I visited a tannery in 2000 and saw the most beautiful hides I had ever seen. That was the first time I heard the Nguni name associated with cattle and since then, Nguni cattle have been a part of my life.
During the late 1980’s I spent time in north-western Namibia amongst the Himba and Herero people. With them being so closely associated with their cattle, it gave me exposure to that. I can distinctly remember the Brahman influence in their cattle as the area was under military authority and the best way to keep the local people positive towards the military rule was to ceremoniously hand over a Brahman bull from time to time. The thinking was that the Brahman genetics would enhance the ‘poor’ genetics of the local cattle, but I saw many Brahman bulls being castrated and ending up in the pot as well. I don’t know if it was in contempt of the authorities or if they just prized their own cattle more.
During a stint in northern Natal on the Mozambican border and the Makatini Flats I daily saw the rural people amongst their cattle. All this exposure must sub-consciously have played a role in my future love of this breed.
My first stop was the Breeders’ Association in Bloemfontein and I then visited various Nguni breeders in the Gauteng area to learn as much as I could about the breed. Most breeders were extremely helpful and I spent many hours and kilometers on farms and on the road as part of my education about Nguni cattle and cattle farming in general.
Before I even knew where they were to be kept, I bought my first five heifers. But most farmers do not mind an extra five head on their farm and in no time I was in business and could almost call myself a cattle farmer! I saw them three times during that first year and at the end of the year they had proven themselves to me and I introduced a bull to them. Exactly nine months later those first five heifers calved within three days of each other!
Armed with all the courage I needed I bought another 16 heifers and moved to a bigger piece of land. This was to become the routine every year; moving to bigger land as the herd grew naturally and as I bought more cattle. I eventually paid the price for this in extended inter-calving periods (ICP’s) and general mortality associated with moving and getting to know a new area. Ditches, water holes, poisonous plants and poor fences all took their toll. This together with a lightning strike that killed 15 of my cattle, I learned that cattle farming is not just hanging over the fence with your arms crossed, chewing on a stalk of grass!
At the end of 2004 I had to decide either to cap the business and keep it as a hobby, or to expand it into an economically viable enterprise. This would require capital and, once up and running, more intensive management than before. My dad then entered the business as a partner and we settled on the farm Bethel, in the north-eastern Free State. Since then we have more than doubled the herd and we plan further expansion and will keep adding to the history of Triple Z Nguni Stud.