From sheep to shop
Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving. This piece of advice by Albert Einstein is one that was taken to heart by Konsortium-Merino. And the result? Today they aren’t merely traversing agricultural roads as we know them, but they are actively seeking and paving new routes in order to reach their destination.
Konsortium-Merino is the only farmer controlled smallstock trademark in South Africa. The company was established in 2005 in a bid to ensure a seamless path from the sheep on the farm to the clothing on one’s body or the mutton on one’s plate. Besides supplying superior genetics, wool and meat under the Konsortium trademark, the group also focuses on shortening the value chain for its farmers and adding value to their products along the way.
Gawie van Heerden, Konsortium-Merino breeder and director, says today’s challenge is to remain relevant in South African agriculture: “A farmer cannot achieve this alone on his farm, but together we have muscle and can produce critical amounts of quality, create markets and make a real difference.”
In 2001 Konsortium-Merino started out as four breeders with 78 rams at one auction. Today the group sells the most Merino rams (700 plus) at official auctions across South Africa. They have been able to improve the South African record turnover for Merino ram sales on six occasions.
The group is doing groundbreaking work in the smallstock industry:
- This is the first Merino stud to appoint is own sheep and wool advisor and mentors to improve the business of its farmers. Cobus Vivier, client advisory, is responsible for ensuring quality among farmers, thus allowing the market to confidently purchase Konsortium genetics, wool and meat. The standards of the Konsortium trademark is instilled in and protected by farmers.
- Konsortium-Merino negotiated alternative marketing channels with Segard Masurel South Africa. This option affords them choices and saves thousands every year in marketing expenses.
- Konsortium-Merino is the first Merino stud to establish its own feedlot, thus giving its meat an own identity.
- The group is the first to sell their Merino meat under this trademark. The meat is marketed off the veld to the Nagiahs group of butcheries, which sells the meat from its Midrand butchery under the Konsortium trademark.
- Konsortium-Merino is the first to manufacture a pure Merino wool jacket from its own wool.
A team with passion
Altogether 130 farmers (especially from the Karoo, Southern Free State and North-Eastern Cape) with more than 240 000 Merino ewes, have joined the Konsortium family. Managing director, Braam Coetzee, says their aim is to have approximately 600 000 ewes in the Konsortium stable by 2019.
In order to distinguish your product from the rest, active inputs have to be delivered at every level of the value chain, says Braam. “However, a trademark product doesn’t have to cost the consumer more in order to make it worth the while for the farmer. If the supply chain is managed a bit better, then more money will reach the farmer’s purse.”
That is why Konsortium supplies the genetics, produces the lambs, markets the sheep off the veld, or sends them to its own feedlot in order to add value. Their most recent addition to their unique value chain, entails their 100% pure Proudly South African Merino wool jacket.
100% Proudly South African
Konsortium-Merino wool is produced, washed, combed, spun and woven in South Africa, where it is also transformed into cool, lightweight wool jackets.
This year the Cheetah rugby team members were the ambassadors for this wool jacket. Since sporting their jackets in April this year, the team has been blessed with good fortune with wins over the Brumbies, Crusaders and Rebels, whilst also tackling the Curry Cup series with energy and devotion. “The Free State team fits our image perfectly – a small group of players with passion and potential, and who wish to bring about change in their discipline. They are true and loyal fighters – the salt of the earth and proudly South African,” says Gawie.
The jacket has been styled to suit every generation and every occasion. It is available in four colours: Karoo, Heritage, Plains and Steel. As far as the group knows, this is the only pure men’s wool jacket that is proudly South African in every sense. Because of cheaper foreign labour, most of the woollen clothing sold in South Africa are spun, woven and even manufactured abroad.
The finest cloth
The very first Konsortium jackets are made from pure new wool cloth, manufactured by SA Fine. However, this company closed their doors earlier this year and Hextex in Worcester has now embraced the opportunity and will be manufacturing the material for next year’s jackets .
The ± 20 micron Konsortium-Merino wool is washed and combed at the SMZA mill in Uitenhage, where it is prepared for the spin and weaving process. The blazers are manufactured in Cape Town and are sold by men’s outfitters such as Stanwell in Bloemfontein, Coquis in Pretoria, De Jagers branches countrywide, and Friedman & Cohen in the Strand.
Many a man who has purchased himself a Konsortium-Merino jacket, has praised the garment for its qualities. It is their choice of wear to just about any event – at the office, a wedding or even a rugby game. Dr Faffa Malan, well-known veterinarian based in Pretoria, wears his jacket to training seminars. Jurie Taylor, school headmaster in Beaufort West, enjoys the fact that the jacket is lightweight and the wool crease-resistant – it always looks neat, he says. The Cheetah rugby players like to combine their blazers with a neat shirt and denim jeans.
When Tewis de Bruyn, Cheetah scrumhalf, put on his jacket for the first time, he proclaimed: “This is my kind of jacket !” Juan Smith, Springbok and Cheetah flanker, says that as a boerseun he feels honoured to be wearing a proudly South African product that adds value to farmers’ products and distinguishes them from the rest.
“Our wool story is green and has been met with approval, especially in Europe, where consumers are very aware of what they buy, wear and consume. They are also willing to pay more for a trademark that has been produced in harmony with nature, creates jobs and applies a Code of Best Practices,” says Braam.
The future is bright
Gawie has put more than 600 000 km behind him over the past ten years. He has visited more than 1 500 farmers on their farms and is more convinced than ever that Konsortium-Merino rams and ewes produce wool and meat of exceptional quality. “Our genetics doesn’t have to stand back for any other genetics in the country. We are one of a few studs that dares to let Mother Nature class our sheep. This distinguishes us form the rest and allows our farmers to reap the benefits.”
He strongly believes that the promotion of superior genetics that increase farmers’ reproduction, must remain the core of their campaign. The money that the farmer earns in this way, keeps him positive. Gawie also emphasises the fact that farmers must own their product. But together with the rights to the trademark, Konsortium farmers must also accept the responsibility of protecting it. “We should stop complaining and start doing more,” he says. In order for Konsortium-Merino to still be making a contribution towards the South African economy in fifteen years’ time, the group has to think out of the box, going where there is no path and leaving a trail.”
Each of Konsortium’s member farmers is part of the bigger picture – an integral piece of the Konsortium puzzle and confirmation of their slogan: ‘Together we offer more ...’
Want to know more?
Visit www.konsortium-merino.com or contact Gawie at 082 321 3233, or Braam at 082 411 1592.