SUCCESSFUL FARMER: Tshilidzi ‘Chilli’ Matshidzula won the coveted Bathurst Conservation Committee (BCC) Mangold Trophy and thanked all the people who had contributed to his success at the Farmers Day, held at Hunters Lodge on Tuesday Picture: ROB KNOWLES
THIS year’s winner of the Bathurst Conservation Committee (BCC) Mangold Trophy, farmer Tshilidzi Matshidzula, proved that passion and dedication can be its own reward and gave an inspirational talk as he accepted his award at the Farmers Day, held at Hunters Lodge on Tuesday.
“My key profit drivers are my staff,” said Matshidzula, affectionately known as Chilli. “I employ young people; I’m not interested in old people working for me. I look at their education level. These days you can’t even get a job at Pick n Pay as a bagger unless you have a matric. And I don’t care about their skills as I will train them.”
Matshidzula continued that he paid above average wages to his staff, but would dock pay if they didn’t meet the requirements of the job.
“I help to build a culture in my team so we all share a common vision,” he said.
Born in Limpopo, matriculated in 2004 and entered the Tshwane University of Technology to study engineering. After graduation he moved into animal production and was placed on Burlington Farm in Cookhouse, of which he said, “Nothing could have prepared me for the long physical hours on an intensive irrigation dairy farm.”
By the second week Matshidzula said he was going to leave. “I wanted to know how to get out of this place. Someone told my mother of my intentions and she said that, if I left, I wasn’t going to live at her place.”
That was when he was noticed by dairy farmer Walter Biggs who took a shine to the young man and invested an unsecured loan of R1.7-million in the virtually dysfunctional Little Barnet Farm. Matshidzula was appointed as the trainee manager to help create what has become a huge success story. Nine years later the farm is virtually 100% functional.
From just 50 cows when Matshidzula took over managing the farm, Little Barnet now has over 500 dairy cows and Matshidzula plans to have 800 cows by the end of 2019.
Aside from building his team, Matshidzula is a consummate planner and record keeper, although he leaves the actual bookkeeping grind to Bigg’s wife, Jane.
“The closeness of Little Barnet Farm to town is also a contributing factor to the success of the farm,” said Matshidzula. “My staff work long hard hours, but are able to return to their families at the end of each day.”
He maintains that pasture management is also of critical importance, a factor that directly contributes to the quality of the milk he produces. He also emphasised the importance of herd management and the health of his animals, focussing on breeding and each cow’s performance.
“People ask me, ‘why don’t you purchase the farm outright?’” he said. Matshidzula is currently a 40% partner. “But I have no desire to do that. We are all working together and it’s working well.”
Biggs congratulated Matshidzula on his award, one of several he has received in recent years.
“Tshilidzi won this award, not because he is a black farmer, but because he deserves it,” said Biggs.
Matshidzula has been a prominent member of the Alexandria Dairy Study Group for the last nine years and is a member of Agri Eastern Cape.