Joan Boyes, Duncan Boyes
Mrs Joan Boyes (late) and her son, Duncan Boyes (right), enjoying tea at Voermol’s Executive Office in Maidstone.

Voermol was extremely saddened by the news that Joan Boyes had passed away on Thursday, 4 April 2019, at the age of 92.  We met Joan for the first time in December 2018, when Joan and her son Duncan, joined us for tea at the Voermol Executive Office in Maidstone, KwaZulu-Natal. Joan, the author of two novels since the age of 90, very quickly won our admiration for her energy, astuteness and jubilance.

Both Joan and her late husband, Peter Boyes, played a pivotal role in the establishment of Voermol Feeds and will be remembered for their meaningful contribution to the establishment of the company. During her visit, Joan and Duncan reminisced about the years when Peter had worked as an engineer for the Tongaat Sugar Company.

The birth of a bull calf

Up until 1958, the removal of molasses was a problem for Voermol.  The vision was that animal feeds could be manufactured from molasses and bagasse, both by-products of the Tongaat Sugar Mill.  In 1958, Peter Boyes, an engineer, and Dr Geoff Cleasby, an agronomist, were given the task of finding a satisfactory solution to the problem at hand. Molasses was a hard to handle product and they were faced with the challenge of converting it into animal feed that could be conveniently fed to animals.

Joan told us that, as Peter and Geoff began experimenting, she was asked to fetch a sausage machine from a butcher in Tongaat. In 1958 that sausage machine would become a pivotal part of Voermol’s history, as being the first machine to produce a successful mixture of molasses and bagasse. The mixture was given to a few farmers to feed their livestock, and it was a huge success.

By 1962 the process was so adequately advanced, that a pilot plant was constructed behind the sugar mill bagasse shed. The management of the Tongaat Sugar Company decided to establish a new company to produce and market the animal feeds being developed. The incorporation took place at a board meeting held on 4 August 1962. Present were Messrs CJ Saunders (chairman), AD Hankinson, GA Ellis, JPH Bentley and RB Thompson (secretary), with Peter Boyes and Geoff Cleasby also in attendance as managers.

A new company called The Moreland Molasses Company was formed. At the time Mr Douglas Sanders, chairman of the Tongaat Sugar Company, who had shown a keen personal interest in the fledgling feed company, announced that “Tongaat’s bull calf had been born”. The Moreland Molasses Company was later changed to Voermol Products Ltd, followed by Tongaat Milling (Pty) Ltd and finally, Voermol Feeds/Voere, as we know it today.

By the end of January 1962, the first bags of Voermol Meal came off the production line. Peter Boyes was the first manager of the company, a position he held until September 1979 after which he retired as managing director. On 27 April 1990 a contract was signed for the design, manufacture and supply of a new production facility for Voermol Feeds. At the end of January 1991, Voermol Meal, a forerunner of all the present molasses-based feeds, was produced in the new factory.

Voermol Feeds became the first company in Africa, and possibly the world, to successfully commercialise a combination of molasses and bagasse.  Molasses is not only a good source of energy, with vitamin B and trace minerals, but is also very palatable and a good binder, thereby reducing the dustiness of the feed.  The result is a balanced intake by livestock, as they are less likely to feed selectively. Today, Voermol offers a wide range of products that are scientifically formulated to meet the nutritional requirements of ruminants, during various production stages and on all types of grazing.

Joan Boyes, Duncan Boyes, Voermol, Sausage Machine
Mrs Joan Boyes (late) and her son, Duncan Boyes (left), in front of a picture of Joan’s late husband, Mr Peter Boyes, and the famous sausage machine.

After Joan’s visit to Voermol Feeds, Duncan sent a message thanking us for our hospitality “to an old lady” and for “making her year complete”. We express our heartfelt condolences to the family. – The staff and management at Voermol Feeds