Farmer Billy Colborne, also known as Oom Billy, has been in the mohair game for longer than he cares to remember.
Now, at age 80, he may be taking things a bit slower, but he is still happy to talk about his successes over the past 60 years.
Oom Billy, who was born and bred in Willowmore in the Eastern Cape, says farming is in his blood.
His grandfather and father paved the way for him all those years ago and now his son, 45, is a man of the land too.
“My son is more the forerunner these days,” he says. “I’m in the background, but I’m still here. A farmer never retires.”
Oom Billy says he gets up and does what he can to assist with the farm (which has some 3 400 angora goats and a number of merino sheep) every day, checking water and “various other things”.
“Angoras are delicate animals. You have to take care of them well, especially when they’re newly shorn.”
Over the years, he has come to understand – and appreciate – the intricacies of angora farming.
“We had ups and downs over the years, but we stuck with our flock. You’ve got to persevere and hold onto what you have.
“If you get out when times are tough then you miss out on the good times.”
This philosophy has paid off for Oom Billy, who says mohair prices dropped to as low as 60c per kilogramme in the early seventies before bouncing back to R12.60 at the end of that decade.
A kilogramme of kid mohair can now cost up to R859 and, fittingly, his products still command top dollar.
Little wonder, as he has been awarded the prestigious Ermengildo Zegna Mohair trophy for the best kid mohair in the world nine times.
“We’re in the top three for it again this year,” he says.
Billy Colborne LROom Billy believes the secret to success in farming lies in “sticking to it” – and his life’s work is certainly proof of just that.
“Keep your management tight, be conservative, look after your animals, but, above all, keep at it.
“There are always been uncertainties in agriculture, but, ultimately, farmers are the backbone of the country.
“We are the food basket of the nation and government and the public need to understand this.”
Caption: Billy Colborne, aka Oom Billy, with the Ermengildo Zegna Mohair trophy, which he has won nine times. Photo: Astrid Cordier Photography