Training turns small farmers into functioning businesses

25 small scale poultry farmers in North West province are on track to grow commercial in future, thanks to training on farm management and record-keeping.

The 25, all from the North West province, were among over 240 South African poultry farmers who learned new business and financial management skills in a series of workshops by the World Poultry Foundation, with grants from US government agencies.  Johannesburg-based Franchising Plus, which delivered the training in February and followed up in July, said a common problem among the farmers was ineffective financial management.

North West youth on track to turn small-scale poultry farming into big business - A person posing for the camera - Tree

Annie Baptiste of Franchising Plus says many of the farmers were living without cash reserves for the next cycle, even though some were turning over up to R70,000 a month from their farms.

“We found that while several participants were graduates and some had a farming background, their business management skills were lacking. Most were not separating their business income from their personal income. Instead of having a business account and paying themselves a salary, they were spending their revenues as soon as they came in. This meant they had no reserves for future cycles and expansion, and no records to support bank loan applications.”

By simply improving their financial management, the participants were able to set aside funds for running costs and expansion, and were able to improve their turnover.

The course also covered farming best practice, where participants discovered the importance of careful feeding and poultry management, so reducing their poultry mortality rate and improving profitability.

Says Baptiste: “63% said their income had increased, 74% reported improved profitability and 80% said their record-keeping had improved since the training.”

Thanks to their improved farming practices and financial management, the participants are now on track to grow substantially, Baptiste believes. “We found most of the young farmers that were trained in Potchefstroom and around the country have ambitions to grow into commercial producers. There is certainly a market for more poultry in South Africa – plus, the poultry sector has a relatively low barrier to entry. We see many young people who have access to land turning to poultry farming first as a means to supplement their income, and later as a potential business.” Of the emerging poultry farmers trained nationwide, 63% were women. “There is definitely a shift towards more women going into agriculture,” she says.

One such farmer, Neo Mohlamme of Neo Poultry Farm in Klerksdorp, currently has six chicken houses on 174 hectares and aims to grow substantially – targeting 45 – 50 chicken houses within the next five years. “There is huge demand in my region, because chicken is the most affordable meat around,” she says. “As a result of the training, my records are now up to date, I have opened a business bank account and I also comply with SARS.”

Mosele Mokgoetsi of Blesbokfontein Farm in Ventersdorp currently has over 1500 layers and says she cannot keep up with demand. She aims to expand to around 90,000 chickens and is working to raise the capital to expand. The training has helped her manage feed more effectively and so improve profitability, she says: “Because of the training I am now able to do feed conversion ratio, I weigh my feed and I know now how many grams the chicken can eat per day and I can also check with the egg production and how it correlates.”

As more young people move to build their own businesses in the agriculture sector, Baptiste believes there is ample room for the North West’s small scale poultry farmers to grow. “There is definitely room for more small scale farmers in the region, and opportunities for emerging farmers to grow commercial and sell nationally – particularly if they run their businesses more effectively and collaborate more for their collective benefit,” she says.

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