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Vuma Feeds


vuma horsefeeds product range
vuma horsefeeds product range


Following our notice last week regarding our restructure at Vuma, the response from the market has been overwhelming : messages of sympathy, encouragement and positivity have flowed, and we appreciate all your support and well-wishes.

The good news is that we have been approached by no fewer than 5 organisations (including an international company), and believe we will find a custodian worthy of the Vuma brand, and your valued custom.

We are hopeful that the supply of Vuma will not be interrupted, but your contact team for orders and queries may change.

As soon as we have reached finality, we will send you all the details and we are very pleased that the inconvenience to you and the effect on your horses will be minimal.

Once again, the current Vuma team thank you for your loyalty and constant support.

vuma horsefeeds
vuma horsefeeds


vuma horsefeeds delivery truck
vuma horsefeeds delivery truck


PO Box 430 Mooi River 3300

KwaZulu-Natal South Africa

Website :


mick goss
mick goss

Mick GossI have had to share tough news in my time, but nothing as tough as this. We started making Vuma Horsefeeds 20 years ago, and in that time, even our competitors will concede, we changed the nutritional landscape.

In the past ten seasons, the Champion trainer has been on our books seven times, the Champion Breeders five times, and we’ve fed any number of sport horse champions. On the way, we’ve employed more than 50 people, and we’ve sustained many families. That makes this note all the more painful.

We returned from the National Sales to the news that we’d been the victims of a massive fraud in the procurement of ingredients, and on the farm there’d also been large scale theft of product. For some time, we’ve feared that the eye has been off the nutritional ball. This explains things.

The reality is simple. Vuma is not our core business. While it has been one of the pillars of Summerhill’s success, we have had to employ numbers of people from outside the farm in order to keep up with our growth. The two elements of urban and rural staff working together do not gel well, not here at any rate. The security issues that pre-occupy us with a plant operating 24/7 have made Vuma a distraction, and now a serious headache. Besides, Summerhill can ill afford to keep supporting a business which is culturally so far removed, and where we’re having to maintain a constant vigilance on where things are going.

We are driven to one very unfortunate conclusion. We are going to wind the business down in the next fortnight, so that it will do only what it was originally intended to do: a dedicated Summerhill plant, operating in daylight hours with farm staff.

In our time in the feed business, we have been privileged to have developed enduring relationships with some excellent people. You are one of them. We are especially saddened to have to share this news with you, as we feel we are letting people down.

Yet faced with these problems, and especially the extent of them, we know you will understand. We have no choice, and we need to do so while the business remains profitable, and is a going concern.

We are not selling it, nor will we part with the brand unless it’s passed to the custodianship of a worthy entity. When I gave up my law practice, I took nothing for it. My sole concern was that its people were taken care of.

Within Vuma, there are some quality employees. Some will be retained, others will not be as fortunate. They will be looked after as far as possible, and that will be our prime concern, as well as the interests of our customers.

I leave for Australia as I write, but for those whom I haven’t been able to speak to personally, you are welcome to ring Heather Morkel, Catherine Hartley or Haydn Bam, if there is anything we can help with. 

I should end by thanking you so much for your loyal support and help in the past. We take nothing for granted here, and we’re extremely sorry to have inconvenienced you.

As always, warmest regards.

mick goss signature
mick goss signature




vuma extruder plant 1
vuma extruder plant 1
vuma extruder plant 2
vuma extruder plant 2

Vuma Extruder Plant

(Photos : Leigh Willson)


You are right, it is one of the most beautiful farms on the planet, and we’re lucky to know the seasons as they come and go, always recognisable for another renewable feature. We also have some “practical” places, like the workshop and the Vuma extruder plant, which are literally mini factories and take some managing from an aesthetic perspective. It’s their turn now, as their agapanthus just happened to be the best on the property right now, which just goes to show, you don’t have to be shabby just because you’re not in the gardening business.


aslan wins the sansui summer cup
aslan wins the sansui summer cup

Aslan - Sansui Summer Cup Gr1

(Photo : JC Photographics)


For some years now, Vuma-fed horses have dominated virtually every major meeting at the Spring and Autumn festivals on the Highveld, as well as the KZN winter season. Saturday was no exception, where the ones that mattered most were the Sansui Summer Cup (Gr.1), the Vodacom Dingaans (Gr.2) and the GommaGomma Fillies Mile (Gr.3). Vuma was there when it mattered most, the murderous last 400 metres of the Turffontein straight.

