more than R15 million on other game at the auction. Total game sales of R146 million, far eclipsed the previous record of R98 million for a game auction. Asked what made the record-breaking buffalo so special, Du Toit said it had a horn spread of 109cm, and was “without doubt the biggest female buffalo in captivity” and its calf was sired by an outstanding bull called Masai.
Record prices were also fetched for black impala rams, golden wildebeest, blackback impala, and black heartwater springbok. Game breeder Stephan Naudé said the ‘coloured’ species were almost entirely bought by the Pilanesberg study group, a collective that aims to establish a network of game farms around the Pilanesberg game reserve as “the world breeding capital” for African game species.
Growth in the game breeding industry has been driven by a post-recession recovery in the number of leisure hunters visiting South Africa. “In a competitive market, stocking game species can make the difference,” said Adri Kitshoff, CEO of the Professional Hunters Association of SA.
Naudé said the decision to switch to game breeding had been an easy one. “When I ran a feedlot I found there were too many elements of the business that were beyond my control. You can’t control the prices you get for your cattle, and you can’t control your input costs.” However, not everyone believes that the incredibly high prices are sustainable.
“Last year a buffalo bull sold for a record amount of R18 million, but when the insurers that specialise in game insurance got together and expressed their concern, we were told by breeders that it was a freak event, never to be repeated. But it has happened again with this R20 million bid and I seriously doubt whether anyone is going to insure that animal. We certainly wouldn’t,” said a prominent insurance broker in the game industry. The Troskie family, which spent R45 million at the auction, owns Unyati Game Farm in the Free State.