There is a decline in small-scale dairy farming in rural areas of the developing world, also in South Africa. Reasons provided in the literature include shrinking fringes, access to cattle feed, limited interest of future generations, increased cost of cattle, feed and fertilizer, poor cattle health, knowledge and management, poor understanding of livestock diseases, uncertain weather conditions, power failures and high cost of electricity, lack of machinery and equipment, stock theft, quality and safety of the product, poor packaging, and lack of government support, amongst others. The study cited explored the challenges of small-scale dairy farmers in the Bojanala Platinum District of the North West Province.

A qualitative study was conducted using purposive and snowball sampling techniques among small-scale farmers in the district to uncover the challenges facing them. Twenty-four in-depth interviews were conducted with farmers, and the data were analysed using the thematic content analysis technique.

Eight themes emerged from the data analysis: the high cost of feed and fertilizer, diseases and the high cost of medication, unpredictable weather patterns, power failure, high cost of electricity, cattle theft, lack of machinery and equipment, and lack of support. Recommendations emerging from the results are: (1) Small-scale dairy farmers should be made aware and trained on identifying and managing livestock diseases; (2) prevention strategies for livestock theft should be developed and implemented; (3) local government should subsidise and support small-scale farmers to manage and sustain their businesses; (4) small-scale farmers should be exposed to agricultural funders in their area, and (5) access to educational services should be made available to them to receive training.

Comments: This local study supports the challenges facing small-scale farmers identified in the literature, and therefore the question may be posed – are they solvable? Just for surviving and providing for household and immediate neighbouring needs, small-scale dairy farmers face enormous challenges which can only be solved with disproportionate scale government support and structural interventions. To enter the commercial production arena, financing and larger scale operations are required which has been shown to be possible with dedication by the passionate operator, taking hands and obtaining shares with settled large-scale dairy farmers, and fan out a business from such beginnings. The small-scale operation does not appear viable under most conditions.