Saturday, March 9, 2019

Coming into our last day in South Africa, we woke up early and loaded up the van by 7:15 AM with our bags packed up. We ventured off on a two hour drive to Pilanesberg National Park. When we arrived, we loaded up on a safari truck and went on a three hour safari through the park! We were very lucky to see most of the animals they had in the park and got some great close-up pictures. We were able to see impalas, kudu, wildebeest, zebras, rhinos, warthogs, nyalas, giraffes, an elephant, and a few baboons as well. A memorable experience none of us will forget is running into a “traffic jam” with the oldest and most aggressive elephant in the park (55 years old). Don’t worry, we were very cautious and kept our distance from him.

We not only got to see the animals, but we also learned some interesting facts about a few of them. For example, we learned how to tell the difference between a female and male giraffe; males’ horns have more fur, are darker in color, and are typically found on their own. A fun fact we learned about zebras is that they like to stay in herds with wildebeest, because the wildebeest are not as intelligent and serve as a protection for the zebras against predators. We also found out that warthogs are efficient grazers. They are known for their short neck; therefore, when they have their head down while they are grazing their neck gets tired. When this happens, they will actually kneel down to eat. We learned so much during the safari and it will be an outstanding memory in all of our minds forever.

We headed back to the hotel to drop off Mike MacNeil, our fearless trip leader who generously connected us with our South African experience. We would like to thank Mike for all that he has done for us in regards to planning and helping us around the beautiful country of South Africa. We also dropped off Amy Abrams at the hotel (graduate student). This is a fun surprise for all of us as she will be investigating a potential job opportunity. We couldn’t be more happy and excited for her! Good luck, Amy!

We proceeded to the airport where we all made it through just fine to the gates. Our plane will depart at 11:55 PM tonight and we will be connecting in Amsterdam 11 hours later. We will then fly to Minneapolis and to Sioux Falls and should be back in Brookings late Sunday night.

We all had such an amazing and life changing experience and we couldn’t be more grateful for our professors who willingly took us abroad. Thank you so much Dr. Walker and Prof. Gonda! We appreciate all of your guidance and knowledge throughout the whole trip. To the parents and friends who have been following our blog, thank you for allowing us to be a part of such a trip and we also appreciate all of your support and love!

We are all looking forward to the welcoming snow and cold of the Midwest. ;) Spring break 2019 will be one for the books.



Rhino, a very lucky find so close to the road!

An elephant traffic jam!!

The same elephant off the road.


Friday, March 8, 2019

We started off our day by visiting the Voortrekker Monument. This monument contained an abundant amount of symbolism in regards to the Boer pioneers (which included the combination of British, German, and Dutch) settling in South Africa in the 1800’s. Construction for the granite monument took 11 years and was inaugurated on December 16th, 1949. The Voortrekker Monument is architecturally designed around the “Cenotaph”, which is a remembrance of the pioneers who died in the battles with the African Natives during the Great Trek. These battles created a great divide between races in South Africa.  We all thought this was an incredibly interesting monument to visit and to learn more about the settlement of the Boer’s in South Africa. We later saw pictures of the Voortrekker Monument at the Apartheid Museum.  Apartheid began in 1948.

                After visiting the Voortrekker Monument, we went to the Apartheid Museum. Apartheid was a political and social system in South Africa that separated the white race from other races. Apartheid took place from 1948 through the early 1990’s. It was an eye-opening experience for all of us to learn about a tough piece of South African history that still is a sensitive topic for people of all races in South Africa. The Parliament divided the country into four different racial categories: White’s, Native’s, Indian’s and Colored people (people of mixed race). We learned that Nelson Mandela was a South African hero for helping to end Apartheid and unifying the different groups of people in South Africa once again. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the museum, but we all had great discussions about our visit on the bus ride afterward.

                Finally, to end the day we went to the Agricultural Research Council Vegetable and Ornamental Plants farm. We listened to an ARC leader talk about his research regarding different types of soil media such as sawdust shavings. Amaranth and Swisschard were the two different types of plants used in this research. After our presentation, we toured the hydroponics lab where picante peppers were grown. In the first building containing peppers there were fans continuously blowing to keep the plants cool. The other side of the project was another building containing picante peppers that were located under a shaded net. We were able to compare the cool temperature peppers and the shaded pepper, and the cool environment seemed to create an overall more consistent looking pepper. The ARC also has fish that naturally fertilize the plants and help them grow more efficient. Furthermore, we learned the ARC grows rare medicinal plants such as native ginger.

