Making lambing a success

2013-08-28 00:00

KARKLOOF Lambs, one of only a handful of sheep farms in the Howick region, has in only two years carved a niche into the meat market.

This is in spite of tough competition locally and from imported meat from New Zealand and Australia.

One of the hardest things to do is starting one’s own business.

Many economists view the success of small businesses as the only way that enough employment opportunities will ever be created to make a meaningful dent into unemployment.

Darryl Taylor, who lives on the farm situated about 22 km outside of Howick, says it was hard to get the business started in the first year.

He started Karkloof Lambs after returning to KwaZulu-Natal following a long stint in Asia as a consultant.

For instance, last year’s snow caused the death of more than 30 lambs. Constant monitoring is required to protect the sheep from worms, foot rot and stock theft, problems that have forced the closure of many other sheep farms in the region in the past few decades.

“We aim to be as organic and natural as possible,” he says.

“Our plan is to go back to the old ways. I make old-fashioned haystacks using reusable plastic and the sheep run with the rams all year round so as to avoid lambing pressure in one season,” he says.

“We run the sheep, graze free range, they are not fed rations, unless if absolutely necessary, but we must treat animals accordingly when they get sick,” he says.

The bottom line is to be more cost effective, it is best to keep things as natural as possible, he says.

Karkloof, outside Howick, is dairy farm country and most locally produced lamb comes from the Karoo, Free State and Namibia.

Taylor says the climate in Howick is typically not ideal for sheep, as the frequent rains cause foot rot, but some farms are succeeding and “a lot of people are getting into it.”

Taylor has, at the moment, about 500 Dohne Merino sheep over 40 hectares — South Africa has a population of about 28,8 million sheep.

Taylor says a key factor that helps him to succeed is being able to get higher prices for his product than is typically paid by traditional farm produce buyers, such as abbatoirs. He does this through some innovative marketing initiatives, such as using social media to sell meat directly to customers, as opposed to getting a third party to sell the meat.

Lamb is also sold on local markets, to the ritual trade and additional income is generated from the ton and a half of wool produced every year, as well as through the sale of a range of by-products, such as offal and the pelts. The emphasis is on eliminating as much wastage from the farm operations as possible.

Taylor says the rising fuel price is also working in his favour. The transport costs of his competitors are rising, while he remains close to the market.

On the other hand, a drought in Namibia has recently forced that country’s sheep farmers to sell meat in South Africa at abnormally low prices, which means tougher competition for local sheep farmers.

“I first started buying them while I was working in Indonesia and my partner kept them for me on his farm.

“They produced a good return, and they are really nice to have,” Taylor says when The Witness asked him why he farms with sheep.

Sheep farming has many benefits, also allowing him time to attend to his other business interests: “Finance and Investments” (FMS).

Taylor also runs a satellite FMS office in Howick where the group has invested over R200 million for its clients over the last few years.

Taylor says investing in “Livestock” such as sheep or the “Real Stock” markets can be challenging in the current economy, and to be successful he recommends long-term investment strategies, using the services of professional fund managers who specialise in blue chip investment vehicles.

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