Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management
 
 You are here: HomeSASSCAL Institutes
BMBF Logo

SASSCAL Institutes


AGRA Professional Services - AGRA


AGRA Professional Services
AGRA
Private Bag 12011
Windhoek
Namibia

Contact
Dr. Axel Rothauge
Phone: +264 61 2909354
 axelr@agra.com.na
 

 http://www.agra.com.na


About the Institute / Working Group

Agra (Co-operative) Limited is the largest multipurpose co-operative in Namibia and is registered under the Co-operatives Act No.23 of 1996. Its head office is in Windhoek at 8 Bessemer Street, Suiderhof. It was formed in 1980 by amalgamating various smaller co-operatives that served different agricultural sectors. It is currently in the process of converting itself into a public company. Its main business is:

  • supplying inputs to the agricultural sector
  • marketing of livestock and game by auction and
  • advising producers in all aspects of production.

In 2010, AGRA had 21 retail branches throughout Namibia (in Aranos, Gobabis, Grootfontein, Karasburg, Karibib, Keetmanshoop, Maltahöhe, Mariental, Okahandja, Omaruru, Opuwo, Otavi, Otjiwarongo, Outjo, Rehoboth, Tsumeb and Windhoek, including Auas Vet Med, Safari Den and Auas Wholesale) that provide farming inputs and equipment, veterinary products, camping and outdoor equipment, gardening and household goods. It is in the process of opening a new branch in Oshakati and has a 70% share in the Ondangwa Service Station (Pty) Ltd. Livestock marketing offices are attached to every retail outlet to facilitate the marketing of animals by auction. The consultancy division, Professional Services, is linked to the Windhoek head office. Its main aim is the development and growth of the agricultural/natural resource sector of Namibia. Specifically, the objectives of Professional Services are:

  • to provide commercial advisory and consulting services to agricultural producers and the agricultural industry at large, including corporate stakeholders such as Government Ministries, NGO's, Meat Board of Namibia, financial institutions like AgriBank and Agricultural Unions on all aspects of agricultural production and sustainable resource use;
  • to enhance capacity (personal, institutional and production) and sustainable resource use by training at introductory, intermediate and advanced levels;
  • to contribute to the solving of industry constraints by applied research;
  • to advise and serve the livestock stud breeding industry;
  • to serve and advise the Karakul industry on production and marketing;
  • to operate internet auctions and facilitate the selling of livestock, game, properties and movable assets on-line.
  • to further the growth and development of Namibia's agricultural and natural resource sector and to facilitate the achievement of Vision 2030, AGRA Professional Services is often involved in joint development projects and smart partnerships with its partners in industry, e.g. MeatCo, Namibia Agricultural Union, Cheetah Conservation Foundation, Polytechnic of Namibia, ECFSP, MCA, independent consultants, etc.

In the most recently audited financial year (ending 31 July 2009), the retail/wholesale division achieved a turnover of N$661 million while the value of all livestock transactions amounted to N$526 million. A gross income of N$150 million was achieved on a total turnover of N1,225 million and close to N$42 million was paid over to Government in taxes. AGRA is the largest livestock auctioneering agent in Namibia. In 2009/2010, 594 scheduled auctions were held across the country, including 64 so-called permit-day auctions in communal areas. A total of 122,669 head of cattle and 196,111 small ruminants were sold this year on AGRA auctions. About 8% of the livestock auctioned were stud and breeding animals.

Any bona fide farmer is free to join AGRA on payment of a one-off fee of N$500. Distribution of Company profits is based on the amount of business each its about 4,500 members has with the Company in a financial year. Agra does not keep statistics on its members other than conventional business information. However, previously disadvantaged farmers are well represented amongst Agra’s members. Previously disadvantaged Namibians also serve on the Supervisory Committee, supervising the Company Board, which directs the affairs of AGRA.

The Company is an equal-opportunity employer of nearly 450 people, of which 99% are Namibian nationals. It has Affirmative Action accreditation due to its on-going efforts to transform itself to better reflect Namibian society at large. The Namibian Preferential Procurement Council has also certified Agra as a satisfactory contributor to broad-based black economic empowerment. It realizes its social responsibility by substantively contributing to society by offering bursaries, traineeships, mentorships, coaching, dedicated talent management, farmer days, agricultural shows and livestock competitions, adding value in communities by supporting worthy causes (mainly poverty alleviation, information sharing and capacity-building in the informal sector) and offering in-service training to students in the Commercial Advancement Training Scheme (CATS). The Company’s social commitment is detailed in an extensive social report, available on request.

