Dineo Mokgoshi was looking for an opportunity to invest her money in a business that would offer good returns. She never would have imagined a future as a fulltime farmer – until she was inspired by the story of a woman farmer who rose to the challenge and achieved great success in the world of agriculture. Dineo shares her own transformational journey with African Farming.
Budding entrepreneur Dineo Mokgoshi was on the lookout for new investment opportunities when a relative told her that cattle farming was a lucrative business with good returns. At the time, Dineo had a fulltime job and a few side hustles, catering for functions and hosting international tourists.
“My friend and I ran a touristhosting company at the Fountain Valley Resort in Groenkloof Nature Reserve in Pretoria. We set up a caravan and camping site and let caravans and tents to tourists who enjoyed the city, but preferred being outside in nature than staying in hotels. Tourists, especially Europeans, loved the experience and paid good money for it,” she says.
In 2005, using her bonus and her savings, Dineo bought 26 mixedbreed cows and a white Brahman bull. At the time she was living in Pretoria, so she ran the cattle on land in Winterveld, about 40km northwest of the city, that belonged to her inlaws.
“I learnt the basics of farming by reading any material I could find.” That’s how she came across the magazine article that changed her perspective on farming. “I saw it as a part-time gig. I didn’t really intend to get my hands dirty, let alone move to the rural areas,” laughs Dineo.
The article was about Dorah Matlou from Rust de Winter in Limpopo. “Her story touched my heart and gave me courage. She overcame many challenges to establish a profitable awardwinning farming operation. I promised myself I would follow her lead; she’d be my role model.”
Fifteen years down the line, Dineo has kept her word. She has established Segometsi Bakgoshi Agricultural Cooperative, a successful mixed-farming operation with 48 000 laying hens, flocks of more than 120 sheep and goats, 120 Pinzgauer cattle and a PinZ²yl stud herd, as well as a commercial cattle herd of 133 Brahman-type animals.
“We’ve just finished building a 25 000-layer house, which means we can take the layer operation to 73 000 birds,” she explains. She employs 16 permanent employees and offers practical training to 22 university students every year. There are two supervisors and one farm manager, all with university degrees.
Dineo admits things were not easy in the beginning. “It was a long, tough journey. We worked extremely hard to get to where we are today. I owe so much to my supportive family, especially my husband. When we sold the house and left the cushy suburban lifestyle to move to Winterveld, he was right behind me.” They relocated to Winterveld when the increased cattle numbers could no longer be accommodated on the small family plot.
“I also learnt from Dorah’s story, and from other successful farmers, that being on the farm full time is non-negotiable when you’re building a successful enterprise.” In 2009, on her way to a friend’s birthday party, Dineo spotted vacant land in Winterveld. After spending many months searching for the family of its deceased owner, she bought the 17ha plot in 2010.
At the time, says Dineo, business was booming thanks to the 2010 Fifa World Cup being hosted in South Africa.
“I built my house, moved in and started setting up infrastructure for the livestock. Because it is not a big piece of land, we were and still are part of the communal grazing system. Our cattle graze on the communal area during the day and we bring them back to kraal at home in the evening. Growing and diversifying, Dineo started buying in sheep and goats.
POULTRY FOR CASH FLOW
Dineo soon realised livestock does not generate a consistent cash flow, so in 2013 she decided to venture into poultry and bought 7 000 broilers. However, in a combination of unlucky timing and seriously bad weather, she was hit by a hailstorm that killed all the chickens and 19 cattle.
“I picked myself up and dusted off the terrible losses. The following year I entered the Gauteng Female Farmer of the Year Awards and came second.” The R40 000 prize gave her the motivation and the money to try poultry again. This time she went for layers. “I built three 2 000-layer houses in 2015, but funds ran out halfway through the project.” So she sold eight bull calves for cash to complete the project. But once the houses were built, there was no money for chickens!
“We underbudgeted, estimating a cost of R40 to R55 a bird. To my shock, a single bird was R90 at that time.” Dineo was stuck with empty cages for a few months. Then, in January 2016, with the help of her extension officer, she was able to access government support. A thousand layers, with the necessary feed, were delivered to her farm.
