Livestock is the largest agricultural sector in South Africa, with a population of some 13.8-million cattle and 28.8-million sheep. Stock breeders concentrate on the development of breeds that are well adapted to diverse climatic and environmental conditions.
Dairy is produced throughout South Africa, with most farms in the eastern and northern Free State, North West, the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, the Eastern and Western Cape, Gauteng and the southern parts of Mpumalanga. The four major dairy breeds in South Africa are the Holstein, Jersey, Guernsey and Ayrshire.
The dairy industry is important to South Africa's job market, with some 4 300 milk producers employing about 60 000 farmworkers and indirectly providing jobs to 40 000 people. Milk production for 2003/04 was estimated at 2-billion litres.
South Africa produces 85% of its meat requirements, with 15% is imported from Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland, Australia, New Zealand and the EU. Local demand generally outstrips production, even though there are untapped reserves in the communal farming areas.
Cattle ranches are found mainly in the Eastern Cape, parts of the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and the Northern Cape. Popular beef breeds include the indigenous Afrikaner and Nguni and locally developed Bonsmara and Drakensberger. European and American breeds such as Charolais, Hereford, Angus, Simmentaler, Sussex, Brahman and Santa Gertrudis are maintained as pure breeds or used in cross-breeding.
Sheep and goat farming:
South African sheep farming is concentrated in the Northern and Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Free State and Mpumalanga, with Ermelo in Mpumalanga being one of the largest wool-producing districts. Fifty percent of sheep are fine-woolled Merinos. Other breeds include the locally developed Afrino, a woolled mutton breed adapted to arid conditions, the South African Mutton Merino, the Dohne and the Merino Landrace. South Africa's mutton is produced from the Dorper - a highly productive and locally developed mutton breed for arid regions - and the woolled Merino.
Karakul sheep are farmed in the more arid areas, with some 20 173 pelts with a gross value of R3-million produced in 2002/03. The indigenous meat-producing Boer goat accounts for about 30% of all commercial goats. The Angora goat is used for mohair production.
Poultry and pig farming:
South Africa's poultry and pig farms are more intensive than the extensive sheep and cattle production, and are found near the metropolitan areas of Gauteng, Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. The predominant pig breeds are the South African Landrace, the Large White, the Duroc and the Pietrain.
South Africa's annual poultry meat production is 960 000 tons. Broiler production contributes about 82% to total poultry meat production, with the rest made up of mature chicken slaughter (culls), small-scale and backyard poultry production, ducks, geese, turkeys and other specialised white meat products. Income from poultry and egg production amounted to R11.3-billion in 2002/03.
South Africa accounts for 67% of world sales of ostrich products - leather, meat and feathers. The gross value for ostrich feathers and products during 2002/03 was R276.5-million.
South Africa has more game and a wider variety of game species than most countries. Game farming has grown over the years, and today is a viable industry with great economic potential. The country's main game areas are in Limpopo province, North West, Mpumalanga, the Free State, the Eastern Cape, the Karoo, the Kalahari in the Northern Cape and the thorn scrub of KwaZulu-Natal.
A descriptive game-production model has been developed for optimising intensive animal production on game farms, with the potential to increase the global produce of the game industry by between 8% and 15%.
The aquaculture industry in South Africa continues to make meaningful progress in cultivation technology, marketing strategy, marketing practice and scientific innovation. Mussels, trout, tilapia, catfish, oysters and waterblommetjies (Cape pondweed) are the major aquaculture species. Mussel farming occurs mainly at Saldanha Bay.