Organizational chart of AGRA:
Image



Field of Expertise

A specialized division to consult and train agricultural producers and stakeholders on agricultural production principles and practices.

The technical experts includes the followings:

  • Pieter Hugo- Manager:Professional Service Division
  • Dr Rainer Hassel-Technical Advisor:Animal Health
  • Dr Axel Rothauge-Technical Advisor:Livestock Production
  • Gunther Roeber-Technical Advisor:Training
  • Wessel Visser-Manager:Karakul Services
  • Jaco van Zyl-Karakul Specialist

Abbreviated CVs are available on request.

Services offered by AGRA Professional Services:

  • Farming enterprise evaluation and planning
  • Farm production consultancies
  • Rangeland evaluation and grazing planning
  • Farm visits with personalized advice and mentoring
  • Business plans for farming enterprises
  • Training courses on various topics at introductory and advanced level
  • Research into various farming and environmental questions/problems
  • Stud services and commercial breeding advice
  • Expert advice on Karakul pelt production and Namibia's Karakul industry
  • Consultancies on national development projects
  • Marketing of livestock and goods on AGRA e-auctions


Current research

  • Correlating body mass of cattle to easy-measure chest circumference
    The body mass of cattle is highly correlated with the circumference of their chest, as measured just behind the shoulder and axle. The correlation is highest (>90%) for cattle older than weaning age (about 7 months of age) and before full maturity is reached at about 4 years of age. However, even in fully mature cattle, the correlation between body mass and chest circumference still exceeds 80%.

    This high correlation has an important practical and management implication: scales to weigh adult cattle are quite expensive (> N$35,000). Therefore, few farmers actually weigh their cattle, especially the generally resource-poor newly emerging commercial and the communal farmers. Since they don’t weigh their cattle, they do not have management information on the cattle growth rate and usually intervene too late, when weight loss has clinical implications. Weight loss is directly linked to unfavourable environmental conditions, poor nutritional and low health status. If expensive weighing can be substituted by simply measuring the chest circumference with a plain measuring tape, “weighing” becomes a lot cheaper, will be performed more often and important management information becomes available to the farmer. This includes the weaning weight of calves and the weight at which his cattle are loaded for slaughter (to check their live weight at slaughter, in case of discrepancies). By measuring production, the income of resource-poor farmers can be increased and production can become more market-oriented (produce what the market demands – obtain higher unit prices).

    Currently, chest measuring tapes that are calibrated to cattle weight are available commercially (e.g. MeatCo), but they are based on American cattle and conditions. Therefore, they do not accurately “weigh” Namibian cattle, especially those raised under communal conditions or at high density. In addition, Namibia has a wide variety of breeds, which differ in their mass-to-circumference calibration due to structural differences (e.g. Bos taurus, Bos indicusand crossbreeds). Based on information gathered during this project, separate measuring tapes for at least three distinct Namibian cattle types can be developed; an example of communal – private sector partnership.

  • Sustainable harvesting and utilization of invader bush
    Bush encroachment is probably the single largest threat to Namibia’s livestock production sector and the game/tourism industry. Since bush encroachment reduces the productivity of the land drastically, it entrenches rural poverty. In recent years, the emphasis has shifted from an appreciation of the problem towards controlling invader bush by, amongst others, harvesting and utilizing it in a variety of income-earning methods. Even though a lot of land users apply some kind of control method, cost of control is not widely known and the potential economic value of wood removed in this way is seldom exploited. Invader bush is a direct source of income and job creation. Sustainable utilization of invader bush is an even newer, less investigated aspect. Charcoal production is currently investigated by the Legal Assistance Centre, but sustainable bush harvesting for direct-firing in industrial boiling/heating processes (e.g. Ohorongo cement factory) or for the generation of electricity (DRFN IPP study) has been little investigated.

