Hendrik Smith, South Africa – Day 2

Below is the reception of the farm office we visited today


Hendrik today took us to visit Janvos Landgoed on the High Veld near Ermelo.


Jan is a bit of a man mountain and I would not have wanted to face him on the rugby pitch! He manages his family farm with his father and it is quite an operation. They have 8000ha in total: 3500 cropping of maize and soya; 300 dairy cows; 800 beef cows, 3000 sheep and 15ha of apples.


Above is maps of all his farms. Each section has their own manager who has their own accounts, which means if one department sells something to another it is charged at the going rate. This was a bit of an issue for the dairy manager as the maize price here has doubled! The idea is to encourage competition between the managers.

The High Veld where they are has a bit of a unique climate for South Africa.


Due to its altitude it is cooler than most other places. It has about 600mm of annual rainfall mostly in the summer. This climate is good for growing apples and Jan thinks he will increase the area as it shows a lot of potential. It seems to be the expanding crop in this area.

Jan showed us around his enterprises.


The cropping side has been no till since 2008. Jan went to Brazil that year and bought a local planter there and then. The first year he was 33% no till, second 66% and third he was 100% and has never looked back. About 80% of the farmers in this area are no till. The planter above is Jan’s current planter which is a local make. It has a leading time on it as he grazes all his stubbles hard with animals and this helps relieve the damage.


He grows 50% maize and 50% soya with a couple of pivots for irrigation. He grows GMO soya and non GMO maize. He gets a premium for non GMO maize. The cropping side also makes the silage for the dairy and charges them!


Luckily when we there they were shearing the sheep


The wool is worth good money from these Merinos. They fatten themselves off on grass. He sometimes plants ryegrass in one of his pivots for the sheep to lamb on. He gets 3 crops of lambs in 2 yrs and they lamb at 120%. In the shearing shed we saw the Sheep Guardian


This keeps the Jackals off 300ha of grazing ground. It works in two ways. It emits a low frequency sounds that scares off the vermin and also it sprays lion’s pee every 15 minutes. I would not want to be the guy collecting the lion pee!

We then looked at the dairy


They are zero grazed and are housed in this open building


The cows are yielding at 42l per cow per day. Even at this high output they are not making a profit. The dairy industry is struggling here too.

When we were driving around Jan showed us his dam where he gets his water from. Luckily he has clean water but did have an incident with the local sewage works who were leaking raw sewage into his water. This is something we have heard all around RSA. The sewage works seem to have stopped working and are pumping raw sewage into the water system. Not only does South Africa have a water shortage problem it also has a massive water quality problem with pollution from sewage and from mines. I can’t quite understand why in a developed country they can’t get sewage works working.

Thanks to Jan for showing us around. It was great to see a diversified business on a large scale and how that diversity has lead to resilience and long term profitability. Also thanks to Hendrik for being our guide for 2 days. He is doing a great job here promoting Conservation Agriculture and I think the UK would gain from a similar person.

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