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South African dairy farm intensifies

De Kock Cloete from Loch Lotus near Riviersonderend in South Africa’s Western Cape province farms on 2 relatively small but adjacent farms of 467ha and 530ha respectively. Having considered his land too small for economically sustainable grain production, he chose to go the dairy route instead. To maximise his turnover he expanded his dairy herd from 90 - 680 cows in milk at any time. He leases 300 of these cows. Water rights from the Sonderendriver enable him to optimise feed flow production for his cows with pastures and making silage.

Having decided to expand his dairy herd consisting of Holsteins and Jerseys, De Kock Cloete replaced his small 6-point tandem milking parlour with a 24-point swing over system at a cost of R1.35million (€90,000) in 2004. He also opted to lease some cows from 4 farmers who are either retired or decided to quit milk production because they had another source of income.

In July the price De Kock sells his milk at dropped from R5.07/litre - R4.52/litre (€0.33 – €0.30 / litre). The top 500 cows (groups A and B) are fed in a TMR or semi-TMR system, while the 180 cows that are in the process of drying up (group C) are run on pastures. The costs for concentrates have been increased by R380/t (€25.04/t) in October and costs to feed the top 2 groups amount to R3.40 - R3.80/litre (€0.22-€0.25 /litre).


  • De Kock Cloete grows maize for silage production on 43ha. Like other farmers in his area he uses a contractor to harvest the maize by mid-April. This photo was taken on another farm in the same district where the contractor was busy operating.

    De Kock Cloete grows maize for silage production on 43ha. Like other farmers in his area he uses a contractor to harvest the maize by mid-April. This photo was taken on another farm in the same district where the contractor was busy operating.

  • De Kock Cloete grows maize for silage production on 43ha. Like other farmers in his area he uses a contractor to harvest the maize by mid-April. This photo was taken on another farm in the same district where the contractor was busy operating.

    De Kock Cloete grows maize for silage production on 43ha. Like other farmers in his area he uses a contractor to harvest the maize by mid-April. This photo was taken on another farm in the same district where the contractor was busy operating.

  • To plant an oats-ryegrass mixture into lucerne lands towards the end of summer De Kock Cloete uses a 17-row planter. This practise supplies grazing in winter when the lucerne is dormant. The lucerne takes over again in summer.

    To plant an oats-ryegrass mixture into lucerne lands towards the end of summer De Kock Cloete uses a 17-row planter. This practise supplies grazing in winter when the lucerne is dormant. The lucerne takes over again in summer.

  • De Kock Cloete produces lucerne under centre pivot irrigation on 54ha for his dairy cows and sheep. After five or six years he rotates lucerne with teff and an oats-ryegrass mixture respectively for a period of two years before he plants lucerne again.

    De Kock Cloete produces lucerne under centre pivot irrigation on 54ha for his dairy cows and sheep. After five or six years he rotates lucerne with teff and an oats-ryegrass mixture respectively for a period of two years before he plants lucerne again.

  • De Kock Cloete produces lucerne under centre pivot irrigation on 54ha for his dairy cows and sheep. After five or six years he rotates lucerne with teff and an oats-ryegrass mixture respectively for a period of two years before he plants lucerne again.

    De Kock Cloete produces lucerne under centre pivot irrigation on 54ha for his dairy cows and sheep. After five or six years he rotates lucerne with teff and an oats-ryegrass mixture respectively for a period of two years before he plants lucerne again.

  • A close-up of an oats ryegrass mixture shortly after it had been sown and has germinated in a lucerne land. This practise ensures optimum use of the irrigated lucerne lands which become dormant during winter.

    A close-up of an oats ryegrass mixture shortly after it had been sown and has germinated in a lucerne land. This practise ensures optimum use of the irrigated lucerne lands which become dormant during winter.

  • Dry cows and Dohne Merino sheep on old crop fields. Loch Lotus derives 85% of its net farming income from milk and the rest in equal parts from small grain and wool from its fine Dohne Merino flock consisting of 750 ewes.

    Dry cows and Dohne Merino sheep on old crop fields. Loch Lotus derives 85% of its net farming income from milk and the rest in equal parts from small grain and wool from its fine Dohne Merino flock consisting of 750 ewes.

