OALP Learns about Different Kind of Farming--CrocsFri, 21 Feb 2014 15:21:49 CST
Dr. James Trapp, associate director for cooperative extension at Oklahoma State University is traveling with Class 16 of the Oklahoma Agricultural Leadership Program in South Africa. He files this report:
Crocodile farming appears to be one of the more profitable agricultural enterprises in South Africa. The cattle and crop farmers we talked to tell about the same story as Oklahoma farmers: times have been tough economically and it has been dry. But things sounded a little different on the crocodile farm we visited.
The OALP class visited the Inyoni crocodile farm north of Pretoria and learned the basics of crocodile ranching. The core products are crocodile hide and meat. But the farms also sell the crocodiles for hunting. Some farms are open for tourists to see the crocodiles and watch them being fed, but many do not allow tourists. Typically, the smaller farms focus on hides and tourism while the larger ones get into meat processing and sales.
Crocodiles live lives as long as humans and grow to 20 to 25 feet in length. A mature croc can weigh up to a ton. We saw several in the breeding pen at the farm that came close to a ton. Crocodiles are generally slaughtered for meat and hides at about one and a half to two years of age when they are five to six feet in length. Growth after that age slows making this age the most optimal. Tanned hides for slaughter-age crocs bring about $200. Hunters pay over $5,000 to hunt a mature croc.
The ranch had several different pens of crocodiles, ranging from a nursery, to a growing pen, to young stock being held to mature for breeding. Breeding begins at about age 1ten. The last pen is the breeding herd with mature crocs, some of which are over 50 years of age. There are usually about four females to each male.
We watched about 50 crocs who all were over ten feet long be fed three wheel barrows of chicken. Interestingly, the chickens were free as they were culls from a nearby chicken processing plant. So what a deal! The feed is free and you sell meat, hides, and agritourism in the form of hunting and viewing in a zoo-like setting complete with souvenir shop.
If global warming increases the Oklahoma temperature a few more degrees, maybe there is a future for crocodile farming in Oklahoma. Or maybe not. But, all things considered, it was an interesting visit for the OALP class and a chance to learn about a different kind of farming.
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