A KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) agricultural cooperative has ventured into the lamb feedlot business, which will help improve the province’s lamb production rate.
It is among seven cooperatives that have leased broiler houses that were bought by eThekwini Municipality from Rainbow Chicken in the Cato Ridge area in 2017.
The cooperative’s Sihle Miya says while other cooperatives focused on poultry and pigs, which the area is known for, KZN Lamb chose to diversify their business.
KZN Lamb is a subsidiary of Agriculture House Group, which is a holding company of a diverse portfolio of companies including fresh produce farming, sheep farming, agribusiness development consulting services, ICT, bulk portable water supply and hospitality industry.
Miya says that there was a high demand for lamb meat in KZN, but very few producers.
He says they converted the broiler house into a lamb feedlot. They buy lambs between five and eight months old from farmers and feed them for two months, before they are slaughtered.
They get the lambs from the Eastern Cape and Free State provinces because they cannot find local suppliers.
The project kicked off in March with 40 lambs, from which they managed to produce ‘A grade’ meat. To achieve this, the lamb must be less than a year old and must be within the prescribed weight range, which is 48 to 55kg.
“We started small because there is a lot to learn to achieve the results we want. This was the first-of-its-kind project in the area, but we have made positive progress,” he says.
Miya says their initiative was well-received by the markets and they are currently failing to keep up with the demand. From their first batch, they managed to get Pick n Pay supermarkets on board and local Halaal Abattoirs, which both wanted 1 000 lambs per month.
While the response was positive, Miya says they have to grow the business gradually to ensure they maintain excellent standards. He says the lambs require close monitoring in terms of age and weight to achieve the desired outcome.
“Should we be found to have overfed them, we get penalised. Our vision is to produce to the capacity of our feeding house, which is 1 000, but we are careful about the process. We currently have 200 lambs but we have set a target to reach our goal,” he says.
KZN Lamb has created permanent employment for eight people, including an animal health technician, an administrator and general workers.