What were 2013’s highlights?
Receiving the ARC National Beef Cattle Improvement Herd of the Year Award. Our 21st AG Bonsmara production sale in April and second gene sale in September were also very successful, despite it being a difficult year.
What were the setbacks?
The death of my father and mentor, Arthur G de Villiers. He was pivotal in the later success of the AG herd. Our country’s poor animal health status, which influenced exports of breeding stock, embryos and semen to countries such as Namibia, Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, was a big setback.
What are the biggest challenges for the cattle sector this year?
To make the right business decisions for a possible below-normal rainfall year. Decisions must be made for investing, selection, marketing and keeping animals in difficult times. Keeping costs as low as possible, without sacrificing production, is always a challenge. It is also anticipated that consumers will resist meat prices in the wake of slow economic growth and high unemployment.
How do you plan to tackle these challenges?
I’ll keep stocking ratios on my farm realistic and rather sell excess cattle, while focusing on a high conception rate by only keeping the best animals in my herd. It’s also important to market cattle while they are still in an acceptable condition.
What will be the biggest opportunities in the cattle sector this year?
To obtain good genetics at reasonable prices. If you are fortunate enough to be in an area with good grazing, keep as many animals as possible. Should the season change for the better, breeding stock and slaughter cattle will sell for a premium. A spike in the cattle price is long overdue and good rains will spark this.
The development of better models, applications and cheaper analysis in the field of genomics is another great opportunity.
There are also opportunities to help and mentor emerging farmers to farm sustainably.
What technology will you be looking at to improve your business?
I’ll be using all possible tools to help with selection. These include visual appraisal, BLUP, performance records, pedigrees, DNA, genomics and programmes like Beefpro. Selling price and input price predictions are also good tools for precision farming and making financial decisions.