Home Changemakers Inspiration Record-keeping ‘eliminates guesswork in farming’

Record-keeping ‘eliminates guesswork in farming’

Tiro Mongwaketsi was recently named National Commercial Beef Producer of the Year for 2020 in the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) annual ARC National Beef Performers Awards

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For many farmers, the way to increasing their odds of building a successful and sustainable farming business, lies in quality and quantity. But for the award-winning North West farmer, Tiro Mongwaketsi, it is so much more than that. He believes it all starts with proper record-keeping.

“Agriculture is all about facts and figures, there’s no time for guesswork,” says the 34-year-old livestock farmer based in Ganyesa Village.

Mongwaketsi strongly believes that in order to eliminate guesswork in business, farmers need to make a habit of keeping a record of what happens in their business at all times.

“It’s important,” he says. “It plays a very crucial role in decision making. As a farmer, if you experience a problem like your cattle getting sick you can trace where you went wrong. Record-keeping really helps me measure where I am as a farmer in terms of performance. To me it’s very important.”

‘Growing food for others is a huge honour’

Mongwaketsi farms on 1814 hectares of land he leases from the state. The land he farms is grazed by approximately 120 cattle that he cares for deeply.

Every day Mongwaketsi’s day begins before sunrise – a bit of an early bird you can say. Before stepping out he laces up his farming boots and sets out into the crisp morning to tend to his cattle.

Tiro Mongwaketsi farms on 1814 hectares of land with livestock. Photo: Supplied.
Tiro Mongwaketsi farms on 1814 hectares of land with livestock. Photo: Supplied

“I’ve always had a love for agriculture. In fact, it was always my plan to be a farmer,” he says.

“I grew up in a family of farmers and I’ve always thought that growing food for others is a huge honour; a responsibility that I consider my calling.”

He recalls his childhood on the farm as a lot of fun. Especially during holidays when he would have the opportunity to ride the horses they kept.

“Sometimes I would bring my friends to the farm and we were naughty. At times we would ride the goats with no care, but we were still kids and weren’t aware that what we were doing was wrong,” he says.

Mongwaketsi started farming full time in 2008 after returning home from the city of Pretoria, where he did studies in animal health at Unisa.

“Agriculture is not an overnight success industry. You need patience while putting in hard work.”

Delighted to make a return to his abode where his interest in agriculture was first ignited, Mongwaketsi did not waste any time. He plunged right back into helping his mom tend to their growing agribusiness.

His mother, was an avid cultivator of the land and he considers her a mentor who showed him much of what he knows and practices today.

“She taught me about animal identification which helps ensure traceability and safety of livestock. But more importantly she educated me on the importance of record-keeping. I always saw her making notes that I could not understand,” he says.

Comprehensive record-keeping is crucial

Today, Mongwaketsi credits his mom, his mentor (Hasie Haasbroek), and study groups for being recently crowned the National Commercial Beef Producer of the Year for 2020 in the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) annual ARC National Beef Performers Awards. A recognition he regards as a privilege and honour.

“Let me just say that for me it’s a remarkable achievement, but also a reflection of the work I’ve been putting in all these years. It’s shows that I haven’t been farming just for fun, there’s purpose behind it and now I’m being rewarded for it,” Mongwaketsi says.

The annual awards event is a platform where exceptional achievements from our farmers are recognised, in particular relating to their efforts to improve the genetic potential of the national herd.

“I won because of my comprehensive record-keeping. I was basically able to supply them with up-to-date records from my farming business, even rainfall records from 2008.

“When you are able to provide agri institutions with such information it means that you as a farmer are contributing to agricultural research in South Africa,” Mongwaketsi states.

Tiro Mongwaketsi was recently named National Commercial Beef Producer of the Year for 2020. Photo: Supplied.
Tiro Mongwaketsi was recently named National Commercial Beef Producer of the Year for 2020. Photo: Supplied

Earlier this year in October, Mongwaketsi was also crowned SAMIC National Emerging Farmer in their Carcass competition.

He says he wishes that emerging farmers could recognise the importance of record-keeping.

“People that are in the market competitively look at those things, hey. Just think about it, the bulls you buy from catalogues are loaded with information about the animal.”

That, he says, is possible through proper record-keeping and if farmers want to be taken seriously, they should start practicing it.

“Even when you’re applying for financing, banks and other lending institutions ask for financials. It’s not as simple as we think it is, you constantly need to have your eyes on the ball,” Mongwaketsi advocates.

Lessons learned

Coupled with that, the livestock farmer reveals that the biggest lesson he has learned is the art of patience.

“Agriculture is not an overnight success industry. You need patience while putting in hard work.”

More importantly, he says, “As a farmer you need to have faith. All your inputs can be right, but then something beyond your control happens, like drought, and that’s where faith comes in. At the end of the day God is the one who made it all possible.”

Tiro chooses to push past farming chalalnges. Photo: supplied.
Tiro chooses to push past farming challenges. Photo: Supplied

Other challenges include rainfall, infrastructure, foot-and-mouth disease and recently the covid-19 pandemic.

Challenges, however, will not deter this North West farmer from reaching his farming goals. On his list of things to achieve is being recognised as registered Bonsmara breeder.

“I want my cattle to be inspected according to the breeder’s society standards and this will enable me to breed quality animals.

“My first objective however is to register as a commercial breeder. This would mean that I am breeding quality while utilising my resources efficiently,” Mongwaketsi says.

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Duncan Masiwa
Duncan Masiwa
DUNCAN MASIWA is a budding journalist with a passion for telling great agricultural stories. He hails from Macassar, close to Somerset West in the Western Cape, where he first started writing for the Helderberg Gazette community newspaper. Besides making a name for himself as a columnist, he is also an avid poet who has shared stages with artists like Mahalia Buchanan, Charisma Hanekam, Jesse Jordan and Motlatsi Mofatse.
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