While rearing cattle and crop farming today requires similar application, in the traditional times rearing cattle was less labourious. It mainly consisted of ensuring the cattle are herded during the day by and taken to a watering place twice in the day. In the evening they were taken to a kraal close to the village for safekeeping. This herding task was left mostly to young boys and no matter how poor their skills were the ox would still grow to maturity unless attacked by predators. The farmlands however required much more constant application and planning and order that only a professional and/or an experienced individual could provide. Hence the field represents a real shot at prosperity that could only be achieved by constant and focused application for the field to grow and provide greater yields. With this our elders were alerting us that some opportunities for prosperity are similar in that they will not materialize on their own but are a reflection of the hard work that has gone into them.
The proverb can be used to encourage hard and calculated work as the source of a just reward. It is also used to warn against neglecting one’s responsibilities by showing the link between the labour and the reward. It can also be used as commentary on a third party that is either lazy or hardworking by identifying their results.