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Going for more volume in South Africa

Pig farming in South Africa offers its definite advantages – as there is a good climate, the space and the quietness. Still, good management, planning and increasing your business are necessary to survive as the feed crisis does not skip this farm near Pietermaritzburg.

History has definitely left its marks at Baynesfield Estate, located not far from Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. In a museum, located on the farm site, visitors can learn about the rich past of this location. Erected as early as the late 1800s by a British settler called Joseph Baynes, the place is said to have been the first place in South Africa where a cattle dip was implemented to prevent the animals getting infected by mange. In addition, it also was the place where the country's first amounts of butter were produced, during World War I.

The 10,000 ha estate, located in ondulating Kwazulu-Natal countryside, has seen a lot of changes and additions over the years, as at the moment maize, soya, avocado, timber and sugarcane are being cultivated - in addition to pigs. As early as the 1920s, a piggery was established at this place, to grow out to become a 1,350 sow farrow-to-finish unit anno 2008 – and that is only the beginning. If all plans will go ahead as scheduled, Baynesfield Estate will become a Western-standard, multi-site farm, with a total of 2,500 sows, thus effectively being one of the larger ones of the province.

Expansion

Expanding is the only way to go, farm manager Gerd Baum, 36, explains. Austrian by birth, he moved to South Africa in 1994 to become a pig farm manager, just like most of his family had done in the past. Even in South Africa, far away from the environmental issues in Europe and ethanol debates in the US, he must have realised that pig farming has come to a crossroads. Partly this is due to higher costs of production, which hasn't forgotten South Africa, Baum says. "Prices of grain go through the roof everywhere. Hence, smaller farms now start packing up and are swollen up by bigger farms. You may be able to a 250 sow farm effectively, but if you don't have the volume these days, it's simply end of story."

Gerd Baum, farm manager at Baynesfield Estate: "Smaller farms now start packing up and are swollen up by bigger farms."
Gerd Baum, farm manager at Baynesfield Estate: "Smaller farms now start packing up and are swollen up by bigger farms."

Nothing but peaceful countryside around the farm, so plenty of space, one would say – but the location is not immediately an advantage, Baum explains, as the estate is located in the middle of a nature protected area. "Increasing our unit meant that we had to go through an environmental assessment. We couldn't just build these new pig houses, unfortunately. We have been filling out documents for the last two years – and we keep on paying and paying."

The expansion of Baynesfield Estate is the addition of another farm, about three kilometres away from the current location. This addition means that virtually the whole set-up of the farm will change as what is now Nel's Rust Farm will become the location for the boar stud and the breeding sow facility. The new location will be the where weaning and fattening will be located, which now is still being done at Nel's Rust Farm.

This farm visit became possible after kind cooperation of Topigs.

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