Over the years, I have had the privilege of visiting many game farms and developing more than 10 communal nature reserves. Therefore, in my experience, the most important structure on a game farm is the perimeter fence. At R9,2 million per buffalo or R900 000 for a sable cow no one would like to share their game with their neighbours. One good sign of a farmer’s commitment to his livelihood is indeed the condition of his fences.
The quality may be affected by financial capacity, but the maintenance is surely a gauge for commitment. It often happens that one comes across beautiful farms with expensive species, exquisite lodges and the latest model 4x4s, only to be amazed at the poor condition of their perimeter fences. How much time is spent in the garden, washing vehicles, sweeping verandas or the like as opposed to maintaining fences? The less time spent maintaining fences, the more time it takes to bring them up to standard again. Many farms have electrified fences, but uncontrolled grasses and weeds could render these ineffective. It might be a good idea to have two people, equipped with pliers and binding wire, covering the perimeter once a week to make amendments where necessary. Better still, each vehicle should have these as standard equipment for quick mending on site every time the rancher notices damaged portions. Buy weed killer in spring and have a team clear the vegetation overgrowing the fence. To finish, take the tractor and drag tyres around the farm a few times.
How many times has it happened that when trying to fight a veld fire, manoeuvring along overgrown fences seemed just as demanding as fighting the fire? Try imagining the frustration when witnessing the devastation that could have been prevented if the access roads had allowed it.
by Riem Bona; Wildlife Ranching, Summer 2011; reprinted with permission.