  • Re-introducing indigenous perennial climax grasses into degraded rangelands
    Seeds of perennial grasses usually do not survive longer than 5 years in the soil under Namibian conditions. If grazing mismanagement has killed off the tufts of indigenous perennial climax grasses and did not allow purposeful resting of the veld to facilitate re-colonization from seed, these climax grasses become locally extinct within a decade. Once they are extinct, no amount of “passive” veld improvement, e.g. resting and changes in the grazing system (e.g. from rotational to holistic grazing) will bring them back. They have to be re-introduced artificially from seed and allowed to re-establish for the botanical composition of the grass sward to improve. A grass sward that is dominated by perennial sub-climax and climax grasses is much more productive, nutritious and resilient (against natural disasters such as drought, fire and damage by locusts and termites) than a pioneer grass sward invaded by herbs, weeds and forbs and prone to bush encroachment or bare patches and soil erosion. However, little is known about veld overseeding with indigenous perennial grasses and their seed is also not available commercially. Successful rehabilitation of degraded rangelands improves food security and relieves poverty of rural communities. It also restores biodiversity lost due to grazing mismanagement, and ecosystem resilience (improved performance of natural resources).

  • Reversing desertification: Improving the infiltration of rainwater into degraded soil
    By some estimates, more than 90% of Namibia’s surface area is actively eroding, where rainwater is running off rather than infiltrating into the soil. Local aridification and regional desert-formation (desertification) is widespread. One such area under greatest land-use pressure is the Lesser Waterberg, a jewel of a biotope that, unlike its Greater neighbour, is not protected by National Parks legislation. Due to the steep slopes, erosion of the apron and foothill flats around the Lesser Waterberg is severe (visible from space – see Google Earth). Sheet erosion causes expansive bare “patches” that link up to form “bare plains”. Invasive bush has encroached vast areas. Generally, the herbaceous layer is dominated by annuals and is reminiscent of an area that gets only half as much rainfall, i.e. 200 mm rather than 400 mm, indicating that aridification has already occurred and desertification is in progress. The eroded material is transported by the local Omuramba Ombutjipuro into the larger Omuramba Omatako and eventually (seldom), into the Okavango river. Addressing landscape-level desertification around the lesser Waterberg can make current land use more sustainable, restore biodiversity and increase the income and resilience of rural communities experiencing similar situations; an example of private – communal sector partnership.

  • A management aid for farmers: wheel-type, wall-mounted management calendar
    Land and farm management can become very complicated, requiring sophisticated and expensive resources like computers. These cannot be operated by everyone, or in (mostly communal) areas not linked to the national electric grid. However, management aids don’t have to be high-tech to be effective. Large wall-mounted calendar wheels that indicate when and how specific and essential management actions have to be undertaken are easy to understand, easy to operate, flexible and adjustable to individual situations and yet accurate and informative. They have been used for decades in advanced, intensive animal production systems like dairies and wherever regular, “programmed” management activities are required, because these calendars alert the manager in time when to take certain actions. The same principle can easily be applied to extensive livestock production, ranching and pastoral situations that also depend on a set of management actions that need to be taken regularly, depending on season and production status.

  • Investigating the Wet Carcass Syndrome in the southern Kalahari
    The sheep abattoirs in southern Namibia, especially the one at Aranos, serving the southern Kalahari sandveld, regularly report a large number of downgraded or rejected carcasses in August to October due to “wet carcass syndrome” (WCS). These downgrading and rejections cost local mutton farmers millions of dollars each year, yet no one knows what causes this problem and how it could be prevented. Nor is anyone researching this problem. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it occurs especially vigorously after good rainfall years, or when rains were late.

    A precursory literature study suggests that a sub-clinical selenium/vitamin E deficiency may be the cause of WCS. If this is indeed the case, it should be relatively easy to prevent its occurrence through strategic nutrient supplementation of slaughter stock. However, this is highly speculative as the abattoirs don’t even record the downgraded/rejected WCS carcasses separately but lump them with all other downgrading/rejections.


Capacity Development Portfolio of the Working Group

AGRA has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Polytechnic of Namibia, detailing the award of study bursaries to Polytechnic students in the field of agriculture, as well as research and general collaboration with the Polytechnic.

AGRA has a fully-developed in-house training programme to which an amount equivalent to 3% of the annual salaries bill is dedicated. New appointments receive complete induction training.

