All four of us went into the lion cage. My daughter was enthralled by the amazing experience of stroking a lion cub just over three months old. Even at this age the lion cubs – there were three of them in the cage – make a sort of grunting, growly sound. When any of us got around the back of them, they would immediately growl because this would make them sense danger.
After playing with the lions in the cage in the hot Free State sun, we went on a game drive to view the adult lions many of which are white lions which have been bred on this farm for other game farms. The adult lions are different. They may come to the electrified fence and view you with curiosity. Then suddenly they will come towards you even though there is a fence in between and roar while opening their jaws wide. These lions are kept in a huge fenced area on a hillside.
The last part of our journey on the farm, into the western boundary, led us to a large herd of black wildebeest, one of which was a large golden-brown wildebeest bull that was brought onto the farm at a high price. The other buck that we saw included the smaller roan antelope. Not to be seen were the shy Eland, which freely roam on the vast expanse of this farm.
A farm like this shows you an interesting pattern of commerce with the owners and manager continually come up with new ideas and schemes to make money from the land. Looking back into the past, you can see the areas where there were feedlots for raising cattle but for whatever reason this farming in this area is no longer as economically viable as it used to be.
Now, in the present, the farm is experimenting with ground-nut seedlings, which then are sold on to groundnut farmers (apparently there are four stages of growing groundnuts and this seedlings stage is the first).
The future for a farm like this may well be very different. It’s easy to see the potential of exclusive game viewing and overnight or weekend accommodation in bush chalets on the western side of the farm where the buck freely roam the plains. More species of buck are being introduced onto the farm which will make the game viewing experience more attractive for tourists.
Here in the centre of the country, in what is commercially branded as “big sky country” the sun beats down fiercely. On this farm much use is being made of solar power not only to warm water but also to generate electricity for electrifying fences (remember that game is extremely valuable and stock thefts are a reality throughout the country) and for pumping water to animal watering holes. Even the pivot irrigation has been made more energy-efficient through the introduction of energy efficient motors and drives.
A farm like this reminds you of the constant innovation that is required to make a living from the land over time. Ideas that were once viable are long no longer so while those approaches and methods of today may not be as profitable a year or two into the future. This is why one has to think ahead and start with other forms of income generation.
High on a hill, a ridge actually, etched against the skyline, is a giraffe with its tall neck protruding from behind some trees in the distance. This image stands out as a reminder of planting one’s feet firmly on the ground but sometimes taking time to peer just over the horizon to take the long view of what might be needed in the future.