                The group is also very sad as it is our last night here in South Africa. We have had such an amazing time here interacting with the locals, learning a new culture, and touring farms that are similar yet also quite different in many aspects. We are checking out of our hotel early tomorrow so were spending the evening hanging out and packing for our long trek back to the snowy Midwest!

Lekker slaap (goodnight in Afrikaner)!

Jacquelyn Farniok and Leslie Zubke

One of our hosts at the ARC explaining their vegetable research.

A greenhouse where the fish are kept at the ARC research station.

A pepper plant at the ARC research station.

More peppers!!

Our group along the steps in front of the Voortrekker Monument.

The Voortrekker Monument.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Well, we are now five days into our South African adventure and majority of us have the sunburns to prove it. Temperatures here have been staying around and over 80 °F with plenty of sun, but at least we escaped the heaping piles of snow and subzero temperatures at home!

We started off the day leaving our hotel in Centurion and headed North West to a smaller town called Wintersveld. From Wintersveld, we traveled the red dirt roads to take us deeper into the countryside to attend a program. The program was co-hosted by The Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development group and was focused around showcasing the operations of emerging farmers.

We started out the program by visiting a mixed livestock farm that had goats, sheep, chickens, and cattle. A representative from the Department of Agriculture presented on the functional efficiency of beef cattle and followed his talk with demonstrations. Using a yearling bull, he demonstrated how to take body height measurements and ultrasound scanning for carcass quality measurements.

For the second half of the program, we visited Prudence Egumbo, who is another emerging farmer. Prudence shared with our group how she was nominated and then was named the emerging farmer of the year by Animal Research Council of Gauteng Providence. Prudence took over her grandfather’s farm in 2010, and is currently working with a cattle herd of 73 head, around 50 sows, and chickens. An interesting management practice used by farmers in this area, such as Prudence, is communal grazing of their cattle.

After our farm visits, we traveled back to Pretoria to see the Union Buildings. These buildings are where the South African Parliament is located. There is a statue of Nelson Mandela located in front of the buildings. This trip was not planned as our bus driver insisted we go see it. It was a joy to see how proud he was of his former president and his country and to be able to show us a part of his heritage.

Jessica Janssen and Ben Mooney

Mr. Rasebotsa demonstrates various aspects of the breeding soundness evaluation on a young bull.

The statue of the famous Nelson Mandela at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

Finisher pigs on Mrs. Egumbo’s farm.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

This morning we woke up and said our goodbyes to the host family at Trekpad, and made our way to 7 Akkers Dairy. Here we saw goats, sheep, and dairy cattle of all ages. They use these animals to produce various products, such as yogurt, milk, cheese, and Amasi. Amasi is a drink that can be compared to a flavor of sour greek yogurt, with a consistency of thick milk. Most students did not care for the Amasi, but most everyone enjoyed the peach flavored yogurt. This dairy farm was a second generation farm, but 7 Akkers recently added the goats to their operation. They also had plenty of dogs for us to play with!
After 7 Akkers Dairy, we traveled to Hartbeesport Dam. This is a local dam that supplies much water to the surrounding farmers, including Trekpad. Some people bought handmade coasters and bowls from the local street vendors by the dam. Next, we ate lunch at a restaurant called the Jasmyn. This was located in a small shopping center that included a grocery store with food products provided by the dairy we visited later in the day.
Mount Magalies Jersey’s dairy consisted of Jersey cattle, pigs, sheep, and even ostriches! They milk 190 cows each day, 2 times per day. They have 29 varieties of cheese, along with milk, yogurt, fruit juices, and much more. Kristopher’s (the manager of Mount Magalie’s) favorite yogurt flavor is toffee. The dairies we viewed today were very different from each other, but we each learned something unique from each operation that we will take back with us to Brookings.

Danielle Dvorak and Aleigha Howell

Beautiful Hartbeesport Dam

Several of our students on top of the dam

Magalies Dairy milking parlor

Karlie and Jackie petting dogs at 7 Akkers Dairy

Today started bright and early at 5:30 am with a light breakfast before loading up to dart wildlife! Surprisingly, we fit our group into three vehicles. One of the trucks had stadium seating so everyone had a unique experience and wonderful view! More than just a fun experience, there was a specific purpose to darting and moving these animals. To prevent overgrazing, inbreeding, and fighting among younger and mature males, animals need to be relocated to a new location within the property. Once located, the veterinarian darted the animals with a sedative, and the SDSU students carried the animals and loaded them into the back of the trucks. We then rode with the Sable and Nyala to their new location. Before turning them loose the vet dewormed, vaccinated, and collected data on each animal.