GommaGomma Fillies Mile (Gr.3)

1stSiderafor Mike de Kock

2ndGenerous Anna for Charles Laird

4thFisanifor Mike de Kock

Vodacom Dingaans (Gr.2)

1stCurved Ball for Charles Laird

2ndGalileo’s Galaxy for Charles Laird

4thFort Petersburg for Dominic Zaki

Sansui Summer Cup (Gr.1)

1stAslan forSean Tarry

3rdMeet At Malamala for Mike de Kock

The wholeSummerhill team joins me, not only in saluting the connections, but especially the fellows at Vuma. From one Champion team to another, well done.

vuma feeds logo
vuma feeds logo

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Daily News 2000 and Woolavington Stakes

(Photo : Gold Circle)


Those who read the Sporting Post will undoubtedly know by now that, come the big days, there’s always a drum banging for horses that know the taste of Africa’s finest horsefeed.

Saturday’s gathering of the best three-year-olds in the land, witnessed the renewal of the Daily News 2000 (Gr.1) and the Woolavington Stakes (Gr.1), an assembly of the best colts and fillies respectively and the principal trials for the sophomore generation aiming at the biggest horse race in Africa, the Vodacom Durban July.

There was nothing really surprising about the outcome of either, as the winners represented some of the best form of the season, with Big City Life taking the colt’s version, and Zirconeum, bred across the valley from Summerhill by our neighbours, Karen and Warwick Render at Bush Hill Stud, snatching the laurels in the fillies’ version.

What wasn’t surprising though, was that the first three home in the Daily News 2000 were all sustained by Vuma (Big City Life trained by Glen Kotzen, Dan De Lago (Charles Laird) and Captain Scott (Alec Laird) while Zirconeum, the little filly with the heart of a giant, was another feather in the already substantial cap of Mike de Kock.

No doubt, knowing the protagonists, these fellows will all march on to the Greyville track on the first Saturday in July to the Vodacom jingle.

VUMA : Uncompromising Horsefeeds

vuma horse feed


Compromise is not a word we use around here. In fact it’s forbidden. It’s the kind of word that’ll get your mouth washed out with soap. We’d like to think there’s enough compromise in the world. Work, our social lives, health: it’s all about compromise. That’s why we still make our horsefeeds the uncompromising way, according to the Summerhill Purity Oath of 1979.


Ever since then, we’ve been working away at making better and better horsefeeds, to the degree that Vuma stands today as the innovator, as the Rolls Royce in the nutrition business. Not just in South Africa, but internationally.


Some years back, we developed the very first range of bio-friendly horsefeeds in the world, and the creed by which we started, stands firm today. Use nothing but the very best ingredients, and wherever possible, acquire them from organic producers who share these values. As far as we know, we’re still the only people that do it this way, and the results are there for everyone to see.

Eight of the top twelve in the 2008 Trainers’ Premiership, the Champion Breeders and any number of Championships in the leisure horse business. And remember this: every bag is an individual masterpiece made and wrapped by hand, with the care and concern you show for every individual horse you have. It’s something we believe in. Deeply. It’s something we’ll stand by. Forever.


It’s the way we’ll keep making horsefeeds. Without compromise.


vuma logo



Catherine Hartley accepts the award for Breeder of the Year on behalf of Summerhill Stud from Peter Miller  at the 2009 Highveld Racing Awards
(Photo : JC Photographics)

It may not be the National title, but it’s certainly one we’ve always coveted, and we’re very proud to hold. For the second consecutive year, Summerhill was last night named Highveld Breeder Of The Year, and Vuma’s Catherine Hartley was on hand to pick up the silverware. Gauteng is the most competitive racing environment on the continent of Africa, and we’ve always counted ourselves lucky to be among the finalists for this prestigious award.

It’s probably an appropriate moment to revisit our standing on the National Breeders Log as well, where our lead is approaching R5 million. We’re reminded at this time of an advertisement we wrote in May 2005, as we marched to our National Breeders’ Premiership, and we thought we were reasonably comfortable with a R2 million margin. While the big lady still has a bit of singing to do, it’s a comforting thought that there is a sound buffer between us and our pursuers.

We never forget though, the sacrifices our people have made towards this achievement. It’s a sobering thought that, in our 30th year in business, that we should be so deeply indebted to so many, who’ve given up so much in getting us there.

sporting postClick here to view
South African National Breeders Log


vuma horse feeds“Vuma : New generation feeds in brand new recyclable wrappers.”

“Never the imitator: always the innovator”, Vuma Feeds was at it again this past weekend with the introduction of their new generation feeds in their brand new recyclable wrappers. Born of the same foundations that have made Summerhill Stud and Hartford House national leaders in their respective disciplines, Vuma is nothing else if it isn’t the nation’s signature brand leader in ground-breaking advances in the field of equine nutrition, a status which even its most ardent competitors have acknowledged

Dubbed by the marketplace as the Rolls Royce of South African horse feeds, Vuma’s technological leaps of the past decade have wrenched the South African environment from it’s backwater slumber to the forefront of the international revolution in athletic nourishment. On its way, Vuma overturned the outmoded philosophies of the eighties, and became the world leader in the production of organically based feeds.