  • Dry cows on old crop fields. De Kock Cloete's land has a long-term average rainfall of 525mm/annum. This photo was taken in autumn before the start of the winter rainfall season.

    Dry cows on old crop fields. De Kock Cloete's land has a long-term average rainfall of 525mm/annum. This photo was taken in autumn before the start of the winter rainfall season.

  • Roughage produced on Loch Lotus for the cows. The bales consist of wheat or barley straw. De Kock Cloete has 850ha arable land at his disposal for the production of grain crops, canola and pastures.

    Roughage produced on Loch Lotus for the cows. The bales consist of wheat or barley straw. De Kock Cloete has 850ha arable land at his disposal for the production of grain crops, canola and pastures.

  • Roughage produced on Loch Lotus for the cows. The bales consist of wheat or barley straw. De Kock Cloete has 850ha arable land at his disposal for the production of grain crops, canola and pastures.

    Roughage produced on Loch Lotus for the cows. The bales consist of wheat or barley straw. De Kock Cloete has 850ha arable land at his disposal for the production of grain crops, canola and pastures.

  • Silos containing dairy pellets in front of the 24-point swing over milking parlour. The capacity of each of the silos is approximately 15 ton. A tanker from Langeberg Cheese to whom De Kock Cloete sells his milk can be seen in the background.

    Silos containing dairy pellets in front of the 24-point swing over milking parlour. The capacity of each of the silos is approximately 15 ton. A tanker from Langeberg Cheese to whom De Kock Cloete sells his milk can be seen in the background.

  • A silage bunker on Loch Lotus. At a relatively high price of R10 000/ha an additional 33ha with two centre pivots was leased for five months of 2014 and 2015 from a neighbour to produce maize. As a result the cows can be fed maize silage year-round.

    A silage bunker on Loch Lotus. At a relatively high price of R10 000/ha an additional 33ha with two centre pivots was leased for five months of 2014 and 2015 from a neighbour to produce maize. As a result the cows can be fed maize silage year-round.

  • Loch Lotus runs the top producing cows on TMR rations. The mix wagon which has a capacity of approximately 5 tonnes, depending on the moisture percentage used in the mixture, can be seen here.

    Loch Lotus runs the top producing cows on TMR rations. The mix wagon which has a capacity of approximately 5 tonnes, depending on the moisture percentage used in the mixture, can be seen here.

  • 5 silos with a capacity of 25 tonnes each were erected on Loch Lotus to store ingredients for the total mixed rations.

    5 silos with a capacity of 25 tonnes each were erected on Loch Lotus to store ingredients for the total mixed rations.

  • By mid-April, when the maize is slightly drier, silage made from it contains more energy. De Kock opted to lease additional land to produce maize for silage instead of buying extra land at a cost of  R50 000/ha.  Water rights, if available, come at a cost of R100 000/ha.

    By mid-April, when the maize is slightly drier, silage made from it contains more energy. De Kock opted to lease additional land to produce maize for silage instead of buying extra land at a cost of  R50 000/ha.  Water rights, if available, come at a cost of R100 000/ha.

  • A number of Loch Lotus' TMR cows. While in lactation they are fed at the feeding troughs, Holsteins and Jerseys apart. Thanks to a mild climate providing housing for the cows is not a prerequisite in the area where De Kock Cloete farms.

    A number of Loch Lotus' TMR cows. While in lactation they are fed at the feeding troughs, Holsteins and Jerseys apart. Thanks to a mild climate providing housing for the cows is not a prerequisite in the area where De Kock Cloete farms.

  • Shortly after the maize has been harvested in April, wheat is planted on  the same land to produce two crops per year under centre pivot  irrigation.

    Shortly after the maize has been harvested in April, wheat is planted on the same land to produce two crops per year under centre pivot irrigation.

  • Shortly after the maize has been harvested in April, wheat is planted on the same land to produce two crops per year under centre pivot irrigation.

    Shortly after the maize has been harvested in April, wheat is planted on the same land to produce two crops per year under centre pivot irrigation.

