Women in Agriculture: Thuli Magagula - Animal Sciences student, Tshwane University of Technology

Thuli Magagula is a final-year student at Tshwane University of Technology pursuing a Diploma in Animal Sciences. She is currently doing her experiential learning at Rossgro Feeds, a leading manufacturer of poultry, broiler and pig feed in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and KZN. In this interview, she describes her journey into farming, hopes, and offers advice. 

What did you want to be as a child? How did you find out about your current career and what is it that attracted you to it? 

I became interested in veterinary medicine because of the community I grew up in which was in a deep rural area, where everyone relied on agriculture animals and crops for living, food, jobs, and income, as people traded crops and livestock to earn more money. It was an opportunity that few people get to have. As a result, I developed an obsession with animals. Then I became more interested in finding out more about animal farm's behaviour, diseases, anatomy, and physiology from a scientific standpoint.

Animal Science seemed more relevant to farming knowledge than Veterinarian because it focused more on the side of breeding, production, and management. I believe that studying Animal Science will prepare me to become an entrepreneur as I believe raising farm animals will be my first introduction into the world of entrepreneurship.

How has your experience as a student been so far? 

This is an experience I've never had before, and I've had a remarkable journey. The experience of being a student has been enjoyable, despite the fact that it was a bit harder than high school as I had to outgrow my comfort zone in order to study and understand because the lectures do not spoonfeed you or run after you. I am so grateful for all the friends I have made. They have been helpful, supportive, very business minded, and we share the same vision.

At first, being exposed to a work environment as part of my experiential learning was challenging until I adjusted and adapted to the environment. Life has taught me how fragile it can be, the challenges I've overcome, and sometimes I felt that the heat was too hot for me, but the passion and calling kept me going. The experience taught me about myself and I've gained a profound understanding of farming. The experience has also shaped my perspective, my goals for the future, and my appreciation of teamwork.

What have you gained from your studies and what do you hope to do with your diploma in Animal Sciences?

As a result of my schooling and experience, I was able to develop a lot of skills. In my free time, I work on small-scale farms, teaching pig farmers teaching them about breeding, artificial insemination, and synchronizing estrus in pigs.

The opportunity has provided me with the knowledge, confidence, and business mindset I needed. This has changed the way I see things. Furthermore, I've learned that managing a farm does not require an extremely high level of education.

You are currently doing your experiential learning. Which company are you working for and how did you find out about the opportunity? 

Currently, I'm completing my experiential training at Rossgro Feeds, specialising in poultry feeds (broilers). I was matched with the farm through a company called Hygro Training College.

What is involved with the training?

My study focuses on broilers, which are birds raised from day-old chicks until they are ready for abattoirs and markets after 34 days of age. These chicks are raised for meat. We are also taught the importance of biosecurity, keeping records, making sure that ventilation and temperature favor the chicken's age, the health and safety of the chicken house, preparing the chicks for placement, feeding, water hygiene and sanitation, and weighing birds to ensure they meet market requirements.

Are there any specific jobs in the animal science field you’re interested in?

Yes, I am interested in animal breeding & nutrition.

Do you have a mentor in your career? How do they help you?

Yes, I do. In the course of my journey, there were times when I felt like giving up because of the examination stress, changes to the training environment, and starting a new life with new people. The support, guidance and help of my mentor kept me motivated and prevented me from giving up my career ambitions. My mentor has provided me with a great deal of insight and inspiration.

So, what are your plans when you graduate?

In order to find some opportunities, I'm working on my business plan and talking with a few people about grants, funding and/or sponsors.

I hope to raise funding to start a small-scale poultry farm, where the focus will be on raising chicks from day old until they reach 34 days of age, when they will be ready for the abattoir and markets. My vision is to grow into a large commercial company that produces high-quality poultry meat, which can be sold around the world. In addition to benefitting the reputation of the company, it will create job opportunities for citizens of our country (especially for those who did not complete tertiary education but are passionate about agriculture and can expand their knowledge). 

In addition to providing the desperately needed skills (breeding) for young youth and women about the technical aspects of farming, the company will provide practical sites for students studying Animal Science or Animal Production at University of Technology or TVET colleges to satisfy academic qualifications in Agriculture. The company will also provide training and supervision for these students in order to ensure they meet the requirements and qualify for their academic work.

What advice would you give to young women who are aspiring to be in your role, or who maybe haven't even considered Animal Sciences as a career?

I encourage you to follow your passion and go for it girl! You will definitely enjoy the journey! In my opinion, everyone should have an opportunity to get involved in this field, even if the participation is small.

What piece of advice or information would you like to share with students who are considering Agricultural Education as their major?

It is survival of the fittest, not the toughest, the strongest or the biggest, and being passionate is the key.

If you are not working, what do you do to relax?

I enjoy walking barefoot on the grass and listening to birds, animals, and trees. The beauty of nature humbles me and I love exploring it. Exploring nature gives me a great sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.