The past week is a good illustration of my schizophrenic life. I spent the first few days of the week at home on the farm working and fixing things in the garden. I drove to Johannesburg on Wednesday afternoon and spent two busy days in the office on Thursday and Friday. There is never much time to catch a breath when I’m in the city. I’m either in the traffic commuting to Pretoria, in the office, or catching up with friends and family in the evenings. I never cook, hardly ever go into the garden and I don’t bother bringing walking shoes because exercise simply isn’t a priority. The complete opposite of life on the farm!
I was stuck in traffic for two and a half hours on Friday afternoon driving from Pretoria to a small town in the Free State called Parys, which also happens to be the Afrikaans name for Paris. While I have been very fortunate to go to Paris (France) fairly often for work, I now also find myself in Parys (Free State) at least twice a year to support Quentin in his work. This time it was the highly anticipated National Boran Auction (see The Boran: God’s Gift to Cattlemen for a history of the Boran in South Africa).
Quentin became a Boran breeder about 2 years ago, but this was the first time he had animals for sale at the National auction. I am learning that auctions are not for sissies. They require a lot of hard work to get the animals prepared and the days leading up to it are nerve-wracking as one hopes that nothing will go wrong with the animals in transporting them and wonders how the prices will go! Fortunately, there is a lot of socialising that happens amongst breeders in the days around the auction which also makes it quite fun.
Before I went to my first cattle auction in July 2010, I knew very little about cattle and how they are farmed. Apart from knowing that I like my fillet steak done medium-rare, I had no idea about the difference between commercial cattle farming and stud breeding, never mind all that is entailed in managing a herd. Quentin has been very patient in explaining how things work so I know a little bit more now than I used to. He also started the stud business after I met him so in a sense we have both been on a steep learning curve.
This year’s National auction was the biggest yet, with 140 animals entered. The poor auctioneer must be congratulated for his stamina – he went non-stop for about 6 hours! The same cannot be said for the audience whose concentration flagged towards the end. I suspect this had something to do with the late-night socialising on the Friday, but it was a long day in anyone’s books! The guest of honour was the Zulu monarch King Goodwill Zwelithini who recently started a Boran stud. This added some pomp and ceremony to the proceedings.
Last year there was much excitement because Stephen Johnson from Frontier Boran sold a bull for a South African record price of R1 million. Not surprisingly, the bull will forever be known as “Mr Million”. This year, the highest priced bull was sold by Cyril Ramaphosa and his Thaba Nyoni stud. B04-001 otherwise known as “Ramaphosa” was sold for R770 000. Proudly, Vastrap Boran sold the highest priced female animal called Jackie 05-36 for R280 000.
All in all, it was a great event and we feel very proud to be part of this new community of breeders who feel so passionate about their animals. I look forward to many more visits to Parys in future and slowly becoming more cattle savvy!