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Work Integrated Learning

Successful training in agriculture demands not only sound academic training but also calls for “hands-on” experience and exposure to practices.  The department of Agriculture of CPUT utilizes the “Work Integrated Learning” methodology and after two years of formal, on-campus academic training, the third year is allocated to experiential learning where students are placed in industry to gain practical experience on a farm or in an agricultural business.

WIL students work at amazing places and with the “WIL Window” we want to share some of their experiences:

RCL Foods - Rainbow Chickens Division

Rainbow Chickens

As from 2018 our current courses in Livestock Production include poultry production and a strong relationship was built with RCL Foods.  This massive company produces a variety of well-known food products such as Selati sugar, Supreme flour, Pieman’s pies, Yum Yum peanut butter, Nola mayonnaise, Sunbake bread, Bobtail & Catmore pet food and Epol animal feeds.  The company however is probably best known for its poultry products, namely Rainbow Chickens and Farmer Brown. 

Rainbow Chickens has a fully integrated broiler production system that breeds and rears its own livestock which is fed from its own feed mills, and processes, distributes and markets fresh, frozen, value-added and further-processed chicken.  In the Worcester area the company has 6 laying farms, 3 rearing farms, 13 broiler farms, a specialized hatchery and the slaughtering & processing facility. Our students work and get experience in all of these sectors.  The company runs a mentorship program with these students and really invests in building strong graduates that are ready to enter the agricultural sector.


The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) of South Africa - Bull Testing Centre

Bull Testing Centre

The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) of South Africa has many different institutes throughout the country, including the very unique Bull Testing Centre on the Elsenburg farm just outside Stellenbosch.  CPUT has built a strong relationship with the centre and are placing WIL students there for experiential training since 2014. 

The Bull Testing Centre does exactly what its name says = it tests young bulls under the national beef recording and improvement scheme that has six different phases.  At the Elsenburg facility the centre focuses on the central performance test (phase C) where young bulls are scrutinized under feedlot type conditions for growth characteristics.  Young bulls enter the centre at an age of 7 - 8 months and are tested for a period of 112 days which includes the adaptation period of 28 days and the test period of 84 days, 12 weeks in total.  The centre has 8 intakes per year, meaning that they test between 80 and 100 bulls per year.  At the end of the test period all bulls are given marks by a panel of experts and each bull is awarded a Gold, or Silver or Bronze merit.  To achieve the highest level a bull must have an average daily gain of 100, a minimum feed conversion rate of 107 and a minimum weaning index of 100.  Such a bull is then branded on the left shoulder with an upright V mark.

This year we have two Livestock Production students at the centre and they are working hands-on with the young bulls, doing various tasks such as cleaning the pens and watering troughs, health inspections of the animals, weekly weighing of the bulls to check weight gains, etc.  The supervisor of our students is Mr. Rodney Manyongwana, a qualified mentor and a person with a passion for assisting young agriculturalists.

Stoneberg Farms

Stoneberg olives

This year marks a new relationship with Stoneberg Farm as the company has taken WIL students for their experiential learning period for the first time.  What makes Stoneberg Farm unique is that fact that the business belongs to foreign investors from Taiwan.  The huge farm of 1 50 hectares in the Het Kruis region specializes in the production of olives and Rooibos tea.  It does not only produce the raw products but has its own processing plant where olives are pickled and bottled or pressed for oil.  Rooibos tea is processed and packaged under the Stoneberg brand name.  Their focus is exclusively on the export of produce to Taiwan since the owners have strong contacts in that market.  Our students are involved in the entire value adding chain, from primary production, to processing to international marketing and export.

Passionate student aspires for a future in livestock production

Stoneberg olives

Mihlali Gxabagxaba, 21, is enrolled towards the Diploma in Agriculture (Livestock Production).

Born and raised in the Eastern Cape, Mihlali completed his Basic Education under difficult circumstances. His late grandmother raised him and his siblings on old age and social grants. Inspired by his family’s circumstances he continued with his education and left for Cape Town to further his studies after matriculating. Determined to improve his family’s living conditions, he aspires to become independent in all aspects of his life.

“In 2017, I was accepted at CPUT for diploma in Horticulture and Agriculture, but I chose Agriculture,” he says. He adds that in the same year, the university provided him with an Absa Scholarship. “I was happy and appreciative of the opportunity.”

It has been his passion to gain more knowledge about food production as the country is facing challenges pertaining to food security and widespread poverty that force farmers to produce more food with inadequate resources.

“Studying agriculture gave me a better perspective on farming and understanding the work behind the juicy steak and meat quality, which require outstanding knowledge on animal breeds and feeds,” says Mihlali.

He values gaining a better understanding of working with people and realizes the need for agricultural science students to be knowledgeable about the South African Agricultural industry. “Agriculture also perfected my communication skills, because it is an industry requiring engagement with people, farmers and even researchers.”

He adds that during his studies and practical training he got interested in animal health, something which is mostly inspired by the shortage of animal medication in places like his hometown.

“My training mentor always pushed me to learn and overcome my fears, and generally inspired me to believe in myself.”

He says his family’s situation drove him to aspire to do better. “I appreciate the career I have at CPUT and inspiring words from the lecturers really created a future for me.”