Game ranchers dubious of buffalo feedlots

Game ranchers and veterinarians are sceptical about the Department of Agriculture’s plan to domesticate certain game species for meat production.

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Game farmers could soon see the introduction of feedlots for their animals, if the Department of Agriculture’s plan to incorporate game meat production into the red meat industry is successful.

The department is also looking to classify game species such as buffalo, eland and blesbok red meat production. But role-players in the game industry are not convinced that this move would benefit them.

Borrie Erasmus, president of Wildlife Ranching South Africa (WRSA), said although New Zealand farms with game in this way and the demand for protein is increasing in Africa, it won’t necessarily be viable. He said it will be much more costly to run feedlots than keeping wild-roaming animals. The risk of spreading disease will also be higher. He advised that if the plan goes ahead, careful consideration is needed when identifying species for feedlots. animals cannot have shy temperaments.

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Dr Wilhelm Schack, game veterinarian and ecologist, is also opposed to the idea. said if feedlots are introduced, game meat will lose its free-ranging and organic properties. “This will be detrimental for the industry as there is already huge resistance globally against developments such as feedlotted venison in New Zealand,” Schack said. He said game meat is popular as it’s free from high-energy feeds and growth hormones found in feedlots. “meat will lose the premium it earns,” he said, adding that animals will have to undergo a huge adaptation phase to the feedlot surroundings and feed. “it could lead to enormous losses, and even low-level degrees of stress can severely affect the animals,” he said.

Schack advised that if the government is concerned about food security, the best environment to breed more animals will be within big conservancies. Game thrives under reserve conditions with good vegetation. “This will produce good quality animals and is a more viable option,” he said. – Wilma den Hartigh