Vetfaan’s Dung Beetles


Credit: landcareaustralia

 “Congratulations!” Kleinpiet reaches over to shake Vetfaan’s hand. “That’ll make a considerable contribution to your retirement fund. In recognition of this exceptional feat, you may have the honour of paying for our drinks tonight.”

“Shees, you guys, am I relieved!” Vetfaan sits down, a Cheshire smile all over his face. “I almost lost hope.”

“Ja, I saw that bull a month ago – couldn’t believe it was only one animal!  That size! I’ve never seen a bull so fat.”

“Isn’t that a good thing?” Boggel pushes the glasses over to his customers. “What you call ‘in a good condition’?”

“The problem was,” Kleinpiet explains dramatically, “that the poor beast was in such an exceptional condition – as you call it – that he simply couldn’t perform his…er…professional duties.” He makes a suggestive gesture to help Boggel understand. “See?”

“But as I understand it, that bull was the only financially promising prospect on the farm? What are you going to do to generate income for the rest of the year?”

“That’s true, Boggel.” Vetfaan’s face shines with pleasure. “But I’m investing now. Dung beetles. It’s the hottest thing in the wild-life industry at the moment. It’s absolutely amazing what big game ranches will pay for a batch of the little creatures. I guess I can make a 50% profit on my profit from the bull.”

“Dung beetles?” Gertruida shakes her head. “Don’t know too much about those. You get endocoprid, that lay their eggs insode the dung, paracoprids with eggs below the dung, kleptocoprids that steal other beetles’ dung and telecoprid, the beetles with the rolling balls.  They navigate by the milky way and the sun and they’re all coprophages, meaning they ingest faeces…”

“Much like us and the SABC?”

“Don’t be facetious, Kleinpiet.  Anyway, they are vitally important in the ecosystem. The world would be covered with faeces if it were not for them. Can you  imagine the parasites, pests and diseases the animal world would have to deal with – not forgetting ourselves, of course – if no dung beetles axisted? They’re most effective: within 20 minutes of the dung hitting the ground, the little insects are on the job. Most marvellous creatures, if you ask me.”

“And now they’re endangered, so anybody with a supply of them is in the pound seats. Not only am I contributing to the survival of an essential creature, but I’m also providing a service to the game farmers. They desperately need to increase their beetle population to keep the environment safe  for the animals they breed. I am,” Vetfaan says importantly, “a conservationist and an entrepreneur.”

“Farming with dung beetles, eh?” Servaas raises his bushy eyebrows. “Then you’ll have to increase your dung production.”

“Done, Oom Servaas. That’s how I got my bull to lose weight.”

This remark makes even Gertruida sit up in surprise.


“Look, that bull was grossly overweight. He just had this massive appetite, see? So I had two choices: either decrease his lust for food,,,or increase…output. Simple mathematics. Weightwatchers 101.”

“So you put him on a strict diet with lots of exercise? “

“Nah. Well, I tried the diet thing, but he got so depressed that I had to give him extra food. And exercise? Have you ever told a bull to start jogging?” Vetfaan smirks. “No, I put our president on him.”

Vetfaan waits for the surprised gasps to settle down.

“Look, you fight fire with fire – not so? So to get a bull to increase his natural output, you got to feed him more of the same. Bull poo in, bull poo out – like the scientists tell us. But how? I racked my brains until our prez fired the minister of finance. Then I listened to him trying to explain that the freefall  of our money had nothing to do with that – and that people overreacted to the news. He is, he said, an unfortunate victim of circumstances in which he had no role to play. He maintained that the weak Rand is purely the result of inevitable market forces and that people are politicising a normal occurrence.  To his credit: he stopped short of blaming Apartheid, which was a pleasant change.

“It struck me then. And it worked.”

“But how, Vetfaan?”

“Why, it was easy. I played the recording of the speech to the bull. Over and over again. Not only did the poor beast lose his appetite, but he increased his output dramatically. Bull poo begets bull poo, see? Simple. And now I have a mountain of the stuff and the beetles are breeding like crazy. In fact, I’m considering buying a few young bulls to keep up the feedstock; the upcoming municipal elections are going to provide plenty of speeches I can play back to them.”


Rolbos is such a backward little place in the middle of nowhere. If ever you should stop there, you’d find a small group of people huddled around one of the tiny tables on Boggel’s verandah. You’d probably think they’re just locals, having a beer – and maybe you’d be right.

But sometimes – just sometimes – they’re the only ones in the country who concentrate on the future and not the past.

And dung beetles? Where else would people mention the humble family of Scarabaeinae in contrast with the brilliance of a country’s leader – in the same breath? It might be funny, but it does leave a whiff of halitosis, doesn’t it?

Just goes to show: appearances can be misleading – just like politics..


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