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The planning phase of game farm development by Gert Fourie The


The planning phase of game farm development by Gert Fourie The

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									The planning phase of game farm development by Gert Fourie

The planning phase is essential when trying to achieve the expected results in a game farming enterprise. Unfortunately, very few game farmers plan before developing the infrastructure on a farm. Often, the game fence is erected, game are purchased, the lodge is developed and only at a later stage mistakes are realized. As a rule, the following steps should be undertaken when planning:      

Map the area according to vegetation and infrastructure Evaluate the veld condition in each vegetation area Plan the infrastructure Set up a veld management plan Set up a game management plan Financial planning

Mapping the area It is incredible how many established landowners still draw a map of his farm in the sand, because he does not have a proper map. A map is important since it helps with the planning of infrastructure, helps with distances and sizes of areas, indicates the positions of the different areas towards each other and plays a crucial part in the whole management program. Mapping can be done by using aerial photographs, satellite images and direct observations in the veld. Mapping the vegetation on the farm, followed by a map of the infrastructure are minimal requirements.

Evaluate the vegetation and all other natural resources A proper veld survey is necessary when evaluating the potential of the farm. The only way to really analyze the veld is to get down on your hands and knees. This part (as well as the mapping phase) should rather be left for a specialist. Two main objectives when doing a veld survey are:   Evaluate the current condition and potential of the veld to carry game. To set up a monitoring system whereby veld condition can be tested in the future.

The method used should be scientifically acknowledged and the same method should be used in the future to indicate deterioration or improvement.

A veld survey should take the following aspects into consideration:       The condition of soil Species composition of the grass Basal cover of grass Composition of the woody component (bushes and trees) Cover and volume of bushes and trees The accessibility of the area for game

Planning the infrastructure The following aspects should be evaluated when planning the infrastructure: Water: Where the farm used to be a cattle farm, water distribution is normally sufficient, however where water points were placed in sensitive areas, these have to be moved to the correct position according to the condition of the veld and sensitivity of the area. Smaller farms also need enough water points to prevent too much competition between game. Normal cattle troughs are not suitable for game, since game prefer water on ground level in suitable open, flat areas. Fences: A game fence with minimum height of 2.4m for bushveld areas and a minimum of 22 strands are required and the total distance can easily be calculated with a proper map. On old cattle farms, all inside cattle fences should preferably be removed, especially near loading areas and especially where giraffe are introduced. Different types of fencing are available and the terrain will determine whether conventional fencing or veldspan are more suitable. Roads: Roads give access to all areas on a farm and should be used not only for this purpose, but should also serve as firebreak areas. Ideally, roads should follow contours and should be planned to run along the borders of different vegetation areas. Mostly roads on cattle farms run along straight fences and these are normally not well planned according to the veld types. Straight roads are also “unnatural” when the aim is eco-tourism. Using the map: A proper map is essential for integration of the above aspects.

Setting up a veld management plan: Again, the mapping of the vegetation is important and will be used throughout the planning phase. Areas that need specific management should also be mapped. Prioritize management areas e.g. exposed soils where soil loss can occur should be addressed first and here a grass rehabilitation program should be implemented. A

burning program that will remove old moribund grass normally also need urgent attention as these areas are not utilized. Lower priority management may be the control of bush encroachment. Once the management has been prioritized, one can evaluate the costs involved and decide on a suitable period to address the issues. Certain times of the year are better suited for certain activities e.g. Winter months: Bush control (stump treatment), erosion control Spring: Burning of veld Summer: Establishing pasture or grass rehabilitation, bush control (foliar treatment) Autumn: Preparation of fire breaks.

Setting up a game management plan: During the veld survey, the capacity of the different vegetation areas to carry game is calculated. The veld survey should also indicate what game species are suitable for that area. Planning what number and variety of game should be purchased depends not only on the ecological parameters of the veld, but also on the objectives involved. The veld may be very suitable for sable but the main objective is biltong hunting. The capacity of the veld is not necessarily the number of game that will be purchased. Planning to buy a breeding herd and slowly, with reproduction, reaching the capacity of the farm may be a good approach for the farmer who is not interested in the financial returns initially. Again the objective will also determine what sex ratio will be kept, e.g. the trophy hunter will keep a higher percentage of male animals. Other aspects that should be considered, depending on the veld survey are the correct positions of licks, water and whether tick control will be necessary and how should control take place. As a rule, plan to do a game count every second year during the late winter months. This will determine the size of the population, the growth that occurred and what percentage of animals should be harvested. In some cases annual harvesting should be done.

Financial planning: Once the ecological evaluation of a farm has been undertaken and you know exactly what the ecological potential of the farm is, it will indicate the precise financial requirements for development and management. Knowing the cost of developing the infrastructure, the cost of game that will be introduced and predicting the

management costs and potential income, one can aim at a ROI (return on investment). As a rule, few game farm owners reach a ROI of more than 10 to 15%. Income greatly depends on the marketing strategy followed. When marketing, follow the next guidelines:        Look at the previous mistakes and successes in the game industry and decide on a marketing strategy. Decide what the objective of the marketing will be. Identify the target market whether hunting, tourism, etc. Decide on the mediums of marketing whether direct marketing, magazines, newspapers, expo’s Work out an action plan – when to market what Build up a database of clients/potential clients. Evaluate the marketing strategy

For more information contact Gert or Nanette Fourie at Ekofocus game ranch services at +27 82 9295277 or

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