Back in November I wrote a profile on a young farmer for an industry publication. The article is out. Despite the publisher making a bloops with the bottom left image, which was correct in the proof, it looks good and CP has had positive feedback on the article. Words below.
Meet CP Kriek
From industrial engineer to pig farmer, CP Kriek is transforming his piggery through technology, investing in people, and by implementing methods that focus on the health, comfort and well-being of his animals. Winner of Agri Gauteng’s Young Farmer of the Year award, Kriek applies a grounded philosophy and innovative vision to his business by simplifying, streamlining, improving and removing.
Kriek grew up in the Free State, on a farm near Reitz, surrounded by Herefords, maize and wheat. He met his wife Gerda, while they were both studying Industrial Engineering at TUKS. After completing their studies they both went into consulting – into different industries and levels of business. He found that very few of the problems that businesses experience are unique; they all have the same struggles. Consulting gave him the expertise to quickly summarise a business, identify shortcomings and challenges, and to look for opportunities for change and improvement.
“My dad always told me to constantly look for trouble. He would say that it is there, you just haven’t seen it yet,” Kriek explains.
Four years ago, Gerda’s father Koos Snyman, offered the pair an opportunity to spend three months working with him at his Taaibosch Piggery, with a view to entice them to take it over.
“The three months were very exciting. We saw huge challenges, opportunities and potential. We decided to buy into the business and a few months later we started the handover process,” he recalls.
Kriek’s goal is to make money – now and in the future. He also knows that in order to make money, he has to spend it. Choosing the right people, investing in staff training and changing their farming systems will bring long-term benefits and savings.
“I cannot do and know everything myself,” he says. “My biggest responsibility is to select and invest in loyal and responsible managers, employees and advisors,and then enable them to do what they do best.”
He stays involved with all levels of the business, without interfering in the managers’ activities or decision making. Although staff maintain operational and financial records, Kriek pays attention to the recordkeeping of the business by keeping informed and making sure it is always up-to-date and accurate.
Kriek abides by Richard Branson’s principle of ‘train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to’.
To this end they have made a big effort to streamline their workforce and are now focusing on building their employees up through training and development. They also acknowledge and reward outstanding performance and hard work.
Kriek’s medium-term vision for the piggery is to convert their current dual-site production system to a one-way flow, multi-site system.
Three new pig houses have been built to allow an installation team to constantly renovate and repair older houses. This is the first phase in converting to a one-way flow system. Modifications to the buildings incorporate systems to improve water and energy-efficiency.
The feed mill was upgraded to handle more bulk products and to be more operator friendly.
Of this he says, “The return and higher efficiency of this decision has been immense”.
Pig farming is about kilograms produced per sow per year – with a certain amount of capital. But that doesn’t mean the animals should have to live shoulder-to-shoulder. Kriek has moved away from a utilisation view where each and every building must be utilised to a maximum. They have bigger pens, fewer animals per pen and even added ‘toys’ that the pigs enjoy tossing and pushing around.
Changes to weaning and mating procedures have shown excellent results.
“We started doing batch weaning to keep piglets from different age groups and sources separate for as long as possible and we changed our weaning and mating procedure completely. This has improved sow health, fertility and wean-to-first service interval,” Kriek explains.
They have also increased downtime between batches and implemented a new Swine Management System, EdiPorc from France, to trace genealogy, sow productivity, carcass evaluation and grower performance.
Taaibosch Piggery is certified as a Pork 360 farm, which is SAPPO’s self-regulation Quality Assurance Scheme. It is also registered as a Veterinary Pig Compartment by DAFF.
“This has been implemented under our management and formalises the procedures we already follow, ensuring our product can be marketed at a pre-defined quality standard. The compartment system allows us to produce independent of the health risks in our area and community. This alone secures our market and protects the industry. It is a great initiative and the best way to assure our consumers of the safety of pork,” Kriek explains.
They made the bold decision to drastically reduce the in-feed antibiotics and move towards alternative health methods.
“This not only had a positive financial implication, but also had a good impact on the animals. Our veterinarians and managers were great in supporting this move,” Kriek explains.
Growing the farm
With South Africa’s pork industry looking at a 37% increase in consumption over the next 10 years, as beef and lamb get more expensive and people turn to pork as an affordable and tasty protein, Kriek’s expansion plan looks at capacity, aligned ventures and partners.
Taaibosch’s current operation of 2200 sows will be expanded to 2500 by 2020. An existing 200 sow unit, which they use as a reserve farrowing and grower space, will be expanded in partnership with an emerging farmer.
Their current organic composting venture is also targeted for expansion and will be transformed into a black-owned entity in which farm workers will be involved. The fields around the piggery are in the process of being established as sustainable pastures that will be precision grown and fertilised with pig manure, adding value to an otherwise waste product.
Kriek’s long-term vision is to grow Bloubank Estates, which includes Taaibosch Piggery and Taaibosch Organics, into a diverse agribusiness, by expanding either upstream or downsteam in the value chain with the piggery and protein production as its cornerstone.
“I’m constantly searching for opportunities and strategic partners,” Kriek says. “My vision for development and transformation is to engage multiple small businesses and emerging farmers in our industry. As long as the relationships are beneficial for both parties, it will be sustainable.”
Four years, four lessons
In only four years of farming, Kriek has learned four key lessons. He has discovered that more money and opportunities can be lost by being indecisive than by not making the perfect decision and he also knows that there is no compromise for quality, stability and consistency.
Living and working on the farm, Kriek has had to adjust to the cyclical nature of animals and plants.
“Some things just take time,” he observes. “Sometimes I just need to accept that I have done my best and then allow nature to run its course.”
With a young family and his time full vested in the farm, Kriek finds it difficult to maintain a balance between family, work, health, fitness and having a social life.
“Any machine that runs flat-out all the time will break. What I am still learning is to just enjoy the farm the way that Farmer Brown would.”