            We returned to the main camp where a full breakfast was waiting for us! We loaded up again and went to learn about the Afrikaner cattle raised at Trekpad. Our first stop was to look at the bulls and learn how producers are increasing the number of Afrikaner cattle in South Africa through marketing and breeding programs. Next, we drove to the top of a nearby mountain where Trekpad keeps their female cattle. This environment was much different from the base camp area because it had steep terrain and lower quality forage (which is referred to as sour grass). Because of this, they strive to produce cattle that are able to produce high quality calves while grazing low quality forage. There were many interesting aspects to Trekpad’s cattle operation, like the use of a dipping vat to prevent ticks and branding birth year of the females on the rear hip. The veterinarian even demonstrated how to do a pregnancy examination on the cows and let students try it themselves!

            After enjoying lunch on the covered porch while the rain poured down, we drove further up the mountain to experience amazing views! This spot is referred to as Tiger Cliff. We returned down the mountain to learn about the crop production side of Trekpad. Currently they are growing cotton. Depending on the season and market demand they also produce maize (corn), wheat, oats, alfalfa, and soy beans. We thought it was very interesting that this was Trekpad’s largest income source. They also talked about crop production in the region and how it was largely dependent on the water availability from a local dam (which we will be visiting tomorrow)! Our day concluded with a wonderful braai (BBQ)! Our stay at Trekpad’s has exceeded all expectations and we are excited for the remainder of our time in South Africa!

Amy Abrams and Megan Kellen

Afrikaner cattle at Trekpad.

Our group at Tiger Cliff!

Another group picture, this time after having helped dart and track a sable at Trekpad Game Preserve.

Megan palpating an Afrikaner cow in South Africa!

Monday, March 4, 2019

We started our day at the Agriculture Research Council where we listened to and gave student presentations about agriculture research. Two of our masters students (Jessica and Amy) along with three African students gave presentations on their current research. We also toured the bull testing stations where we saw a demonstration of how they evalutate their bulls by measuring shoulder heights and scrotal circumferance. They also showed us their GrowSafe System and Calan gates used for research into feeding efficiency and average daily gain for their cattle. This visit was a really great experience and showed us a different outlook on African Agriculture.

Also at the ARC, we were shown a cave called the Big Tree Cave. Members of a South African tribe hid out in this cave from the Zulus, but unfortunately the Zulus found them.  After finding this tribe, the Zulus blew smoke into the cave to make them leave. We were able to get close enough to look down the cave, without going inside. The last place we visited at the ARC was the meat packing plant. Here we learned about the proccess of harvesting meat at their facility. We were shown several rooms within the plant where different steps are taking place in the process. We were also shown the sensory pannel where volunteers try and evaluate the food.

Finally, we hopped in the vans and headed to Trekpad. Along the way we saw beautiful scenary and many animals including baboons and impalas. After we arrived we enjoyed a wonderful meal which included delcious pumpkin pampoenpoffertije. Tommorrow we have an early morning darting animals in the South African heat wave!  

Karlie Clemens and Kennedy Vander Windt

A picture of the slaughterhouse facility at the Agricultural Research Council.

 Crossbred cattle on a research project at the Agricultural Research Council.

Nyala!  We immediately saw wildlife as we pulled into Trekpad.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Today we started at 6:30 am and headed to the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Center. While we were there, we saw Ambassador Cheetahs race (these cheetahs were raised by humans and could not be released back into the wild), went on an open vehicle safari, and saw multiple other animals like a honey badger, serval, wild dogs, caracals and vultures.

Next, we stopped at the Cradle of Humankind. Here we saw ancient human bones, a museum, a small tunnel boat that showed us what the Earth was like when humans evolved, and a variety of birds. We got to the top of the mound and saw the view. We also had lunch here.

To end our day, we stopped at the Lesedi Cultural Experience. Here we learned about the different villages and tribes: Pedi, Xhosa, Basotho, Zulu, and Ndebele. We got to tour and see what each village looks like. In one, we got the chance to eat a caterpillar! Many of us got to experience a dance with the members of these tribes. After this, we got to eat supper and had ostrich and crocodile meat.

Whitney Davison and Aaron Johnson

Terrific close-up photo of a cheetah at the Van Dyk Cheetah Center

Entrance to the Cradle of Humankind Museum

Group photo at the Lesedi Cultural Village

Our tour guide at the Lesedi Cultural Village 

A wild dog at the Van Dyk Cheetah Center