I am a wife and mother of four and farm with beef and dairy cattle as well as a few chickens on my husband's family farm Rogers in the Steinhausen area, some 180 km northeast of Windhoek.
Our whole farming entity is certified as "organic in conversion" since September 2010 by NOA, the Namibian Organic Association.
The NOA standards:
- Prohibit chemical pesticides and fertilizers
- Guarantee animal welfare
- Do not allow routine use of drugs and antibiotics
- Ban genetically modified (GM) crops, fodder and product ingredients
- Sustain the health of soil, water, plants and animals
My husband and I are farming together with beef cattle, mainly Brahman Crossings.
Our cows give birth once yearly during the period from October to December, just before the rainy season starts and the vegetation turns green and nutritious. The calves stay together with their mothers for the first five to seven month of their lives, after which they are weaned.
At the age of 16-18 months, the best heifers are selected and bred for the first time to become part of the cow herd.
The males stay on the farm until they finally reach their slaughtering size and weight, at the age of about 27 month. We try to keep our cattle as adopted as possible to the harsh Namibian conditions, as those cattle thrive best under the naturally available fodder (grass and bush) and are more resistant to fleas, ticks and illnesses.
We reach this goal by selecting bulls from adapted breeds and only use our own cows coming from maternal lines which are adapted through generations to our local environment.
Our whole herd consisted of Brahman Cross cattle until 2009, when some Caprivi Sanga heifers and a bull where bought. The Caprivi Sanga is an indigenous breed – looking like the Nguni – and we hope to breed even harder cattle through introducing their genetics into our herd.
All beef cattle stay in the veld the whole year and feed on natural available fodder.
I introduced the first pure dairy cattle in the beginning of 2011. Both Jersey and Brown Swiss cows were selected and are kept close to the farmstead, because milking takes place twice daily; in the morning and again in the evening.
In between, they go out into the veld to feed on roughage, while they are given fodder-beans (grown on the farm) and maize (grown by Namibias only organic certified maize farmer near Grootfontein) during milking time.
Due to their much thinner skins and less adaptation to our conditions, the dairy cows easily get bitten by ticks. To keep the tick load on a low level – cattle actually need some ticks for a strong immune system – we keep a flock of chicken next to the milking place:
As soon as the cows arrive from the veld, the chicken arrive, too, spot the ticks, jump and pick them off. That's the organic way of keeping the ticks under control and the chickens seem to like their extra portion of protein!
Immediately after milking, the milk is processed into yoghurt, cottage cheese, Mozzarella, Feta, etc.
Chickens running all over the place, scraping in the garden and kraal for insects, picking ticks from the cattle – that's my version of happy poultry and I really believe one can taste the happiness in the eggs.
To be as sustainably as possible, we use about 25 ha of our farm for dry land agriculture.
As the rainfall in our area is often too unpredictable to cultivate maize, the only crops we produce are fodder-beans (for the dairy herd) as well as sunflowers (for the chicken). Oats are planted as green manure on 1/3 of the fields.
A further 50 ha are planted with perennial grasses which are cut once yearly to produce fodder for injured or old animals.