Top Karoo farms in short supply

WITH a constantly changing environment in the South African farming sector, many commercial farm investors are looking to diversify into different regions and away from core farming activities, says Wayne Rubidge, manager of the Karoo region of Pam Golding Properties.

 “Added to the mix are urban professionals who seek to enter the farming sector as they perceive a farm as a sustainable or profitable investment with highly appealing lifestyle attributes,” he says.

“One of the categories ripe for such diversification is extensive, quality Karoo livestock farm land. Besides the key criteria of good location, infrastructure and quality of water, an important consideration is the quality of the natural grazing available on a farm or in an identified area,” says Rubidge.

Producing some of the highest quality products in categories such as genuine free-range meat and organic fibres, the Karoo is home to an increasing number of speciality farms such as olive and berry, as well as irrigation farms generating a variety of produce. In addition, game farms are making a comeback after a price rectification period and with investor focus shifting to farms that provide an income, have income potential, or have a suitable business plan.

“Since 2010, activity in the marketplace has seen a number of good farms change hands – as have the few rare top farms that have come onto the market. Buyers are prepared to pay a sizeable premium for one of the Karoo’s top farms – as opposed to a high price for a good farm. Premium farms, whether for livestock or game farming, are in high demand and buyers are very specific in what they would regard as a premium farm in the Karoo,” says Rubidge.

He says in regard to cattle farms buyers are looking at well-grassed, high rainfall areas such as those found in certain parts of the Eastern Cape and in the north-eastern region of the Northern Cape. The carrying capacity should be below 1:12 LSU/hectare (the unit for measuring stock on land), and have the basic improvements which include watering points, handling facilities, roads and internal fencing.

Among properties on the market is a 2084 hectare cattle farm at Cradock in the Eastern Karoo (Midlands) which offers considerable potential for a farm stay.

There is high rainfall, abundant water and high carrying vegetation, dominated by sweet grasses. The property has gravity-fed irrigation to about 25ha of lucerne and two homesteads, one of which is magnificent and was built in 1909. Besides being an excellent commercial cattle farm and one of the finest in the area, it is in an unsurpassed setting, with mountain views on four sides of the main house, vistas up or down a valley on three sides of the house, and with crystal air, pure sweet water from a fountain and a feeling of remoteness while being easily accessible. There is a variety of indigenous wildlife, from kudu through to striped weasels and an amazing variety of birdlife.

Activities include walks through changing terrain which is level, sloping or steep – from sweet thornveld along a watercourse in the valley to open grassveld on top of the mountain. Mountain biking, horse-riding, and fishing from two large dams are just some of the endless possibilities.

With modification, some renovation and a bit of extension, the 1909-built homestead could provide a north-facing dining room extending to a bar – potentially with a pool beyond. There is a central conference room with a fireplace, a quiet work area and a study (each with a fireplace). Four solid outbuildings could be converted to bedrooms, making a possible total of 12 bedrooms together with those in the house. The farmhouse currently occupied by the owner could be a residence for a manager at the site.

Similarly on offer is a top sheep farm of 6 163ha, located east of Richmond in the Northern Cape, with registered water rights and 50ha of irrigation as well as a strong fountain and a river running through the property. Well-developed with watering points, infrastructure and a beautiful sandstone house located in a magnificent Karoo setting, the property has a guide price of R25-million.

In the Prince Albert farming district in the Western Cape there is a large block of sheep-farming land just three hours from Cape Town. The two adjacent farms are farmed as one unit and comprise 16 521ha in extent, priced at R24.5-million. The farm is fully developed for sheep and plains game farming with all the necessary watering points and internal fences. Game includes springbok, gemsbok, kudu, red hartebeest, klipspringer, duiker and many smaller animals. It is set against the backdrop of the Swartberg Mountains.

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