Skeiding is a 1200 hectare working farm. We farm 1500 free range Ostriches, 1500 Dohne Merino sheep, a small herd of Nguni beef cattle (a very hardy African breed) and we plant 500 hectare of Canola, Wheat, Barley, Coriander and Peas.
Our natural method of ostrich farming is distinctive – we allow the birds to range freely and raise their young themselves, nurturing them under their big wings. Free-range ostrich farms are a totally different experience to the more commercial, smaller, full-fed farms in the Oudtshoorn district.
Guests are involved are far as possible in the workings of the farm. This could mean watching the ostriches being supplement fed in the morning at 07:30 (before breakfast – this is a farm, we do get up early!) on a “hands on" farmtour with Neels. You might even be lucky and see our sheepdogs Flink (an Australian Kelpie) and Fiela (a Border Kollie) in action, herding some sheep or ostriches. Having grown up in the area, Neels offer a lot of information on the vegetation and other interesting points that make the area so fascinating.
Interesting facts on ostriches:
- Struthio camelus, the ostrich, is the world’s largest bird.
- Although indigenous to Africa, it is currently found on every continent except Antarctica.
- Ostrich chicks are precocial, which means that they are able to walk, eat and run, immediately after birth. They weight about one kilogram and within twelve months their weight increases to over 100kg.
- These babies have a clever way of protecting themselves against an oncoming predator.
- No, they don’t put their heads in the sand, but ON the sand, and lie very still. This behaviour, coupled with their dull colouring, makes it remarkably difficult to distinguish them from a piece of rock.
- The bigger adult birds don’t hope to get away with this charade, nor do they have to. They simply run away, being faster and agile. Within three strides they are zooming at 60 km/h, and can maintain a speed of 35 – 40 km/h for twenty minutes. And anyone who has seen the size of their claws will think twice about offending or even approaching an ostrich.
- The adult male’s striking colouring does play a role. Sharing the task of brooding, his black plumage makes him an ideally camouflaged manager for the night shift.
- Building an ostrich nest is a very simple process, it is merely a scraped out depression in the sand.
- Female ostriches lay their eggs in the dominant female’s nest, and when she has between 18 – 20, she starts incubating.
Interesting facts on Nguni Cows:
- Nguni cattle are named after the Nguni tribe. They were brought into Africa's more southern regions by the Khoi people who migrated down from central Africa's lake region.
- They are intelligent and enjoy human company. Temperamentally they are very docile, especially if handled regularly.
- They have characteristics of both Bos Indicus and Bos Taurus Cattle.
- The hair of Nguni cattle is short and comes in a variety of colour mixtures, from black to white and every shade of brown, yellow or red in between. There are 80 different colour patterns.
- The skin is thick and pigmented, protecting Nguni from both the sun and insects.
- All Nguni cattle are tolerant to heat and sunlight. They do not need to lie up in the shade in hot weather. Libido of bulls and semen quality is not reduced in the hot summer.
- Nguni cattle are tolerant of important tickborne diseases especially heartwater. This makes these cattle the best if not the only cattle that can be run on farms in heartwater regions that have substantial game populations.
- Nguni cattle are extremely hardy. They can thrive on little or poor grazing, drought conditions and extreme heat. They are efficient feed converters and finish well on grazing alone.
- Mature bulls usually weigh between 500 and 700kg. Cows are smaller, between 320 and 440kg. They appear athletic and have good feet and legs to walk long distances for water and grazing.
- They yield carcasses of 180 to 200kgm which are lean but marbled.
- Nguni cattle have long lives and can produce as many as ten calves in a lifetime.
- Heifers conceive early. Well-grown heifers should all have conceived by two tears and three months.
- Nguni cows are comparatively fertile under extensive conditions when compared with other breeds. This may be associated with the fact that they do not readily go into oestrus when they suckle their calves.
- Nguni cattle wean calves which are about half (45%) their body weight !
- They produce enough milk for their calves under harsh conditions and have very good maternal instincts.
- Calves usually gain about a seventh of a kilogram each day.
- Nguni cows give birth easily to robust viable calves.
- Cows are not susceptible to dystocia thanks to the small birth mass of their calves, their good pelvis conformation and their small uteruses.