Sought-after Ankole cows: our president’s pride and joy
The long-horned breed originated in east Africa
The long-horned Ankole cows, known in Uganda and Rwanda as the “cattle of kings”, have set tongues wagging in SA due to the premium price the wealthy are willing to pay for them.
Recently, business magnate Patrice Motsepe splashed out R2.1-million on one Ankole cow – bought from his brother-in-law President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The country’s number one citizen is said to be the biggest Ankole farmer in the country – having first come across the majestic breed when he visited Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni in 2004. The Ugandan strongman is reported to own about 5000 of these animals.
The Ankole breed are also a highly sought-after commodity in the ecotourism and wildlife sector for their regal appearance and serve as a key draw card for tourists.
Conrad Marais, a Frankfort, Free State-based livestock farmer who has been in the Ankole cattle trade for just over two years, said the industry was profitable, but it was difficult to enter.
“It’s almost impossible to enter the Ankole industry on your own. You must be a member of the association such as the Ankole Breeders Association of South Africa, of which I’m a member. In exchange, you will be notified when auctions take place in various provinces. It is also a very expensive industry,” said Marais, who breeds 11 Ankole cows on his farm.
The cows are a rare breed on our shores and originate from east Africa. Goodman Zwane, an emerging livestock farmer, said he had been watching with keen interest the Ankole cattle industry, which has been dubbed the new gold. “Together with other black emerging farmers, we have started going to different auctions where they sell them just to observe.
“The idea is to enter the industry as a block and share the profit. There is a lot of demand for Ankole meat and its milk. Most black farmers have not identified this lucrative space,” said Zwane.
Ramaphosa also pocketed about R2.7-million in one auction when several of his breed comprising a mixture of bulls and cows were sold last year. The president’s herd is kept at his family’s Ntaba Nyoni farm in emanzana, Mpumalanga.
The Western Cape-based Lerm family, which refers to the Ankole cattle as “one of the jewels in Africa”, started breeding Ankole cattle in 2016.
The family, which owns and runs Lasarus Game Farm, has bought some Ankole from Ramaphosa.
The president, in his book, Cattle of the Ages, published in 2017, details his love for the breed.
“I count the birth of the first Ankole calf on South African soil as one of my proudest achievements, and it is a privilege for me to tell the tale of how it happened. It is especially gratifying to have enabled the Ankole to be officially registered and recognised as one of the most recent cattle breeds in South Africa. I also take joy in being the largest Ankole breeder in the country,” he writes.
Some other interesting facts:
- During the night, the herd members sleep together, with the calves in the centre of the group for protection. The horns of the adults serve as formidable weapons against any intruders.
- They were first domesticated in parts of Africa such as Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya thousands of years ago. These native cattle are adapted to survive several months when food and water are scarce.
- They have a life span of 30 years.
- They can easily adapt to any weather conditions, from the scorching sun to extremely cold weather.
- Ankole is the name derived from the Banyankole tribe.
- In Rwanda and Burundi, the Tutsi tribe’s variety is called the Watusi.
Ramaphosa made R2.7m at an auction last year