AGRA also participates in Namibia’s Commercial Advancement Training Scheme (CATS). CATS was founded by the Southern African-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and has been operating in South Africa since 1985. The programme was adapted from the German Dual System, which means that the students are not only confronted with theoretical learning, but – for four days a week – with practical training in companies as the first priority. This 2 year vocational training program leads to a certification of competency which is accredited by the Polytechnic of Namibia and that is accepted and recognised by the European Union through the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Through workplace rotation learners get to know the organisation as a whole; they learn to function in various departments and become more flexible by knowing the company as a whole and the links between the departments/functions.


Publications


Ring Volume Authored by: Dr Axel Rothauge Authored by: Dr. Rainer Hassel
Special edition 2008 Sustainable rangeland management in Namibia
Spesiale uitgawe 2008 Die volhoubare bestuur van weiveld in Namibië
October 2008 'n Dag in die lewe van 'n swarthaakbos Diseases associated with stressful conditions
November 2008 1. Calving season; harvest time
2. Natkarkas-sindroom by slaglammers dalk selenium/vitamien E tekort?
Two important diseases caused by neurotoxins
December 2008
January 2009
Speenkalwers of tollies en osse? Poisoning by plants: containing cardiac glycoside toxins
February 2009 Increasing the efficiency of karakul pelt production by accelerated lambing Immunology and vaccines: an effective farm management tool
March 2009 Opsies met chemise bosbeheer Vaccination failures
April 2009 1. Aerial spraying to control bush encroachment
2. Produkte van Professionele Dienste
Veterinary first aid
May 2009 1. Veldgrashooi: Namibië se nuutste 'kontantgewas'
2. Professionele Dienste is tot u dienste met die volgende produkte en dienste"
Veterinary first aid: dystocia, retained placenta
June 2009 Jagd ist angewandter Naturschutz (Apply nature conservation by hunting) (part 1) 1. Veterinary first aid: prolapse problems: vaginal and cervical prolapsed
2. Veterinary first aid: prolapse problems: uterine prolapse
July 2009 1. Die herkouer op winterveld: agtergrond
2. Veldverbetering in die winter
1. Jagd ist angewandter Naturschutz' (Apply nature conservation by hunting) (part 2, with reference to rabies in kudu antelope in Namibia)
2. Disgestive disorders of the rumen
August 2009 Feeding farm ruminants in winter: lick supplementation (part 1) Veterinary first aid: clostridial diseases: the muscular gas gangrene complex
September 2009 Feeding farm ruminants: lick supplementation (part 2) Clostridial diseases: the enterotoxaemia complex
October 2009 Die werking van BLUP Zoonotic diseases (part 1)
November 2009 1. How rainfall can inform grazing management
2. Farming consultancies by Professional Services
Zoonotic diseases (part 2)
December 2009
January 2010
1. Plante se voedsaamheid en smaaklikheid beïnvloed weidingsbestuur
2. Verbeter veld deur insaai van grasse
Zoonotic diseases (part 3)
February 2010 1. Rangeland management in summer (part 1): Maintaining perennial grass vigour
2. Professional services to NamPower
3. Die nuwe grasboek
Zoonotic diseases (part 4)
March 2010 Veldbestuur in die somer (deel 2): Hou rëenwater op die plaas Castration and tetanus
April 2010 1. Veld management in the rainy season (part 3): Thinning invader bush
2. Collecting the seeds of indigenous climax grasses
3. The new grass book
Forgotten sheep diseases in Namibia
May 2010 1. Bepaal die plaas se drakrag
2. Navorsing by Professionele Dienste
3. Kalahari sandkweek: 'n gras duisend!
Selected diseases of small stock
June 2010 1. Grasweiding dra by tot vleis se goeie gehalte
2. Another successful farmers' day by Agra Professional Services
3. Agriculture Minister receives grass seeds
4. Carrying capacity/stocking rate package by Agra Professional Services
Rift Valley Fever
July 2010 1. Feed them well (part 2): How the stocking rate of animals influences their individual productivity
2. Nguni promosiedag op Mariental
3. Plaasadvies en plaasbesoeke
Wesselsbronsiekte: a different diagnosis for Rift Valley fever
August 2010 1. Feed them well (part 2): How the stocking rate of animals influences the productivity of the herd (system)
2. Tegniese boeke by Professionele Dienste
3. Farming advice by Professional Services
4. A first for Agra Professional Services, a first for you
Bluetongue and colicoides: an unholy alliance