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Extension Opinion No 5: Developing specialist extension services for new dairy farmers

Amadlelo was established in 2004 by 70 commercial dairy farmers in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. The aim was to take under or unutilised land and develop it to its full potential; train local community members in dairy farming and management and address some of the issues currently facing the dairy industry in South Africa.

Amadlelo is regularly approached to provide dairy consultant type advice to new entrants into the dairy industry. Amadlelo does not have the finances or human resource capability to be able to provide this service. 

The following is suggested as a way that this issue could be addressed in a combined effort between:
  • Amadlelo Agri
  • Agricultural Consulting Services
  • University of Fort Hare
  • Department of Agriculture (National)
  • Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform (Eastern Cape)
  • The Milk Producers Organisation (MPO) as the commodity organization representing the interests of all dairy farmers in South Africa
It must be said that this report does not follow a comprehensive needs analysis of new entrants but reflects on what what Amadlelo has done to support its own farm managers that are new in the dairy industry and our responses to the enquiries that have been received from new entrants into the dairy industry.

Because of historical inequality new entrants into the dairy industry do not have the privilege of having grown up on a dairy farm and therefore lack practical exposure to many aspects of dairy farming that are taken for granted by those who have.

The support programme for new entrants, given the complexity and competitiveness of modern dairy farming, needs to be redefined to enable these new entrants, be they farm owners or managers, to be adequately equipped and supported as are the current long established dairy farmers.

Certainly in the Eastern Cape area most of the successful commercial dairy farmers have a comprehensive consulting backup in place as well as benchmarking facilities and they generally belong to study groups.
The needs of new entrants are at least this and more.
We see the support structure as follows:
  1. Dairy Extension Specialist duly qualified BUT also duly experienced in all aspects of modern dairy giving one on one advice but also through study groups as indicated below. They need to know the practical ins and outs of all aspects of practical as well as theory and if they dont know be able to call on their relevant data base of suppliers and problem solvers.Amadlelo would like to select from the pool of talent that is within the Department of Agriculture and then train and experience these graduates on their own farms for two years insuring that they have a thorough theoretical and practical knowledge of applied dairy farming in the widest sense. 
  2. Dairy Study groups linking experienced dairy farmers and new entrants providing proper benchmarking information as an aid to problem identification and solving
  3. Backup services to dairy extension specialist from Amadlelo in practical dairy farming
  4. Backup Services to Dairy extension specialist from academic institutions.
  5. Involvement of the dairy commodity group as is currently the case with short course for the dairy industry as a whole and also the current course that are given to new entrants.
This comprehensive approach will ensure the best chance of these farmers being able to take their rightful place in an industry which has seen its farmer base reduce from over 7500 in 1998 to just 2500 farmers currently. This massive reduction in numbers has been more than compensated for in growth of individual farm sizes as a response to tight margins and shrinking profits.

Only those who have access to knowledge resources as well as the latest technology adapted from low cost leaders such as new Zealand are managing to grow and thrive given the current attrition of high cost traditional TMR ( Total Mixed Ration ) dairy farmers.

Click the image for a view of: Leonard Mavhungu, Manager of the Fort Hare Dairy Trust speaks to new dairy farmers
Leonard Mavhungu, Manager of the Fort Hare Dairy Trust speaks to new dairy farmers

Posted: 9/10/2012 (3:20:13 AM)


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