Sunday evening witnessed the convergence on Hartford House of a number of Vuma’s foremost distributors, and there was pretty much unanimity among those gathered that the benchmark Vuma has set in the feeding of horses, is replicated in the dinner Jackie Cameron and her team served up at Hartford. A meal at KZN’s Number One restaurant set the tone for the unveiling of Vuma’s latest secret weapon, and the reception the “new generation” range received was an encouraging precursor to a launch which has been gathering momentum for a few weeks now. Within a week of this note, all Vuma’s stockists should be carrying the new range, where the chic green wrappers will guarantee the longevity of a product that has brought a new definition to the word “freshness”.

vuma horsefeeds south africavisit

LAMB CHOP : A Sheep for All Seasons

lamb chop sheep
Lamb Chop
(Photo : Annet Becker)

megan romeynSheep have played an integral role in the lives of humans since the earliest of time, not only in the more obvious role as food, but also that of “companions to stallions”.

Jet Master had a sheep-friend named David (apparently named after the trainer David Ferraris!) who lived with him after his retirement.

Our own Lamb Chop was originally brought to Summerhill to play companion to Requiem. After Requiem’s move to Klawervlei, Lamb Chop stayed on and became companion to Way West. During her tenure with Way West, Lamb Chop was seen to enjoy the Life of Riley. With frequent visits to the Vuma Feed Mill, she quickly gained a significant amount of weight and soon resembled a “bulging barrel”!

Today, Lamb Chop is constant companion to resident Summerhill stallion, Mullins Bay, and the two pals can be seen grazing side by side in the paddock. She even keeps him company in his box at night! Lamb Chop has been placed on “reduced” rations and is looking quite a dish (…a lot sleeker) these days.

No-one knows Lamb Chop’s exact age but she is an integral part of the Summerhill scene and life without her would certainly be dull, especially for our boy Mullins Bay.



 A few of Cheryl’s photographs

 “The frustrations of trying to get the Boss. Where’ve they been?”

We’ve often heard Mick say that Summerhill’s not about one man or one family; it’s about the collective whole, and the deep diversity of talents that make the place tick. It’s also a place with a broader range of interests than the horses for which we’re trying so hard to establish a reputation. Vuma Feeds is a purveyor of the finest horse feeds in Africa to several corners of the world; Goss & Co Insurance Brokers writes South Africa’s second largest premium in horse insurance, with underwriting facilities at Lloyds of London for more than 50 years; and Hartford House has been described as “the resolution of all South African safaris”, such is its renown in the hospitality trade.

Its well-known that Hartford is Cheryl’s “baby”, and this week the Gosses have been away on their own “safari”, attending a gathering of the Land Of Legends, a grouping of the leading hospitality properties in KwaZulu Natal, founded by the Gosses, the Rattrays at Fugitives Drift, and the Poynton’s of Cleopatra. It now also comprises Phinda Private Game Reserve, which is part of the world’s most diverse safari group, C.C.Africa; Rocktail Bay, the gem in Wilderness Safaris KwaZulu Natal crown; Hotel Izulu on the North Coast, and Three Trees at Spioenkop.

This quarter’s meeting of the Land Of Legends took place at Phinda, surely one of the finest wild sanctuaries anywhere, combining as it does the “big five” territory of the Kruger Park environs with the wetland attractions of the Okavango Delta. There are seven different ecosystems in Phinda, so it’s not only the diversity of the animals it attracts, but also its vegetation. Those that run it have seen to it that its camps and lodges are equally varied, which means that a return visit to Phinda is always full of surprises and new expectations.

Before the Gosses got to Phinda, they took three nights at a private bush lodge in Hhluhluwe, the flagship (with Mfolozi) in the vast assembly of reserves under the management of KwaZulu Natal Conservation Services. Taking a lodge of this sort means the whole eight bed stilted camp, where suspended wooden walkways connect the thatched accommodation, and you have a dedicated cook and game guide entirely at your disposal. For what you get, it’s surprisingly affordable.

Yathi the chef, has been known to the family for many years during their visits to Hluhluwe, and he’s a cook capable of holding his own in the best culinary establishments, while Xolani Mkwanaze is an extraordinary man in the bush, deeply knowledgeable and resourcefully instinctive.

A trip of this sort is a soul-restoring escape in its own right, and reconnecting with the earth and the animals we’re so lucky to live among in South Africa is a secret narrative in the Goss family. Cheryl took some photographs while they were there, as she felt they reminded her of some of their family, friends and the team that works here. The gallery tells the story! She thought one of the primates bore a close resemblance to the Chairman of the Land Of Legends at the end of a long meeting. But don’t tell anyone she said that – it could compromise our salary reviews, come February!

