Without economies of scale, Lynne Griesel found it increasingly difficult to compete in the broiler chicken market. Switching to free-range chickens not only allowed her to tap into a more lucrative niche market, but opened further avenues for value adding.
Chickens are often targeted by mites, external parasites that can harm the birds and cause a farmer substantial financial loss. The problem occurs in summer, and is made worse when the rain triggers the hatching of parasite eggs.
High environmental temperature is the most common stressor of chickens in South Africa.
Free-range chickens take longer to raise than birds kept in a poultry house and given factory-made feed. On the other hand, they cost very little to produce and customers are never far away.
Bhefika Matshenja of Inhlakanipho Projects and Farms, winner of the Star of Buhle Award for 2019, says that by implementing sound management principles, such as reinvesting profits, he has been able to see his business grow.
Consumers have become more informed and concerned about what goes into their food. One of the areas of concern has been the use of antibiotics in intensive farming systems such as poultry.
Jeanne Groenewald, the CEO of Elgin Free Range Chickens, has established herself as a leading free-range poultry producer in South Africa.
Asiphe Pentu started his small-scale broiler business with only R2 000 when he was just 17 years old and still at school. After five years, he has a well-run, 100-chicken operation that turns a profit and has a loyal clientele in the local community.
Necessity inspired Anneke Loock of Bloemfontein to start earning a living from a small-scale poultry business. The lessons learnt on her journey to success will prove useful to anyone launching a similar enterprise, says Sabrina Dean.
Duck meat is a high-value niche product in South Africa. KwaZulu-Natal farmer Vanessa Collocott supplies this market with certified free-range ducks, and has combined shrewd business sense with compassion in her high-risk enterprise.
External parasites such as mites can be a major financial threat to a poultry operation. Control is essential.
Robert Patson of Happy Land Farm in Kyalami believes free-range chickens not only hold the answer to healthy food, but that his model of farming could help alleviate poverty for individuals and communities.