The Upper Telle wool shed is the top producing shearing shed in the communal areas of South Africa’s Eastern Cape for the 2016/’17 season, thanks to high quality wool and good genetics.
The small shed in Region 25, in the Joe Gqaba district, received the award for the highest income of R1.3 million from 103 bales (each weighing 140 kg) which was delivered to the South African wool market. In addition, 90% of it is destined for exports.
Asandile Rasmeni, National Wool Growers Association (NWGA) production advisor, said quality rather than quantity led to the honours.
“The farmers have good wool due to the good genetics of their merino sheep and management of the breeding animals in their flocks.
“They even decided to take out the old stock and sell it to the abattoir. They also went to commercial farmers in Barkley East to buy in good quality rams to improve their genetics.”
According to Rasmeni, Upper Telle is a relative small shed with a total of 72 farmers shearing 5 000 sheep between them.
The shed also received a much valued prize for vaccinations to the value of R2 300 from Zoetis for their achievement.
Farmers in communal areas in the Eastern Cape started breeding merino sheep into their indigenous flocks because of the high commercial value of wool about 12 years ago. Government and the NWGA introduced merino sheep to the farmers to enable them to enter the commercial market to improve livelihoods and transform agriculture in communal and rural areas.
Defying the odds
The communal farmers farm with sheep in circumstances almost unthinkable to commercial farmers.
William Sephula, one of the top producers of the shed, said farmers share land, making managing a flock very challenging. Communal land means farmers can’t put up fences to separate breeding stock from inferior animals, and have no control over pastures.
Farmers also share a communal shearing shed, making the management of contamination difficult. This lowers the value of fleece.
Stock theft is a serious problem, especially on the border with Lesotho, which is difficult to patrol in the rural area. The community of Upper Telle is far from the nearest town. Inputs, medicine and veterinary support is very difficult to access and the same goes for getting information on how to manage their stocks.