Farming is the backbone of Southern Africa. Many people rely on farming as the only source of income, or the only way to be independent and sustain their families. The 1st of May was worker’s day. That’s why we’ve decided to dedicate this month to so many people that are becoming entrepreneurs by setting up backyard and/or plot farming facilities to produce high-quality products for themselves and their community.
We’ll be discussing some of the most asked questions regarding farming in South Africa.
What are the three types of farming in South Africa?
There are various types of farming in South Africa. They vary depending on available space, end-goals of farming and, the area in which the farm is located.
South Africa’s agricultural scene is constantly changing and growing as people become more aware of their options and people have to learn how to take initiative. They do this to benefit their own families, but also the communities around them. Farming is a cornerstone when it comes to any economy, it created jobs, provides much needed food and, uplifts communities.
Subsistence /Backyard Farming
Subsistence farming refers to farming with the end-goal of feeding your own family. Therefore, many subsistence farmers are backyard farmers. They farm with small livestock like chickens, rabbits and, perhaps goats depending on the space they have available.
These farmers usually have enough to feed themselves and their families, but in most cases they do not have sufficient livestock or produce to sell their products to the public.
Many people see subsistence farming as a way to overcome poverty in South Africa. Many subsistence farmers have been able to turn their way of survival into a business that serves their local communities with affordable produce and meat.
In order to have a successful subsistence farm, you will need proper pens/cages for livestock otherwise they can wander off and you loose your means of survival. Therefore, it is imperative that these farmers make use of solid wood and high-quality materials to build their pens/cages and feeding lots. We will explore this in detail in the future where will will provide these farmers with plans and advice on how to build a pen the right way.
As can be expected, these farms are all over South Africa, in the urbanized areas and more agricultural areas. This is due to the high unemployment and poverty rates in the country which leads people to taking initiative to take care of their own family.
Urban farming can be found in cities all over South Africa.
This refers to farming in the urbanized areas. It is an initiative that has been taking off all around the world which promotes farming in all areas of the city. This includes planting produce on rooftops, sidewalks and, any other underutilized areas in the city.
This idea has spread all over South Africa and can be seen in places like Rosebank, Johannesburg.
The relatively new movement of urban farming has, at its core, the growing of food in the city or on its periphery, on a relatively small scale; and sometimes extends to rearing goats, rabbits, chickens and ducks, and keeping bees. Urban farming is distinguished from what went before by its motive: a distinction that is often evident in the resulting garden typologies, which intentionally target people’s preconceived ideas about growing food in the city by planting on sidewalks, roof tops, old sports fields, alleyways or in other underutilised spaces. – Solid Green South Africa
The thing thats sets urban farming apart from all other types of farming is the goal. Usually the goal is to feed the community and using underutilized space. Another thing that sets it apart is the fact that it makes use of volunteers who are willing to spend time and effort learning, growing and harvesting the produce and livestock. It is seen as a community project rather than farming for personal gain.
Commercial Farming is probably the one that most of us are familiar with. If you have ever traveled, you have seen the massive farms with rows and rows of corn or pumpkins. They have massive silos, and watering systems.
Commercial farms are the ones that are selling to big retail stores. They are the ones that are focused on the business side of things more than subsistence and community upliftment. This is not a bad thing though. These farms produce thousands of job opportunities in all the areas, and boosts the economy by exporting their goods.
These large-scale farms have one goal: To make a profit.
Commercial farms can be small, selling to local retailers, medium or large. It depends on the size of the farm, their output and profits. It is possible for subsistence farms to become small commercial farms if they have the necessary skills, resources and, capital to grow their farm.
How to start farming
What type of farm can I start now?
When looking at the option of farming, you need to consider a few basic things before starting:
Your end goal will determine the route and scale that need to take with the farming. If your goal is to make money from it, you will look at a more commercial farm with bigger amounts of livestock. However, when looking at only feeding you and your family, you can start very small.
The available space also plays a big role in your farm. When you have a very large piece of land to work with, you can look at medium to large scale farming. However, those with smaller pieces of land may have to look at small-scale community based farming.
Space will also limit you to which animals you can keep. For instance, a person with a very small yard will not be able to keep cattle as there will be no space. They might have space for chickens or rabbits though.
The amount of money you a have will determine what level of farming you can start at. If you have a large amount of capital, you can afford to build bigger pens/coops/garden beds etc. to farm with. However, small capital does not mean that you can’t do anything. It just means that you will have to start small and invest profits back into the business until your farm is at the size that you want it to be.
Types of livestock farming and their biggest initial expenses:
Once you have decided that you want to start a farm, and you know what your goals, available space and initial capital is, you can start looking at the different farming opportunities.Here, we refer directly to the types of livestock farming available to South Africans.
We will also briefly discuss some of the biggest initial costs regarding each farming practice.
Obviously the initial cost will be building a cattle kraal/ pen, buying the cattle and feed if the cattle won’t be grazing on their own. To see prices on cattle feed and tips on how to reduce expenses on feed, you can view Farmers Weekly.
Furthermore, you can check out how to build your very own cattle kraal/pen on one of previous posts: Cattle Kraal/Pen construction. We provide plans and tips on timber sizes to use in the construction process.
*Note: All prices are approximate at the time of writing/posting this article. Please note that all prices are subject o change without prior notice.
Here are some of the timber sizes that will come in handy when you are constructing a cattle kraal/pen:
Requirements for Cattle Farming:
- Large open area, preferably with a slight uphill slope.
- Large initial capital. (One cow costs around R7 000-R8 000), this excludes the construction of a cattle kraal and the initial feed.
For these reasons, cattle farming is one of the most expensive start-ups when it comes to livestock.
Chicken farming is one of the most common backyard livestock farming operations in South Africa. This is due to the fact that they are relatively affordable to buy in most parts of South Africa. Furthermore, they do not require extensive care, tons of feed or intricate and strong holding pens.
So how small/big can you start with? To give you a basic idea:
For 6 chickens:
- 2-3 square meter chicken coop
- 8.5 square meter chicken run (Space outside the chicken coop)
That said, you need to ensure that a few things are done before you purchase your chickens. The most important of these: Building your chicken coop. We have done an intensive post regarding chicken coop plans and tips on how to properly build a long-lasting chicken coop here: Chicken Coops and Farming
Some of the timber you might need will include:
Always be sure to build the right size coop and using the highest quality materials like CCA Treated Timber. Destroying and rebuilding the chikcen coop can be very stressful on the chickens and yourself! But stressful chicken means no golden eggs! Therefore, we highly recommend that you build the coop before acquiring any chickens.
Where to get additional information:
South Africa has many different sources of information on farming, how to get started, how to best care for your animals etc.
These sites and organizations include:
Buhle Farmers Acadamy
There are many more when you start googling and talking to people in the business. It is important to make sure that you have the necessary knowledge and facilities if you want to start farming to make a profit. Many of these organizations provide free articles with helpful tips and advice when stating a farming business. Therefore, we highly recommend you visit these sites if you are thinking about starting a farm!
Timber for holding pens, coops and other agricultural uses
As briefly mentioned in the post above, building the holding pens etc. is one of the most important things to do to protect your assets.
Sabie Poles has all the timber you need to contract any type of fence, pen, coop or garden beds. You can check out our online quoting system for our wide range of products, generate an online quotation system or contact us with all your questions regarding timber for your farming business here: