Sustainability for the dairy industry is critical if the country wants to still enjoy being the best producers and creating employment opportunities for many communities in Mzansi. These were the words of the Agricultural Research Council board chairperson, Joyene Isaacs.
The 2023 National Master Dairy Awards held in Durbanville, Western Cape zoomed in on the status of the industry and how young people can be groomed into the sector.
Where is the youth?
“The age of the current farmers is worrying; we must start asking ourselves what plan we have to bring young people into the system.
“Agriculture is not sexy enough to woo young people, they think of agriculture differently. We need to be at their level,’ she said.
Isaacs said the relationship between agricultural colleges and institutions like the ARC needed more work to ensure that targeted young people receive the necessary technical skills to get into the job market in the sector.
“We need to improve our provincial agreements, with the colleges moving from agriculture to higher education department. The question is: How will that impact the relationship and ability to penetrate these kids?”
Isaacs said without laying a concrete foundation of sustainability, the industry might not have anyone taking over if there are no plans to absorb young people.
“We must also emphasise that being woman and black does not qualify that you should get things for free, one needs to work hard to earn their position.
“Transformation is about achieving a relationship that is different from what it was before,” she said.
Partnerships are important
Meanwhile, general manager of animal production at the ARC Prof Norman Maiwashe said there is room for improvement in the visibility and footprint of the institution.
Maiwashe said although building a strong dairy farm is important, it is critical that those who are at the forefront now be honoured for their resilience in the wake of the local challenges that they encounter.
He said technology and innovation are the two critical components that should lead the dairy industry to ensure that even if the number of farmers is declining, the rise of milk production and products should continue growing.
Jaco Swarts, manager at Rhodes Food Group, accepted the award for ARC Master Dairyman of the Year and said all the hard work and labour of the past had not gone unnoticed.
Time to push even harder
“This award goes to everyone in the company who has contributed to the success thus far, it was not easy but we made it,” he said.
Managing director at Dairy Management Consulting Chris Fourie said the country is doing well in the dairy industry but more needs to be done.
“We want successful farms, but importantly, agriculture needs to be at a sustainable level before we can talk about sustainability in the dairy sector. Only then are we likely to see our farmers being the best in the world,” he said.
The winners of the 2023 ARC National Master Dairyman Awards are:
- ARC National Master Dairyman of the Year 2023: RFG Foods, Simondium
- ARC National Medium-Scale Dairyman of the Year 2023: JJ Nel Familie Trust, Ladismith, Western Cape
- ARC National Small-Scale Dairyman of the Year 2023: Gugulomuzi Ngcobo, Donnybrook, KwaZulu-Natal
- ARC National Herd with the Best Somatic Cell Count 2023: E Zeeman (Etienne Zeeman), Swellendam, Western Cape, with 163 000 cells/ml
- ARC National Herd with the Best Intercalving Period 2023: Tweekop Boerdery (Pieter Steenkamp and Dirk van Papendorp), Heidelberg, Western Cape, with an intercalving period of only 380 days
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