07 October 2020: The beef industry suffered major disruptions to its supply chain as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, cattle farmers showed remarkable resilience.
“South African cattle farmers are no strangers to uncertainty.
Many dealt with pressures prior to the pandemic, resulting in fewer routes-to-market for their products: From outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and a devastatingly long drought, to swings in the price and demand of beef,” explains Roelie van Reenen, supply chain executive at Beefmaster Group.
He adds that in many cases cattle farmers successfully weathered these storms, which bode them well for when the pandemic hit.
“These struggles are a testament to the resilience of cattle farmers.”
As South Africa eases into Level 1 of the nationwide lockdown, some of South Africa’s leading farmers below share some cattle farming lessons they learnt on how to cope with uncertainty.
Lesson 1: Keep calm and carry on
Salomè Scholtz, a cattle farmer from the North West and recognised as Beefmaster Group’s January 2019 Cattle Farmer of the Month, says carrying on and remaining positive is key.
“In any situation I always say ‘do what you can with what you have’.
There is always a light at the end of the tunnel if you are willing to work to get near the end,” says Scholtz.
She says that during the lockdown, she tried to surround herself with positivity without ignoring that things are different, or difficult.
“After a while I stopped looking at the COVID-19 statistics as often as I used to in the beginning.
Instead, I decided to do what we could on our farm to stay safe and healthy.
There is still uncertainty about what lies ahead, but you can’t focus on that too much, you need to be productive,” says Scholtz.
Lesson 2: Persevere, despite not knowing what comes next
Letlhogonolo Phetlhane, a cattle farmer from the North West and recognised as Beefmaster Group’s July 2020 Cattle Farmer of the Month, believes that consistency and perseverance, no matter the circumstance, is key.
“It was important to remain consistent and persevere during lockdown.
I decided to work the land and continue with livestock production even though I wasn’t sure when my next transaction would be or where it would come from,” says Phetlhane.
Despite the uncertainty imposed by the lockdown, Phetlhane says he was motivated by the privilege to feed the country.
“As the world came to a standstill, we [farmers] held ourselves accountable to continue with our duty to contribute to food security and food production, despite the difficulties brought on by the COVID-19 regulations and policies,” continues Phetlhane.
Also read – Cattle Farming, Everything you need to know
Lesson 3: Don’t take your eye off the goal when faced with adversity
Scholtz’s main priority was to keep her staff on the farm safe, yet she also had to continue with the work that had to be done in order to feed the nation.
“I had to decide where we would spend the lockdown – on the farm or in town.
I realised that there is no such thing as lockdown on a farm; you must do your duty as a farmer.
Thankfully, the farm employees decided to stay on the farm with their families and continue to work,” explains Scholtz.
Also read – Beefmaster’s Feedlot operations overview
Lesson 4: Hedge against tough times
Van Reenen says although the easing of restrictions is welcome news for cattle farmers who have shown that they are resilient, South Africa is not yet out of the woods.
“In the future there will be pressure on farmers who are not able to lower their costs through improved productivity.
We need to support our farmers to run their operations more profitably and productively,” says van Reenen.
He adds in tough times, cattle farmers need to ensure they are prepared and able to hedge against the uncertainty.
“By working with a reputable beef producer, cattle farmers can overcome short-term challenges and can access diverse markets.
This will help unlock additional income for cattle farmers, increase export volumes and stimulate the South African economy,” concludes van Reenen.
About Beefmaster PTY Ltd
Beefmaster PTY Ltd is a leading specialist producer of quality beef products to South Africa, the Middle- and Far East, and beyond. We are one of the largest privately-owned beef production companies in South Africa. Beefmaster is involved in the entire value chain, from rearing and farming cattle to delivering meat-based products to customers. This requires many fundamentals that are not traditionally agricultural, such as fleet management of road trucks, earth-moving equipment, cattle health and feed, meat cutting and packaging, and fully-equipped workshops
We believe that all cattle breeds have the potential to deliver exceptional beef products. We forge strong relationships with both established and emerging farmers to access a variety of cattle, regardless of breed, helping farmers boost the quality and sustainability of their herds by offering training, mentorship programmes and offtake agreements, amongst others.
Our state-of-the-art technology and world-class facilities allow us to customise and “produce to order” for some of the biggest players in the food industry. Our exceptional team of highly-trained staff, operating in line with the highest possible safety standards, enables us to be a trusted supplier and partner. Our traceability system allows us to track and trace our beef throughout the supply chain. This means we can confidently promise a quality end product. We commit resources to not only our staff but also local communities, with a view to sustainably and positively impact the environment in which we do business.