Some of the Ottershaw Farms properties have been family farms since the 1930’s & 40’s, and Arthur Gilbert is the third generation to farm on Ottershaw near Westminster and Tweespruit in the Free State, close to the N8, approximately 100km east of Bloemfontein and 40km west of Ladybrand.
In the past, the area’s farmers relied on dryland crop production for most of their income, which came predominantly from wheat and maize, and later sunflowers, and in the 1970’s the animal factor on most farms contributed far less than it does now. One of Arthur’s first responsibilities after joining his Dad was to take charge of the livestock on the farm. He decided to start a proper beef enterprise, to crossbreed, to use a breeding season and to weigh calves as a selection tool.
Various breeds were initially used as crosses in the beef enterprise, and because of the hybrid vigour in the first crosses, the performance of the progeny was excellent, but by the late ‘80’s, little hybrid vigour was noticeable because all the cows were crosses. By this time Dan Burnett had joined the partnership, and we decided to establish grass pastures on all the marginal cropping lands, and to increase the beef herd substantially.
Because we wanted to get away from criss-crossing, as well as to simplify mating management, we considered using a single composite breed, whose progeny would possess similar hybrid vigour to the criss-crossed herd.
Graham Hart, one of the Beefmaster pioneers, who had gone through school and university with Arthur, suggested we try Beefmasters. Also, having read about Tom Lasater and his beef breeding principles, and because we were impressed by some of the animals we had seen, we bought our first Beefmaster bulls. Soon after, in 1990, our females were inspected, and most were approved as first acceptance Beefmasters. We joined the Beefmaster Society, and the Ottershaw Beefmaster herd has evolved from there, becoming an important part of the farm business.
Together with Westminster Estate Beefmasters, we held our first combined Central Beefmaster Sale in 2005, and the next (13th) Ottershaw Beefmaster Sale is on Wednesday 9th August 2017 on Ottershaw.
We get much enjoyment from our cattle and are active in the Free State Beefmaster Club, and Arthur is a former President of the Beefmaster Cattle Breeders’ Society of South Africa.
MEET THE TEAM
Arthur Gilbert went to school in Grahamstown, matriculating at St Andrew’s College. After doing his National Service in the S A Engineers Corps, he studied Agriculture at the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg, and graduated with a BSc(Agric).
He then joined his father on the farm, and in 1973 married Rose Trinder–Smith, a Dewetsdorp farmer’s daughter. Soon after, Arthur was offered an opportunity to work for Massey Ferguson North America, and they left for Des Moines, Iowa, where they lived for almost a year. It was at an interesting time for agriculture, and was excellent experience.
After travelling all over the US and Canada, and in Europe and the UK, it was back to the farm.
Dan Burnett was born and grew up on a sugar estate in Big Bend, Swaziland and went to school at St Charles College in Pietermaritzburg. While working in Durban, he met Ann who is Arthur’s sister. They married and moved to the farm in 1982, and a successful partnership compising Dan, Ann, Arthur and Rose has developed over the years. The Gilberts have four daughters, while the Burnetts have a son and a daughter.