April’s hero: Dawie du Plessis
This month the judges were excited to read about a nominee from the Swartberg area in KwaZulu-Natal. Dawie du Plessis is a third-generation commercial producer who is well-known for his Magmar Beefmaster stud. He has a mixed farming operation on the farm Riverdale between Kokstad and Underberg. Apart from the Beefmasters, he farms with Dohne Merino sheep and produces maize.
Luvuyo Mbutho, who nominated Dawie, describes him as a ‘very clever, energetic young man’ and says that he still can’t believe that this successful commercial producer made time to help him, a small beginner farmer.
‘Dawie became my mentor in 2012 and I was the luckiest man to be mentored by him for four years,’ says Luvuyo, who farms near Dawie on the 951-ha Altona Farm in the Swartberg area – a farm he obtained through the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development Programme of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development in 2008. Here he produces maize and also has beef cattle, sheep and pigs.
‘At the beginning he taught me about the importance of soil correction for my 100-ha land and it made a huge difference to the crop,’ Luvuyo shares. Apart from teaching Luvuyo about the importance of timely planting and other good practices to adhere to for successful maize production, Dawie made sure that maintenance was done on the tractors. ‘Dawie would arrange for our John Deere tractors to be serviced. All the other equipment would also be checked for faults. He would then do the calibration on the planter and the boom and check whether all the moving parts on the other implements were oiled and greased. I learned a lot about the importance of maintenance from him. His mentorship has ensured that I became the best farmer I could be.’
Although Dawie’s role in Luvuyo’s farming operation has diminished over the years, he is still available to give advice when Luvuyo calls. Through their relationship Luvuyo has learned the value of learning from others. ‘Good relationships with successful neighbouring farmers can make a stark difference in your enterprise.’
Luvuyo’s sons have now started farming with their father. Dawie believes that through Luvuyo’s example and the solid foundation that has been laid over the years, they could be even more successful than their father – if they stick to the correct practices and remember that farming success comes from doing the right thing at the right time.