Running a successful livestock study group

During the drought of 2006, Paul Bester, head of ZZ2’s transformation initiative was approached by civil engineer Element Mashai and his partner Elvis Ramolo, who owned a herd outside Polokwane. The two men were desperately seeking grazing.

Paul Bester

“When the cows arrived they were in a bad state and I told them that they could not make any kind of living out of these cattle. I suggested that they sell the animals and start again with better quality cattle,” recalls Paul.

Element took Paul’s advice and bought 10 heifers. This small group of animals has grown to 92 and in 2010 Element won SA Stud Book’s Upcoming Farmer of the Year Award.

READ MORE: Progress and innovation in the ZZ2 herds

This success story got Paul thinking, and ZZ2’s study group scheme was born.

Patience
Designed and steered by Paul and colleague Isiah Ramothwala, the scheme aims to assist rural cattle farmers and aspirant stockowners. Through the scheme, participants are able to learn through action, and are able to purchase quality animals from ZZ2’s stud herds.

Paul and Isiah recognised the fact that there are many people who want to own cattle but don’t have the resources to do so. In one sense, the study groups allow for the realisation of a dream, while making it clear that business principles, common sense and hard work are part of making that dream work.

One of the study group’s rules is that every member must demonstrate fiscal prudence. This forms part of the agreement between members and the ZZ2 cattle management division. Anyone can buy into the study group, but they buy cattle at market prices.

“The buyer won’t see a profit for about five years,” says Paul. “You need to be committed when you come into this business, but once you’ve got going you can really do well.”

Costs
Study group members pay management and grazing fees of R240/month for a cow and calf, R180/month for an in-calf heifer, R120/month for an open heifer and R120 for a weaned steer from eight months to 12 months.

The charge for a mature bull is R300/month and for a young bull up to 24 months it is R200/month.

These are attractive rates by any standards. Prof Erik Holm, a well-known entomologist and sometime ZZ2 advisor, says it’s ‘a hotel for cattle’. But at backpacker rates these cattle are getting Ritz management. It’s a simple yet delicate transformational process.

READ MORE: How a study group can help you make money

ZZ2 helps members by providing grazing and management at affordable rates. Members are subject to the standard risks that come with livestock farming, including animal mortality and pay for any vet costs incurred.

“The challenge for me is to see how we can expand the breeder group and teach them to become good stockmen who in time will have their own farms and pass on their knowledge and the genetic quality of their cattle,” says Paul.

Read more about transformation in the ZZ2 group in FW, 29 August 2014.