Bright, enthusiastic and dedicated, young Papiki Makgatho was the first choice for Manie Pienaar of Welgevonden farm near Hammanskraal, Gauteng, to entrust with the full responsibility and management of his Linmar Boer goat stud. Peter Mashala reports
Few young South Africans map out their futures after matric, and being a farmworker appears last on the list if it appears at all. It is only when reality hits that, with the high rate of unemployment, being a farmworker is better than not having a job at all. At 24 years of age, Johannes Papiki Makgatho is no different from any other young man growing up with a dream of one day making something of his life. But his original dream of being in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) took a 90º turn. Papiki grew up in Temba, Hammanskraal, about 50km north of Pretoria. After several rejections from the SANDF, he had no other option but to look for a job as his parents could not afford to send him to university.
He was 21 when he started working for Manie Pienaar of Welgevonden farm near Hammanskraal in 2004. He started in the feed block manufacturing plant, but within three months Manie recognised his potential and appointed him flock manager at his newly formed Linmar Boer goat stud. “I had no experience, but Mr Pienaar was very good to me,” Papiki says. “He is a very good and patient teacher; he taught me everything I know about goats.” Papiki says that managing the goats is a big responsibility. His day starts at 8:30am, and for what he calls the goats’ breakfast, he feeds them milled maize grain, then opens the gate to the correct field for the goats at 10am.
His responsibility for the goats is bigger than just being a herd boy. Being manager means he takes full responsibility for the daily care and management of the goats, and keeps meticulous records in a notebook. Papiki ensures that when the goats leave the kraal in the morning, the ewes are run separately from the rams in different pasture/veld camps. In the evening they are put in different mini-kraals of the main kraal. “We only let a specific registered ram run with the ewes for mating,” he says.
When Papiki started working for Manie the flock consisted of only 30 goats, but has now increased to 98 (28 rams and 70 ewes), including lambs. Manie sells a number of culled ewes off the farm every five months, as well as at selected auctions. Papiki considers Boer goats as very intelligent and sociable animals as they know their daily routine. “I don’t fetch them from the fields any more, they come back when it’s time,” Papiki says.
Poor rainfall is as big a concern for Papiki as it is for Manie. Now that the Boekehoutspruit River running through the farm has dried up, the flock has to be watered in troughs from the borehole. The last time they had rain was over five months ago. Less rain means that grazing will be minimal. Solving this problem is expensive: every day before the flock is let out to pasture, it is fed at least two bales of lucerne and the same when it returns in the evening. Feed costs R800 a week and keeping fewer goats would make the flock more affordable to maintain. Although Manie has never lost a goat to predators, fences have to be regularly checked and fixed to keep out black-backed jackal and caracal.
Explaining their relationship, Manie says that they have only known each other for three years but he trusts him completely. If it were not for that, he would not have given him such a huge responsibility. “I get along with Mr Pienaar very well,” Papiki says. “We understand and respect each other.” Often, as a bonus, Manie gives Papiki a lamb to rear and to do with as he pleases. Papiki says that after rearing it he sells it and sends some money home, where his two younger sisters live with their parents. With the balance, he pays his bills.
Last year Manie bought Papiki a second-hand car after Papiki asked for one. Although Papiki and his colleagues have rooms with electricity and running water on the farm, Papiki travels back and forth to the nearby village Kekana where he lives with his girlfriend Christina and his one-year-old daughter Tshepiso. He only stays behind when Manie asks him to. Papiki says he wants to be as good a father to his daughter as he is to the goats.
Now after three years Papiki has realised his passion for farming. Being in the army is not what he wants any more as he has found his passion. He also thinks that with the experience he has, and which he continues to acquire, he wants to continue with farming. He admits that although it might take him years before he owns his own farm, he is determined to one day have one. “If he works twice this hard it might not take him too long,” Manie says.“I’m willing to help him with anything that I can for him to realise his dream.” |fw