SA beef cattle producers must ‘up their game’ to meet future demand

The South African agriculture sector currently had to feed a population of 60,3 million people, according to Dr Ben Greyling, research team manager for the Agricultural Research Council’s (ARC) Beef Cattle Improvement scheme.

Speaking at the ARC’s recent Beef Cattle School held in Thabazimbi, he said it was estimated that 13,8 million people lived under the food poverty line in South Africa.

“Our 40 000 commercial, 240 000 emerging and three million small-scale farmers must feed our nation,” he said. He added that the extreme food poverty line, which referred to the amount of money that an individual needed to afford his or her minimum required daily energy intake, was R663 per person/month in 2022.

“It is estimated that 13,8 million people live below the food poverty line. These people need access to affordable food, and this is why it is so important that the performance disparities between the commercial production beef cattle sector and the small and subsistent sectors be addressed,” he said.

For beef producers to become more competitive and to increase profitability and production, the commercialisation of the emerging sector was of utmost importance, Greyling said. He advised beef producers to tap into local genetic resources, which included the use of indigenous cattle breeds such as the Afrikaner to improve efficiencies.

“Ever-escalating beef production input costs means that [all producers must] be as efficient and profitable as possible. The implementation of available technologies for genetic improvement, as well as performance recording and research, is vital for genetic improvement across all breeds and sectors. Training and skills development are also imperative,” Greyling added.

According to him, the livestock sector directly supported close to 13 million people in South Africa. In the first quarter of 2023, the animal products sub-sector provided the largest contribution to agricultural revenue at 56%.