“They weren’t enough to fill a house, but it was a start!” By chance, Dineo saw an invitation in a newspaper, calling for bidders to supply Gauteng government hospitals in Ekurhuleni with 100 boxes of eggs a day. “I only had 1 000 chickens producing five boxes a day, but I took the plunge,” she says, laughing.
She got the contract and then had to source 95 more boxes in a hurry. Driving as far as the West Rand and to Magaliesburg, she found suppliers to help her meet her contractual obligations. The business generated a healthy profit through this contract, which meant she could increase her own capacity. Soon the other two houses were filled with layers and later she built three more houses, each with a 5 000-layer carrying capacity.
“By 2017 I had 20 000 layers and was able to reduce the outsourcing.” By the time the contract ended in June 2018, Dineo had increased her capacity to 48 000 birds.
“I’ve recently built another 25 000-layer house. Once this one is equipped and stocked, my production will rise to 73 000 laying hens,” she says. Her plan is to increase production by a further 100 000 layers, and she has just concluded talks with an existing client who wants to increase their supply to 25 000 boxes a month.
“We supply 2 400 boxes to formal clients every week. We also sell to the public, including hawkers and spaza shop owners.” Dineo buys point-of-lay hens and day-old chicks for replacement stock. She uses HyLine Silver, Hy Line Brown and Lohmann Brown breeds.
“Initially I only bought point-of-lays, but since completing an Agricultural Research Council course in raising day-old layer chicks last year, I’ve successfully raised 16 000 chicks that are now in production,” she says.
It takes four to five months to raise the chicks. Dineo feeds a pre-starter ration to the new chicks, followed by a starter feed ration (20% protein) until they are six weeks old. They switch to a grower feed (18% protein) until they are 12 to 14 weeks old.
“At about 18 weeks, we feed the developer ration until they start producing small pullet eggs. We start them on pre-lay and then laying mesh when they are 20 weeks old,” she adds.
During peak lay, the hens produce large and extra-large eggs, whereas towards the end of their production life they lay jumbo and super-jumbo eggs.
“The frequency of laying also changes,” Dineo says. Although the norm is to keep layers for a minimum of a year, she culls her layers at 18 months. “If you have quality breeds, vaccinate consistently and feed quality rations, chickens will lay for up to 18 months.”
Laying hens eat about 0.01kg of laying mash every day, Dineo says. “For my 12 000 bird house, I use about 1t (20 bags of 50kg each) per day on average. I add four extra bags to balance things out for those who consume more than others, because of different sizes and eating habits.”
The layer operation uses about 3.5t of feed every day and Dineo collects between 43 000 and 44 000 eggs a day from her 48 000 layers.
LAND AND LIVESTOCK
Dineo is part of the ZZ2 Pinzgauer and PinZ²yl study group and runs her cattle (68 Pinzgauer and 52 PinZ²yl breeding cows) at the famous ZZ2 tomato farm in Limpopo’s Mooketsi Valley. This is where Bertie van Zyl founded the giant farming group that today farms across the country today and is arguably the biggest producer of tomatoes in the southern hemisphere.
This programme was founded ZZ2’s late herd manager, the legendary Paul Bester. Dineo says they pay a herdsman and a grazing fee for the service. “I don’t have the land to keep the cattle, so this arrangement works for me.”
In Winterveld she runs 133 breeding Brahman-type cows, and 130 sheep and goats on communal land. “We try to control the system, but it can be difficult – and sometimes impossible,” she says. The cattle are fed supplements at “home” and given fresh drinking water from a borehole.
Phosphate licks are given in summer and protein licks in winter. “We have to stop them from drinking from the Tolwane river, as it is highly contaminated with raw sewage,” Dineo says.
This situation is far from ideal, so she’s on the hunt for her own land where she could consolidate her livestock herds and manage the cattle more intensively.
And so Dineo keeps pursuing her goals, always following Dorah’s motto of “never give up” – an inspirational farmer in her own right, with a great future ahead of her.