On to Rocktail Bay, where Wilderness Safaris have established a beautiful venue just behind the spectacular dunes which are a trademark of the Maputaland Coast. This is a private world, where you venture hundreds of kilometers to the north and the south along broad sweeping beaches without seeing a soul. Miles and miles of pristine sand, coral heads and rocky shelves, and abundant marine life. If you’re there at the right time of year, Maputaland is the nesting place of the mysterious and very rare Leatherback Turtle, as well as his equally intriguing cousin, the Loggerhead. Like Phinda, the guiding and hospitality at Wilderness Safaris is up there with the best in the world, and those of us that live in this phenomenally diverse province need to visit these places as a reminder of how lucky we are to live where we do.

The Land Of Legends is a compendium of properties spanning the cultural, historical and environmental heritage of seven landscapes in one, and there is no experience in all of Africa quite as authentic. The Bush, the Battlefields, the Berg, the Beach and the Buzz are what make KwaZulu Natal tick, and with the three top culinary establishments in the province (two of which, including our own Hartford House, rank in the top ten in the nation) among them, this has to be a must-do for any would-be traveller.



Advisors to the King

greig muir and barry watsonGreig Muir and Barry Watson in the grounds of the Royal Palace, Maseru

Greig Muir and Barry Watson are at risk of ‘believing’ that they are indeed esteemed members of the Monarchy of the Basotho Nation, having just returned from what they describe as an “unbelievable” visit to the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho.

Greig tells us that the reception and hospitality shown by their host, His Majesty King Letsie III, was truly ‘out of this world’. (In fact, if rumours are to be believed, one of our intrepid travelers had the distinct honour of bunking in the self same suite that Her Majesty The Queen once occupied.)

Barry writes as follows,”We stayed at the Royal Palace in Maseru, and what a Palace. Everything was embroidered with the Royal Coat Of Arms, even the tea-cups and saucers were sealed with the Royal insignia. And on our departure, when questioned by His Majesty as to whether we enjoyed our stay, the reply was quite simple, “We have been fed and kept like Kings.” His Majesty had a good laugh at that.

The purpose of our visit was to assist His Majesty in converting the waste product produced by his poultry operation, ie. chicken litter, into an active ‘input’, or fertilizer, for his cropping operation. What a way to reduce pollution! For many years now, poultry producers in South Africa have capatilised on the idea of using chicken litter as a supplement in their cropping fertilizer programmes.

Although the idea of taking a waste output from one enterprise for use as a source input for another is not new, with ever escalating agricultural input costs this concept is gaining increased momentum. Dairy farmers are also now factoring in the value of their milking parlour slurry when calculating pasture fertilizer requirements.

Here at Summerhill, we have been following these principles for some time now. For the last fifteen years it has been common practice to put our winter bedding onto our summer pastures. After achieving positive results with this practice, and feeling quite clever about ourselves, we initiated a composting operation. Now this operation has not only helped in reducing our fertilizer bill, but for this year, has in part helped in eliminating it altogether.

So can we do the same for the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho? Well, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, but maybe we can assist in our own small way.”




There's WEED in the BREED.

summerhill horses grazing (michael nefdt)Khakibos and Blackjacks

We thought the following article might be of interest to our readers. Written by Mike Moon, it was first published in The Times on Friday 20 July 2007 :

“The top stud farm in the country is feeding its horses khakibos and blackjacks.

Before the animal rights activists’ hackles rise, I hasten to explain that this is a good thing.

Summerhill Stud near Mooi River has found that these notorious “weeds” are effective natural equine dewormers.

The once-reviled bushes have been clasped to the rural bosom. Or, rather, they’re being encouraged to grow along hedgerows and paddock fences, so mares and stallions can nibble on them – a kind of organic herbal side salad to go with the main course of pasture grass.

It seems to work: Summerhill is cantering home to the title of South Africa’s leading racehorse breeder for a third successive year. When the season ends in 20 days’ time, Summerhill-reared runners would have won more than R14million in stake money – R5million up on the record set last year.

Summerhill has been accused of flooding the market with average horses rather than concentrating on fewer excellent individuals.

The truth is the enterprise had relatively modest beginnings and needed a decent turnover to survive and grow to a point where it could indulge in breeding refinement.

The recent efforts of alumni Pick Six and Bold Ellinore, among others, have stilled some of the whining.

Summerhill’s owner, Mick Goss, is fond of saying: “We produce Toyotas, not Rolls Royces,” adding that he strives for “quality, dependability and good value” – attributes cherished by South Africans.

