Southern Oil (SOILL), changed the course of agriculture in the Southern and Western Cape when they introduced Canola in the early 1990s. The alternative species (Brassica napus) offered a valuable rotational crop in a predominantly wheat-producing region. Canola originated in Canada in the 1970s and was bred by Keith Downey and Baldur R. Stefansson from, crossbreeding rapeseed cultivars at the University of Manitoba. The name was derived from abbreviating the words “Canadian oil”, resulting in the name Canola. The crop is mainly cultivated for the high oil content in its seed and the process of extracting the oil results in a by-product called canola oil cake.

Canola is an annual winter crop, that is produced under dryland conditions in parts of the Southern Cape, Overberg and Swartland regions. Southern Oil (SOILL) is the Swellendam-based company that processes the rape seed for its oil.  According to the Protein Research Foundation (PRF), canola production has shown healthy growth over the past few years. Even in challenging times of rising input costs and climate change, the crop still seems promising (Lochner, 2021). SOILL also further invested in opening a second processing facility in Morreeburg in the Swartland area.

Canola oil cake is a protein-rich by-product that can be used to feed all classes of livestock (USDA, 2016). Canola oil cake has a protein content of 33.4% CP on a 12% moister basis (Peyronnet et al, 2014) or 38% on a DM basis. The FAO states that the main protein source in all animal feed is soybean meal, a product that is in high global demand (Grain SA, 2022).

Lucerne is an important high-quality roughage alternative used by livestock producers and the seasonal lucerne price is highly dependent on supply and demand. The growth of South Africa’s lucerne exports and the new quality testing scheme introduced by the National Lucerne Trust in 2021, as well as recent supply issues due to heavy rain in the north, all play a role in the recent rise of the lucerne price (Farmers Weekly, 2022).

The red-meat, wool and dairy industries in the Western Cape are highly dependent on utilizing crop residues during the winter grain season. The low summer rainfall of the Western Cape’s Mediterranean climate does not enable farmers to produce high volumes of quality pasture during the hot and dry summer months. Although grain residues offer a fair amount of energy and fibre, it is low in protein and cannot sustain high production if fed on its own and needs to be supplemented with high protein concentrate feed.

Pasture-based dairy farmers on the Eastern Cape South Coast face similar challenges. The area is well known for its temperate climate and intensive kikuyu ryegrass mix pastures under irrigation. Although this transition zone (from winter to summer) is not only limited to winter rainfall the summer months can become hot and dry. Therefore, limiting the growth of quality pasture to sustain milk production. This forces dairy farmers to establish silage crops or ensile surplus ryegrass with lower protein content, higher fiber content and lower digestibility. Higher cow numbers on farms also means that pasture volume is put under pressure. Ensiling roughages aims to help maintain fodder flow from December to March. Due to the lower quality of ensiled products, compared to pastures, protein needs to be supplemented to maintain a balanced ration, intake, and production. Over time farmers have introduced more resilient summer species such as forage chicory and lucerne to help improve pasture quality, although the limited moisture can still reduce production potential during this time.

Conclusion – The rise in global demand, volatile supply, rise in fuel cost, as well as the influence of a weakening rand, are driving the prices of feed commodities.  Less arable land being available accompanied with seasonal water shortages puts more pressure on pasture production. Canola oil cake, is a Western Cape, locally produced, high protein by-product. A quality protein source, that can be considered to supplement the dietary protein needs of all classes of livestock. Especially at times when on-farm produced roughage does not meet the standard for optimum animal production. Due to the cost of imports and the cost of transport Canola Oil Cake is logistically well placed for consumers in the Southern, Western and Eastern Cape.