He may be leaving the dairy industry after more than four decades but his door is still open to those who need advice and mentorship. Dr Jakkie du Toit, founder of the renowned National Master Dairyman Awards, believes he has more to offer to many young people and new farmers in the industry.
Du Toit, a research team manager at the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), associate professor at the University of the Free State and mentor to many, bowed out after 41 years in the industry. He was recently honoured by the ARC for his contribution to the dairy industry during the annual National Master Dairyman Awards in Cape Town.
He intends to avail himself especially in institutions of higher learning where he would offer his services in advising and transferring skills to many new farmers in the country, he says.
Food For Mzansi caught up with Du Toit at the awards to find out more about his future plans.
Tiisetso Manoko: What does this honour mean to you?
Dr Jakkie du Toit: This really took me by surprise. I did not expect it at all but this clearly means it is time for new blood to take over. Personally it means a lot and [it is] paying back all the hard labour of the past years. I am honoured and privileged indeed, I thank everyone who thought of me.
What are the challenges that the industry is facing?
The challenge now is to have a market and just to retain it. However, for the dairy market it has not really been all bad. We have seen an increase in the use of dairy products in the last couple of years. So the market is there, farmers need to go out in the field and sell themselves.
What has been your greatest achievement in your many years in the industry?
I think the greatest achievement for me was establishing the technology platform called Livestock Manager. It is an online programme which gives us the opportunity to service farmers on an online basis and it is something I was highly involved in. This programme by the Agricultural Research Council is helping us who are mentors to service the farmers without going to them. We can do everything over the phone and that for me has been a great milestone.
As you bow out, what is your message to young people who want to get into dairy farming?
They must use the technology that is available. There are lots of information on how one can start, everything nowadays is online. There are many consultants who are out there waiting to assist, let those young people make use of those opportunities.
Do you think the industry is transforming?
A big yes, it is transforming. You can even experience it at these awards, especially the young, black winners who are working very hard. These are small-scale farmers who are slowly moving towards the commercial level. This is also encouraging to see that small-scale farmers are also actively involved in where the industry is heading to.
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