This sort of talk has people saying Goss should have been a politician. Luckily, he’s been prevented from joining that odious class by what he calls “the illness” – a hopeless devotion to horse racing.

But the man does have the gift of the gab, which was seen to good effect at the recent Summerhill Stallion Day. He regaled owners and breeders with encyclopaedic detail about the stallions, turning boring old stats into compelling tales of racecourse high drama.

Thrown in was a reminder to foreign visitors that civilization started in Africa.

If that didn’t get their attention, his stirring rendition of the Zulu war cry at Isandlhwana probably did.

It’s iniquitous to compare service fees, but the fact is the champion breeders’ top stallion stands at R50 000 as opposed to five times that for some leading South African sires.

This helps to keep smaller breeders and owners in the game, which is enough to make you want to hug a khakibos.”



Summerhill Sires Brochure Launch

summerhill stud staffTarryn Liebenberg, Annet Becker, Douw Coetzee, Robert Mbhele and Prince Mdunjane
(Grant Norval)

This past Friday saw the launch of the 2008/2009 edition of the Summerhill Sires brochure. This is the 20th anniversary of the brochure with Mick Goss at the helm, and the 10th year that Xpressions Advertising & Design has headed up the creative team.

Mick and Cheryl Goss celebrated the occasion with all senior Summerhill, Vuma and Hartford staff in the Summerhill Stud boardroom. Also present were Rob Caskie of Fugitives Drift Lodge and Karen de Haan, previously of Hartford but now also at Fugitives. Karen celebrates her 50th birthday this week - congratulations Karen.

As Felicity Hayward, CEO of Xpressions, presented the first brochures, she mentioned that this year’s edition is really “home-grown”, with significant photographic contributions being made by members of the Summerhill Team. This edition of the Sires brochure is as grand and exciting as we have come to expect, with a moody, textured look and brimming with stories, ideas and tributes. The cover is a work of art in itself; finished with the finest quality matt lamination, gold foiling and spot UV varnish.

Brochures will be mailed to all clients and connections of Summerhill within the next couple of weeks, and we do hope you get months of enjoyment from your original. 

Should you not be on our mailing list and would like your own personal copy, please contact us at



Launch of Summerhill Sires Brochure 2008/2009


Today marks an historic day for Team Summerhill with the official launch this afternoon of the much anticipated, and eagerly awaited, 2008/2009 edition of the Summerhill Sires Brochure.

See our men; Albarahin, Cataloochee, Hobb Alwahtan, Kahal, Malhub, Muhtafal, Mullins Bay, Ravishing, Solskjaer, Stronghold and Way West as they’ve never been seen before, get an insight into the talented and dedicated individuals that make up Team Summerhill and see stunning images of arguably the most beautiful thoroughbred estate in Africa, which we are honoured and privileged to call home.

If you are already on our mailing list, we will be sending you your personal copy of this exquisite publication next week. If you’re not, we invite you to email us your details and we’ll ensure that you don’t miss out :


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JOHN MAULDIN : The inevitable ascendancy of Africa

john mauldinJohn Mauldin

The following is an extract from an article recently published by financial expert and best selling US author, John Mauldin.

“I realized about halfway through my recent trip to South Africa that it had been some time since I was in an emerging-market country. I have been to over 50 countries over the past 20 years, but recently most of my travels have been to Europe and Canada, with the occasional vacation trip to Mexico.

As I observed South Africa, it was forcefully brought home to me that there is more to the emerging-market story than China, India, and Brazil. There are any number of countries that are seeing robust growth and contributing to the world economy. It was reported at Davos this year that for the first time the developing world has a larger share of world GDP than the developed world. Today, we focus on an emerging-market country that does not make as much news as it should.

As I mentioned above, the mood among those I talked with in South Africa in the early 1990’s when I was travelling often to South Africa was quite pessimistic. The economy was not good, due to international economic sanctions stemming from worldwide protests over the policy of apartheid.

Changes and elections were coming, and it was not clear what would happen. I travelled for (mostly) business into 14 other sub-Saharan countries in Africa. With a few notable exceptions, most countries were not doing well and things had progressed from bad to worse over the previous 10-20 years. It was a tough time to try and do business, but it was a great education.

The contrast today is amazing. Before we get into some facts, let me give you a few impressions. First, there are construction cranes everywhere in the four cities I visited: Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, and Cape Town. Twelve years ago the thirty miles from Johannesburg to Pretoria was mostly agricultural land. Today it is one big city, with offices, malls, and homes lining the freeway. There was a significant number of rather nice new housing developments, many if not most being built on speculation all along the freeway.

