A Ewe-nique Experience for the Final Years

Posted on January 08, 2024

The UP Department of Animal Science prides itself on integrating our theoretical curriculum with experiential learning. Annually, our final years embark on a 3 day tour of the Vrede farming district to see practically engage with industry role players and place their theoretical knowledge in context.

Vrede is a farming town located in the Thabo Mofutsanyana region of the Free State Province in South Africa. It was laid out in 1863 and the first European land owners named the area Vrede which means “peace”. This town is situated in the hub of the region's agricultural industry and is an important producer of maize, wheat, wool, mutton, beef, dairy products and poultry.

Starting on the11th of September, our final years got on the bus at 05:30 AM. Our bus was proudly sponsored by AFGRI Operations Limited. On the bus, music was playing, students chatting, and some students trying to catch up on some sleep to set the tone for the next 3 days.

Our first stop was Arcadia Bonsmara SA Farm owned and run by Mr. Arthur de Villers. Students were greated with warm smiles, coffee and rusks. Mr. de Villiers gave a talk on body conformation within the Bonsamara breed. Students were also allowed to see these principles in practice as different bulls, cows and calves where allowed into the pen, where Mr. de Villiers emphasised factors to consider when choosing animals for your herd. Additionally, after lunch one of Bonsmara SA consultants gave students an insightful brief on whothe society is and what they do as well as what makes them unique. Molatek was also there and sponsored students with new hats after explaining their role in the ruminant feed industry. 

Up next was a visit to Mr. Zietsman's commercial Merino wool farm where students, many for the first time, saw the use of integrated technological management. Students saw a weigh scale that co-ordinated with implanted identification chips in the sheep, to automatically assign the sheep to a particular holding pen.

After the long drive and long day, students stayed at Emanzini Resort thanks to a sponsorship by Elanco.

The second day began at WO Beefmaster Group (Pty) Ltd, managed by the Odendaal family. Students received a talk on the principles behind the management and planning of a stud farm. To emphasise these principles, the Odendaal's allowed the students to pile into the back of various bakkie's and drive camp to camp where the cattle are. After lunch, students saw how bull semen is collected using an electro-ejaculator. 

The next stop was Izak Dreyer Bonsamara and Mutton Merino. Mr. Dreyer explained and showed how they are making use of regenerating farming. For many students, they got to see the benefits and practicalities of this type of farming in the future.

On the final day, students visited QPro's monogastric feed mill, VKB Landbou. Divided into three groups, students were given a tour from the bottom to the top of their feed mill and were allowed to see, touch and hear various machines that were emphasised in our newest undergraduate module, Livestock Feed Technology.

The Department of Animal Science and it students would like to give a great big thank you to the following people and companies who made this tour possible:

  • Southern African Agri Initiative (SAAI) for sponsoring t-shirts.
  • Arcadia Bonsmara SA Farm and Mr. and Mrs. Arthur de Villiers
  • Bonsmara SA
  • Molatek
  • Mr. Zietsmann
  • WO Beefmaster Group (Pty) Ltd and the Odendaal family
  • Izak Dreyer Bonsamara and Mutton Merino
  • QPro Feeds

Also, a big thank you to Ashlyn Southern, Johannes Dreyer, Rimbilana Shingange and Prof. Este van Marle-Koster who traveled with the students. As well as Dr. Linde du Toit for organisation.

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