Game ranching in South Africa

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Today there are almost 20 million head of game on private ranches in South Africa – in comparison there are 14 million heads of cattle in South Africa. The State, including both National and Provincial parks conserves only 6 million ha, on which are found only about 5 to 6 million game animals.

Ranching entails, that to set out a certain set of points on advice, covering the whole of the industry, would deem close to impossible.
What we do offer though, is some guidelines, not necessarily as precaution   measures, but rather to stimulate thinking patterns which in essence will benefit not only the individual but also the industry as a collective.

Today there are four economic pillars to wildlife ranching. These are the breeding of animals for sale to stock other, often new, ranches, photographic tourism, wildlife products such as curios and game meat and hunting, including both local ‘biltong’ hunting and, mainly foreign, trophy hunting.

Together these four pillars annually contribute more than R20 billion to the GDP of the country with hunting being responsible currently for about R7,3 billion (R6, 3 billion local hunters and R1 billion foreign hunters). These hunters provide almost 150,000 tons of game meat for consumption in South Africa, a massive contribution to food security considering that we import about R4 billion worth of meat annually. Breeding and sales of game animals contributes almost R5 billion.

Many farmers, businessmen, investors and professional people moved in to the game industry because of financial reasons. The love for wildlife and the lifestyle associated with the industry has always been there, but it wasn’t enough for most people to start . When the monetary gains started proving itself to be substantial, more and more people realised that to invest in wildlife and game, is as a sound investment as most other investments opportunities available today.

Most game ranchers will testify to the fact that investing in wildlife is not nearly for the short term. Many thought it would be possible to increase their capital within a period of three years, and we have heard many success stories, but the truth of the matter is that most people who have made a success out of their game breeding enterprise, has done it over a period of more than a decade. It wasn’t a passive long term investment either. Determination and innovation with a lot of schooling played a big part in the achievements we see on the popular wildlife auctions today.

So thinking about the quick growth of your hard earned cash focusing on the short term, might not be as wise as the uninformed perception out there seem to proclaim.

 The popularity of Game ranching in South Africa has seen tremendous growth in the last couple of years.Diversifying
Any farmer and investor alike will tell you that to diversify is an absolute necessity. The immediate thinking then is that, seeing we are actively pursuing the breeding of top quality animals, we should diversify into the various different species available. That of course can’t be ignored, but to properly diversify your investment, one need to look at the broader picture of the business by realising that the breeding of top genetics could very well be a single part of the resources available as a result of the initial investment. To consider game meat as a by-product, ecotourism and hunting as a service, and bartering as an alternative means of trading, could very well mean a collective movement forward for any region focusing on working together.

Regardless of starting out new, or expanding an existing game breeding program, planning is an extremely essential component in your business. The list goes on and on, but critical elements in your planning includes a financial forecast for the following 5 – 10 years, best and worst case scenarios, the practical applications of day to day management of the animals, insurance, and most importantly a marketing plan. The industry is getting all the more competitive, and to neglect any of these vital elements, especially marketing, could mean sub-par investment results in the long run.


Without a doubt, some of the best advice anyone can give, within and without the game ranch industry, is to connect with those who have similar interests as you. With the industry being relatively new, it is growing a rapid rate and the faster we learn and educate ourselves, the faster we will be able to not only keep up with the current exponential growth, but also lead in a way rarely seen elsewhere in the world. Observe methods from your neighbours, network with the various groups within the industry, share your knowledge with others, and the benefits will be visible before your consideration for expansion.