  • Dry dairy cows on a stubble field after maize has been harvested with blue cranes, South Africa's national bird. Although blue cranes abound in this crop-producing area farmers receive no government subsidies for creating a habitat for the birds.

    Dry dairy cows on a stubble field after maize has been harvested with blue cranes, South Africa's national bird. Although blue cranes abound in this crop-producing area farmers receive no government subsidies for creating a habitat for the birds.

  • Since 2008 irrigating pastures in South Africa has become increasingly expensive due to an electricity shortage and a backlog to upgrade the country's generating capacity. Loch Lotus is balancing costs by using a total mixed ration (TMR) system, a semi-TMR system and irrigated pastures.

    Since 2008 irrigating pastures in South Africa has become increasingly expensive due to an electricity shortage and a backlog to upgrade the country's generating capacity. Loch Lotus is balancing costs by using a total mixed ration (TMR) system, a semi-TMR system and irrigated pastures.

  • The Loch Lotus 24 point swing over portal was built in 2004 at a cost of R1.35million (€90,000). De Kock Cloete regrets that the did not invest in a rotary milk parlour which will now require another investment of R5 - 7million (€0.33 – 0.46 mln).

    The Loch Lotus 24 point swing over portal was built in 2004 at a cost of R1.35million (€90,000). De Kock Cloete regrets that the did not invest in a rotary milk parlour which will now require another investment of R5 - 7million (€0.33 – 0.46 mln).

  • Milked twice per day, the Loch Lotus Holsteins have an average daily production of 34l while the Jerseys average 28l/day.

    Milked twice per day, the Loch Lotus Holsteins have an average daily production of 34l while the Jerseys average 28l/day.

  • Milked twice per day, the Loch Lotus Holsteins have an average daily production of 34l while the Jerseys average 28l/day.

    Milked twice per day, the Loch Lotus Holsteins have an average daily production of 34l while the Jerseys average 28l/day.

  • A worker busy doing artificial insemination on a Jersey cow. One of De Kock Cloete's best decisions was to continue using tested and proven semen for AI in his herd when the South African milk industry was almost on its knees a few years ago due to price fluctuations.

    A worker busy doing artificial insemination on a Jersey cow. One of De Kock Cloete's best decisions was to continue using tested and proven semen for AI in his herd when the South African milk industry was almost on its knees a few years ago due to price fluctuations.

  • A worker busy doing artificial insemination on a Jersey cow. One of De Kock Cloete's best decisions was to continue using tested and proven semen for AI in his herd when the South African milk industry was almost on its knees a few years ago due to price fluctuations.

    A worker busy doing artificial insemination on a Jersey cow. One of De Kock Cloete's best decisions was to continue using tested and proven semen for AI in his herd when the South African milk industry was almost on its knees a few years ago due to price fluctuations.

  • A worker busy doing artificial insemination on a Jersey cow. One of De Kock Cloete's best decisions was to continue using tested and proven semen for AI in his herd when the South African milk industry was almost on its knees a few years ago due to price fluctuations.

    A worker busy doing artificial insemination on a Jersey cow. One of De Kock Cloete's best decisions was to continue using tested and proven semen for AI in his herd when the South African milk industry was almost on its knees a few years ago due to price fluctuations.

  • Wheat production under centre pivot irrigation on the same land where a maize harvest for silage production is obtained within the same year.

    Wheat production under centre pivot irrigation on the same land where a maize harvest for silage production is obtained within the same year.

  • Wheat production under centre pivot irrigation on the same land where a maize harvest for silage production is obtained within the same year.

    Wheat production under centre pivot irrigation on the same land where a maize harvest for silage production is obtained within the same year.

  • From left to right are De Kock Cloete (53); Christine le Roux, milking parlour manager; and Bottie le Roux, maintenance manager. De Kock has now reached an agreement to buy the cows he is leasing from one of four other farmers at a price of R9 000 each regardless of their stage of production.

    From left to right are De Kock Cloete (53); Christine le Roux, milking parlour manager; and Bottie le Roux, maintenance manager. De Kock has now reached an agreement to buy the cows he is leasing from one of four other farmers at a price of R9 000 each regardless of their stage of production.

Jacques Claassen

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