South Africa’s game industry deserves to be nurtured and supported to its full potential. The game industry has come a long way in recent years, but in many ways it has only just begun to scratch the surface of its long-term potential. Stud Game Breeders believes that working together as a unified, professional industry will be the best way to capitalise on the opportunity.

The industry has benefited
While the underlying economics for the breeders of rare game species have long been strong, the growth of the industry has greatly accelerated since 2007.

Vleissentraal has reported that the all-in average auction prices of the top five rare game species achieved a growth of 49.14% per annum over this five-year period. This compares with the JSE alsi of 6.65% p.a. and the prices of beef of 9.62% p.a. over the same period.

While average prices have clearly climbed as illustrated above, the overall turnover over the past five years for the auctions conducted by Vleissentraal has grown by 485%. The total turnover on Vleissentraal auctions for 2007 was R85,5 million compared to 2011’s total of R434 million. This neither factors in the increasing entry of other auctions and on-line sales into the market, nor the accelerating turnover of private sales during this same five-year period.

In 2011, assuming a simple ratio and mix comprising species of rare game, the price realised per LSU (large stock unit) equivalent sold would be R381 000. Operating costs would range between R5 000 to R15 000 per LSU depending on the scale of the operation and particular circumstances.

The cash-flow yield in year 1 of a new breeding operation and under certain assumptions would equal 16.6%. The total return on investment would be a three to six times multiple of this 16.6%… depending on one’s timeframe, projected game prices, capital gain on the land and progeny produced and not sold.

For further explanation of the economics of rare game breeding, please refer to the illustrated example and table 1.

It is clear that the economics of rare species game breeding has significantly outperformed most other forms of agriculture and most other investment options. The differentiation between prices realised for top-quality genetics and average specimens within the same rare game species has grown dramatically. With the performance of superior genetics outpacing that of average genetics, a sable is no longer simply a sable, and a buffalo no longer simply a buffalo.

South Africa has benefited
At the same time, the current and potential benefits and contribution to the country of game   farming and its extended value chain both upstream and downstream are significant.   The list is long and impressive:

1. Economic contribution of the value chain approaching R10 billion per annum and growing
2. The productive utilisation of millions of hectares of hereto marginal land
3. The conservation of natural habitat and eco-systems
4. The conservation of Africa’s rare game species and our unique heritage as South Africans
5. The creation of relatively high quality jobs, particularly in rural areas
6. The foreign exchange earnings through related eco-tourism and hunting safaris
7. The huge potential to offer a real solution to the challenge of food security for a growing population
8. A core source to repopulate the rest of Africa with rare species that have been exterminated through habitat loss, poaching and hunting.

Overall, rare African game species are a huge drawcard and asset for South Africa. We are uniquely positioned in the African continent and indeed the world to conserve and market these species.

The opportunity is tremendous, but only if we work together
Stud Game Breeders has a strong conviction that we, as a game breeding industry, can accelerate our growth and progress. We can leverage the opportunity before us by consistently adhering to and adapting a few simple principles that reflect a longer-term perspective and enlightened self-interest:

  • Unity matters. The impact we exert when we work together far exceeds the impact any of us can achieve on our own.
  • Professionalism matters. To be respected as a professional industry, we must always behave as a professional industry, remembering that the reckless actions of a few can damage the industry for all.
  • Transformation matters. Our future must truly benefit all South Africans.
  • Shared knowledge matters. Collectively, we know much more than we do individually, and best- practice breeding approaches should be shared.
  • Bio-security matters. We must be diligent in protecting ourselves against one of the greatest threats to our industry.
  • High-quality genetics matter. As the quality of the animals strengthens, so does the value of the industry.

Table 1 * Vleissentraal Statistics 2011

Illustrated example: Calculation of rare game economics

In 2011, assuming a simple ratio and mix of 10 breeding animals of each of the five rare species, the investment in rare game species would amount to R15.7 million (using the average prices achieved on Vleissentraal auctions in 2011).

Total large stock units (LSU) would amount to 30. Using an average of eight hectares per LSU, one would require available land in the region of 250 hectares. Taking the average farm land value at R10 000 per hectare, one would require an investment of R2.5 million in land and an additional R1 million in infrastructure. Those with existing farms could see this as added value to a portion of their current game or cattle operation. Running costs have been calculated in line with a current farm’s infrastructure and would be comparatively higher in a new operation. The scale of an operation would also have a positive effect on the running costs in relation to cost per LSU.

Using a simple, sustainable yield across the various species of 30% comprising species of rare game, the price realised for LSU equivalent was calculated to be R381 000, with associated all-in annual operating costs of R8 900 per LSU.
With all the above assumptions taken into account, the cash-flow yield would equal 16.6% in year 1.

The total return on investment would be substantially higher factoring in calves held back to increase the size of one’s breeding herds, game price escalation, capital gain on the value of the land and the importance of running game with good genetics. (With the correct genetics in one’s herd, one could be producing that buffalo bull valued at R18 m, buffalo cow at R20 m or that sable bull recently sold for R4 m.) All these factors would further enhance the picture on the total return on investment.

The first year’s cash-flow yield would deliver more than the cost of capital on the investment. This means one could actually finance the entire breeding project.

  • 30 LSU equivalent running on land of 250 ha
  • Total rare game species investment = R15.7 m
  • Total operating costs per year = R267 250
  • Total nine LSU equivalent for sale per year at asustainable yield of 30%
  • Price realised per LSU = R381 000

Table 1 * Vleissentraal Statistics 2011



Qty Sustainable
Avg.Prices for
Game Investment
LSU Sales Total Sales
Value Yr 1
Buffalo 10 30% 1.10 R636 000 R 11 000 3.30 R2 098 800
Matetsi Sable 10 30% 0.60 R166 531 R 9 000 1.80 R 299 756
Roan 10 30% 0.64 R132 432 R132 432 1.92 R 254 269
Golden Wilderbeest 10 30% 0.50 R483 929 R 6 000 1.50 R 725 894
Black Impala 10 30% 0.19 R151 839 R 2 500 0.57 R 86 548
Average 50 30%     R 8 912 9.09 R3 465 267