As with any other business, the main purpose of any farming enterprise is to make a good profit every year. There are however so many factors that influence a livestock farm’s profit margin. Large and small stock breeders must therefore have knowledge on so many different things, that it sometimes becomes overwhelming. These include genetics, genomics, animal nutrition, grazing management, animal health, financial management, marketing, meteorology, etc. These are, for example, some of the topics that are discussed annually at the LRF Stockman School.
The LRF Stockman School is the platform where in a nutshell, participants can get exposure to the latest ideas about breeding in the world. We seek the best local and international speakers to provide their input at the school. JP Landman, a guest speaker at the 2011 LRF Stockman school put it succinctly when he showed how producer numbers have halved over the last three decades. He predicted that producer numbers will continue to decline over the next decade. However, the numbers of cattle and lamb produced will remain more or less the same. The difference is that the more efficient and better-informed producer, is the one that will remain on the farm. The production system will change as knowledge changes and producers become better equipped to meet the challenges of the future.
Keeping up to date with the latest developments in all these different fields is sometimes a huge challenge. It is precisely this gap that the Livestock Registering Federation (LRF) noticed twelve years ago (in 2009) and that led to the establishment of the LRF Stockman School. One of the corporate goals of the LRF is Research and Development and more specifically to make the members of LRF affiliated societies (and wider) aware of the latest livestock farming practices. Training of breeders is therefore something that is very close to the LRF’s heart. The LRF Stockman School is one of the world’s best educational agricultural events and quality is always paramount.
What makes the school exceptional is not only the ±15 local guest speakers/industry experts but also the value that is added from the international guests that are invited. One of our previous international speakers, Roger Hunsley from the USA, was recently inducted into the USA cattleman’s hall of fame (that includes two USA presidents!). Doc Hunsley has initiated similar schools in Australia, Ireland, Canada, the USA and South America. His lesson on “what is under the hide” was always extremely well received and is a visual demonstration that capacity is often not well understood amongst producers. There are breeders who annually attend this school and learn something new every year.
Over the years, the school focused on various aspects of livestock farming, such as feed efficiency, carcass quality, grazing management, reproduction, animal health, genomics, etc. Each year, three or four international speakers, who are leaders in their respective fields, are invited to share their knowledge with the delegates. The LRF also takes this opportunity to bring breeders into contact with leading local scientists and breeders. The Stockman School is also used as a platform to bring breeders into contact with various role-playing agricultural companies in South Africa that assist breeders in making certain management decisions. The Stockman School also filled the gap in the livestock industry by linking the different sectors in the livestock industry, for example commercial and stud producers, feedlots, abattoirs as well as retailers.
The interaction amongst producers and also the interaction with leaders from all facets of industry, adds to the value that the school provides. The management of the school are committed to keep the costs as affordable as possible but at the same time provide leading Southern African producers with the very best educational value possible to ensure that they run even more profitable beef and sheep enterprises. We encourage everyone with an interest in the livestock industry to attend the school, that normally runs over a course of three days. The school is usually fully booked with a maximum of 200 delegates (if held at Aldam), so we suggest you book as early as possible. We look forward to welcoming everyone at this year’s first virtual LRF Stockman School 2020.
By Dr Michael Bradfield (Convener)