FORT HARE DAIRY TRUST: Produces Milk, Skills and Wins Awards

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4.3 million litres! That is the volume of raw milk produced at the Fort Hare Dairy Trust each year. The 210 hectares (ha) picturesque farm nests on land owned by the University of Fort Hare’s Alice campus and has 800 dairy cows in its stock.

On 15 November, the farm was named overall winner of the Amadlelo 5th Annual Awards held in Hogsback. The Fort Hare Dairy Trust is the fruit of a partnership with Amadlelo Agri – a black empowerment agricultural business. Production began in  2007 and the farm remains commercially viable.

Mr Simpiwe Somdyala, CEO of Amadlelo Agri, says the 72% black-owned company intends to provide support services to emerging black farmers and communities who want to build prosperous agribusinesses.

“Basically we look at land that is lying fallow or land that is not optimally utilized and partner with communities or black people who own the land. The owners bring the land and we provide them with extensive project management expertise, skills development and significant resources as investors. We have a strong network with experienced white commercial farmers who mentor the workers,” explained Somdyala.

Amadlelo is also partners with the Fort Hare Piggery, Seven Stars Dairy in Keiskammahoek, Makhoba Dairy in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Shiloh Dairies in Whittlesea, Middledrift Dairy and Ncora Dairy.

The Fort Hare Dairy Trust was Amadlelo-Agri’s first dairy project.  

“The intention was to use the university and the dairy farm as a platform to develop dairy expertise in the Eastern Cape and to dismiss the notion that agriculture was perceived “uncool” by young black people”, said Somdyala.

Explaining the selection process for the awards, he said an objective analysis that is science-based is used to compare and select the best farm among its peers. “We look at various things such as grass quality, performance per cow and the management of the farm.”

Altogether there are 15 categories and Fort Hare won in the following categories:

  1. Most grass eaten per ha
  2. Least nitrogen per ha
  3. Best fertility figures
  4. Lowest cost producer
  5. Highest profit per ha
  6. And the most improved farm

 

The farm has a smallholding at Coega Dairies in Port Elizabeth where the milk is sent for pasteurization. The sterilized milk is then used to make dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt.

But there is more to this farm than just milking cows for profit. It also enables proper and sustainable transfer of knowledge and skills between academics, students and commercial expertise. The farm currently employs 26 staff, including managers, and provides experiential training to agriculture students and graduates.

“My aspirations for the university is to be the premium learning environment for dairy and piggery development, not only in the Eastern Cape but in the entire country. To be the lead researcher on pasture development and dairy management, and livestock development,” concluded Somdyala.