Johannesburg is a world-class city, on a par with New York or London or any major city in terms of facilities, shops, infrastructure… and traffic. There were new shopping malls all over, and the stores were busy. The restaurants were excellent. The hotels I stayed in and spoke at were excellent and modern. The Sandton area is particularly pleasant.

Durban is a tropical jewel on the Indian Ocean. Again, there was construction everywhere - a green, verdant city of 1,000,000 people, with modern roads and great weather.

I have been to Sydney, Vancouver, and San Francisco. I love all of them. But for my money, Cape Town is the most beautiful city I have been to in the world. Amazing mountains, blue water harbours, white sand beaches, with wineries nestled in among the mountains and valleys. The Waterfront area, where I stayed, is fun and vibrant. Again, an amazing amount of construction everywhere, especially in the Waterfront area, as investors from Dubai are pouring huge sums of money into creating a massive residential/business/retail/restaurant development. There are several similar, quite large developments going up in different parts of Cape Town .

I ate dinner on Friday night at a restaurant called Baia at the Waterfront. I find I really love the better South African chardonnays. My friends know I am something of a chardonnay snob. I like the better California wineries. I was pleasantly surprised to find more than a few South African chards the equal of their US counterparts, but at a third to half the price for the same level of quality. (I should note that a decent chardonnay in London or Europe is twice the US price.) The two of us had the best chardonnay in the restaurant and one of the better meals I have had in a long time, and the bill was less than $100.

The next day my partner Prieur du Plessis informed me that Baia was one of the most expensive restaurants in town. By way of comparison, you can easily spend 2-3 times that at a comparable restaurant in Dallas , an d 4-5 times that in New York . Forget London. I began to ask about the bills for food, drinks, and such for the rest of the trip. The country was uniformly about half what I would pay in Texas for the same quality. I stayed in a very nice five-star hotel (The Commodore) for six nights for less than $1,000, including several meals, laundry, and my bar tab. Their walk-up price was much higher, but clearly you can get deals, and it is tourist season at that. The service was terrific and uniformly delivered with smiles. The exceptionally nice private game reserve (Itaga) we stayed at when I first arrived, trying to get over jet lag, was only a few hundred a night, including meals, wine, and game runs. In short, after having been to London and Europe for my last few overseas trips, South Africa seemed like a bargain.

And it was not just the people I spoke to that were optimistic. Grant Thornton (a large international accounting firm) did a survey in the 30 countries in which they do business. The four countries with the most optimism and confidence were India, Ireland, South Africa, and Mainland China. Why such confidence? I think there are several reasons. The economy has been growing at a reported almost 5% a year for the past several years, which is quite strong. They have had 32 consecutive quarters of positive growth. But the official figures may understate the reality by a significant amount. If you look at the VAT (value-added tax) receipts, as well as other tax figures, some economists estimate the economy may be growing by 7% or more. Why the difference?

There is a large “informal” economy in South Africa. While much of the income may not be reported, when something is bought and sold in the retail sectors, taxes are collected.

The stock market has grown by over 25%, 47%, and 41% for the last three years. Such a bull run is always a boost to confidence. But there are also some real fundamentals underlying the emerging-market Bull markets. South Africa has a strong commodity sector, with numerous commodities and not just gold. JP Morgan thinks that earnings growth for South African companies, even adjusting for some anomalies, will be 20% this year, which should mean another good year for their local markets.

This link between commodities and stock market prices is reflected not just in their stock market, but in emerging markets worldwide. Look at the close correlation for the last ten years between the prices of commodities and the emerging-market equity index. I think this rather clearly shows the link between the recent rise in commodity prices and emerging markets. It is more than just a China story.

The attention paid to football (or soccer in the United States ) is rising to fever pitch in South Africa. And for good reason: they will host the World Cup in 2010. They expect some 3,000,000 fans to show up.

The government is using the occasion to spend some 400 billion Rand (a little over US $50 billion) on all sorts of infrastructure projects. They are doubling the size of the major airports, which had already been significantly improved. Walking past the construction at the Johannesburg airport, you have to be impressed with the size of it. New roads and other forms of infrastructure are being added to prepare for the influx, but it will have the added effect of making the country more competitive, just as infrastructure in China has been a boost to that country, and a lack of infrastructure has limited India .

The World Cup will also be a boost to tourism, already one of the most important sectors of the economy. Cape Town is becoming an international destination for vacations and conferences. The growth in tourism has been strong, showing 20% growth last year from 2005. 2006 was a record year.

