Men who run with buffalo

16 February 2016 - 02:10 By Bloomberg, Staff reporter

Africa's biggest-horned and disease-free buffalo was valued at a record amount after businessman Peter Bellingham bought a 25% share for R44-million.That values the animal, named Horizon for his wide-horn span, at R176-million, surpassing the R40-million paid for a buffalo named Mystery by a group including billionaire Johann Rupert in 2013.Horizon's horns are 1.4m wide, compared with Mystery's 1.3m. It doesn't suffer from tuberculosis, a disease afflicting many wild buffalo in South Africa."It was a unique opportunity to own the best genes in the world," said Hendrik de Kock, a marketer at Wildswinkel, which ran the auction. Horizon's four owners, including Bellingham, have the right to provide him with 10 buffalo cows each year and keep the offspring, he said.Breeders are willing to pay record prices for the genes of buffalo they believe can increase their herd's horn span, which hunters desire.The industry attracts wealthy investors such as Rupert, who controls Richemont, the maker of Cartier watches. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Norman Adami, former chairman of SABMiller in South Africa, have made investments in buffalo.Horizon's sale bucks the trend for wild animal prices. Average buffalo prices, including females, dropped 30% to R334879 in 2015, data from North West University show. Sable antelope and roan antelope prices dropped 35% and 39% respectively.Wildlife farming forms part of the investment portfolio of many wealthy people. It's viewed as fairly risky but has remarkable potential returns on investment with very low running costs.Buffalo generate more profit per hectare than sheep, wheat and tourism combined, Farmer's Weekly reported.Buffalo are a moveable asset, easily restrained by cattle fencing and do not require huge tracts of land. They provide a financial return within four years of acquisition. They are selective bulk grazers and relocate and adjust with little stress.Under ideal conditions, they calve every 14 months. They are not susceptible to stock theft or poaching. They're easily trained to gather at a central feeding site.

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