Interestingly, 75% of the traffic reported in the tourism growth is from Africa and the Middle East . While a lot of the people are vacationers, I think a goodly portion are businessmen and women from all over sub-Saharan Africa who look to South Africa as a deal-doing financial centre. South Africa has a quite strong, very competent, and growing financial services sector that is a magnet for entrepreneurs from all over Africa seeking to find capital. South Africa also has a strong entrepreneurial class which is the base for much of the new business and development, not just in South Africa but in all of Africa. The rest of the world rightly sees South Africa as the place to launch into the rest of Africa.

Are there problems in South Africa? Of course, and some of them are quite serious. But that is the case in nearly all (I cannot think of an exception) emerging-market economies. While the overall crime rate is dropping, it is still far too high. Some rather high-profile crimes of late have resulted in a strong outcry for serious change.

Corruption is an issue, but that is the case in almost every emerging-market country. The high levels of poverty are evident. Although employment is growing and more and more of the poor are being brought into the economy, there is still a lot of room for progress.

The telecommunications infrastructure is hampered by a lack of serious competition. Access to the internet is limited in many areas, and it is really slow where it does exist. This will improve in the coming years, but it is a serious handicap to business. (Although, as this article is being published, a second telecommunications operator has been launched and is feverishly installing state-of-the-art infrastructure country wide). There are power shortages and the need for more power-generation plants to keep up with the growth.

But all these areas are (mostly) going to improve. I see a lot of opportunity in South Africa in particular and Africa in general. Let’s look at one area where there may be more than a little potential in the future. I think there is deep long-term value in African (not just South African) farmland. Right now, given the nature of US and European subsidies to agriculture, it is hard for developing-world farmers to compete. But that will change in the next decade.

As I have written before, “Old Europe” the US and even Australia are going to come under intense government budgetary pressure due to the high levels of pension and medical costs they have promised their retiring boomers. Europe is particularly vulnerable. Quite simply, Europe cannot afford to keep the pension promises they have made and pay for any other normal government expenses without raising taxes. Except that they already have economy-stifling high taxes.

Budgets are going to have to be cut in other areas. At some point, sooner rather than later, agricultural subsidies are going to come under pressure, as politicians must decide where to find the money to pay for the promised pensions and health care. There are more voters who are older and on pensions than there are farmers. I can count votes, and it is not hard to predict the result. It will be with a lot of fighting, but in the medium run, the agricultural subsidies in Europe are going to have to go.

When the writing is clearly on the wall, Europe will start to negotiate on those subsidies, trying to get something for what they will have no choice but to give. Part of that will be to reduce US subsidies as well. Africa will become a breadbasket for much of Asia . With China pressed for water and much of its agricultural land being used for development, China will need to import more food. And as the rest of the world becomes more developed, there will be an increased demand for meat, which means an even bigger demand for feed grains for livestock. The growing use of ethanol is increasing demand for corn, absorbing more of the world’s land use for energy corn rather than for food.

The simple fact is that as the world grows more prosperous we are going to need more grain and other foods. Where is the land we are going to need to feed the world? There is an abundance in Africa, along with the needed water and labour. And as African countries upgrade their infrastructure, it will improve the ability of farmers to get their grains to market at profitable levels.

There is much to like about emerging markets. That is where a great deal of the real potential growth in the coming decades will be. And South Africa will be one of the better stories. If you are not doing business there already, you should ask yourself, why not?”

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It's not the size of the dog in the fight. It's the size of the fight in the dog.

summerhill stud entrance gatesHome of Team Summerhill
(Nicholas Goss)

In many respects, Summerhill’s fourth consecutive Breeders’ Championship is a triumph for the underdog.

Firstly, history was against us . Only five farms had been tagged with the title in all of recorded history. What’s more, the Premiership had never before come this side of the Drakensberg.

Secondly, we were short in the department that matters most: cash. There was no inheritance here, and no big enterprise behind us.

But what we are rich in, is one of the best farms in the world, and as good a team as you’ll find. Anywhere. It wasn’t always like that though. It’s taken thirty years to assemble this crew, and almost as long to restore the land.

What we have now is the priceless combination for the perfect storm, and our horses are running as if they know it. Week in and week out, those doing duty around the country have shown the lion’s heart, and we’ve just had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.

Yet in this game, more than any other, you need to keep your feet on the ground. Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts, and the belief in what you’re doing that matters.

People need a sacred narrative in life . They must have a sense of greater purpose, and they will find a way to keep the ancestral spirits alive. At Summerhill, it’s the memories of the “Great Ones” that stoke our fires, and as a visitor to the farm, you can’t help feeling like an eavesdropper on a story still being told. The custodianship of all we represent today, belongs to our people. The farm, the enterprise, the success.

Take a bow, Team Summerhill.



"Ubuhle bendoda zinkomo zayo"... as the Zulu saying goes.


For a nation whose renown has come from their heroism in battle, it might seem strange that their quaintness is most often the source of Zulu intrigue these days.  The Zulus have a saying in their language that goes “Ubuhle bendoda zinkomo zayo”, which means that a man’s attraction is often judged by his cattle.  This connection  with the stock we raise is as old as mankind himself, and it has endowed our people with an instinctive understanding of Thoroughbreds, remarkable patience and beautiful, sympathetic hands when they’re on board a youngster.

Every year, in the European spring, we send a half dozen or so of our young people abroad to work a season on the Irish, American, and English farms of the Rulers of Dubai, the Sheikhs Maktoum.  Those that have worked with them from around the globe will tell you of their competence, their composure and their diligence.

They are admired everywhere for their boldness, their character and of course, for the stories they tell. Zulu legend and custom remember, is in the mouths of its custodians, not in the history books.  These are the people that serve our mares, deliver the foals and raise them to maturity.  They school the youngsters, prep them for sale and teach them to run.  Well, not quite.  You don’t have to teach our freshmen to run, but you might well play a part in helping them realize their potential and develop their confidence.

You see, the Thoroughbred has been bred to run.  His genealogy is the best recorded history of any species, including mankind’s. For the best part of 300 years, every ancestor of the Thoroughbred has been carefully tabulated and throughout this time it’s been selectively bred for its speed, its courage, stamina and durability, its grace and elegance, and that’s why it’s the noblest of God’s creatures.  What during that time have we been selecting for in the evolution of homo sapiens? Probably not much more than fame and fortune, and that’s why so often we are what we are.

The Summerhill-bred is a genetic masterpiece, the product of a painstaking process of identifying the superior genes from the best blood over a period of seven decades.  An assembly of these magnificent creatures can be likened to a gallery of the Old Masters. They have the capacity to impress your friends, and in their acceleration, to leave your enemies behind.



Part 6. The Vodacom Durban July : Africa's Greatest Sporting Event

“All that you see in the magnificence of Hartford House and its environs is defined by the indefinable, and this is Cheryl Goss’ God-given talent for creating the unimaginable.”
(Summerhill Stud/Hartford House/Waterford Wine Estate)

Does anyone out there know the thrill and the magnitude of having a “July” winner? People from all over the world are swarming through Summerhill at the moment, and by Sunday evening we’ll have hosted visitors form Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Japan, Dubai and Australia in the East, and the UK, the USA and Germany in the West. And then we have our local guests from Lesotho, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and the whole of South Africa.

What a privilege to see these people, and what a tribute to the horses. That said, visitors don’t come to Summerhill just to see the horses; they can do that anywhere. They come to see their heroes, and in the quality of the “men” in the stallion barn right now, there’s plenty of opportunity to indulge their worship.

At Hartford this evening there’s a gathering of the game’s cognoscenti, here to acknowledge their reverence for this great race. And then there are those who’ve come to pay homage to Cheryl Goss, as she celebrates her 60th birthday. She’s in the best shape of her life, and that’s a signal she’s been well “kept”, or so the boss keeps reminding us!

All that you see in the magnificence of Hartford House and its environs is defined by the indefinable, and this is Cheryl’s God-given talent for creating the unimaginable. The entire Summerhill, Hartford and Vuma teams join us in wishing her “long life”.

With us for the weekend are Kevin and Heather Arnold and Gareth Robertson of the Waterford Wines team, who have acquired the rights to sponsor our pre-July dinner, July Day at the races and our annual Stallion Day. Our association with Waterford goes back many years, and our pride in the relationship revolves around the fact that, like us, they do things properly.

Waterford has for some time been known as one of the world’s great red wine producers, and Kevin has only recently released his “magnum opus”. The Jem. Yet for all the international recognition of their reds, since the 2004 vintage, they’ve released two of the very best Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs the country has known.

What a pleasure to have these guys with us to share their secrets and their expertise.



Stallion Day Approaches

Cataloochee looks on as the preparations begin
(John Lewis/Grant Norval)

Folk on the farm are used to all kinds of unusual things happening and life in our particular part of the Midlands is far from dull. Although the Vodacom July creates a lot of excitement in the racing world, the annual Summerhill Stallion Day which takes place the day after, creates its own special atmosphere.

Tomorrow the marquee will be erected and some of our equine friends will get a bit of a shock when they see some interesting rearrangements to their living quarters. The to-ing and fro-ing between the stallion barn, the hotel and the stud office has to be seen to be believed. Everything is being made ready for the arrival of some of the most important people in our industry. A unique aspect of this year’s Stallion Day is that we will be joined by several of our stallion owners, who have jetted in from around the world.

His Majesty King Letsie from Lesotho and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa (who is visiting the country at the moment) are expected to join us for the day, together with international guests from as far afield as Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Australia, America and many parts of Africa and Europe.