An Agricultural Year in review: 2017 Exciting prospects ahead for farmers

2017 again proved to be a year of new records and great successes in agriculture in the Dundee district.
The start of 2017 was already a highlight in many respects in comparison to the previous four years and then things just got better and better and better…..
We went into the New Year, 2017, with good summer rains and most rivers flowing and the Buffalo even breaking its banks. What a massive change from the previous year’s rainfall. And then it got better…. In 2017, by the grace of God, the heavenly water pipes were finally opened.
We experienced fair rains at the start of the summer and even some winter rainfall. Thankfully, we didn’t get the snow that our fellow Berg farmers got. Furthermore, there was nothing nicer than waking up on Spring Day, on September 1, with the sound of rain on the corrugated iron roof. Even though it only proved to be a mere 5mm. As the late summer continued, the rains continued. It’s at a point now that farmers plan around the afternoon storm.
For the first time in many years, Jannie Potgieter had his dams almost filled in one storm. He will be able to plant his maize this year with irrigation for a change.

Generally, all dams are filling up fast. All the associations have also finally had a good rain. Hennie Strydom has two new dams on the same stream. The first dam is almost full and then he can start filling the second.
There have been several hail storms – one massive storm with hail the size of cricket balls on the Nqutu side of the district. There was another ‘golf ball’ storm in the Dundee area between Christmas and New Year.
Now we just hope that these rains will raise the water table so the old springs start running again. It is so interesting to note how long it takes and how much rain needs to fall before the springs start up again.
Incredibly high cattle prices
Cedara’s Weather Department has indicated that statically, the eastern part of the country will be receiving more rain in future than in previous years. However, this rain will occur statically on fewer days. This means that water harvesting and efficient use of water should be explored more by farmers. The picture looks far worse on the western seaboard.

Fritz Botes and Herman de Wet inspecting the cattle at the stock show.

LJ Marais received the Supreme Champion prize at the Dundee Stock Show and Sale in September.  Lettie Labuschagne made the presentation.


It must be noted that the storms are still fairly scattered with some areas receiving great rains, some too little and some too much. In general, farmers are extremely grateful and appreciative for every drop.
Furthermore, in January we saw incredibly high cattle prices of R22/kg for weaners and almost R17 for fat cows.
These prices were beyond belief. Then things went from great to fantastic! The weaner price grew and grew and grew. The weaner price peaked in 2017 at R42/kg on the weaners. This is almost a doubling in price or a doubling in calf crop income (depending on which way you look at it).
Fat cattle prices also stayed strong throughout the year and one can enjoy prices of R22/kg still for this grade. What a year on the cattle front. Supers have, however, stayed flat.
These prices were achieved on the back of a decrease in the maize price from R4 000 per ton to R2 000 per ton. Even though the price decrease was disastrous for maize farmers, the 2017 crop was a bumper crop so the costs per hectare were covered. Most of this maize is still in storage awaiting better local sales due to under supply and demand.
Tribute to Cheryl van Heerden
Andrew Adams has stood down as chairman of the Dundee and District Farmers Union and Herman De Wet has taken the hot seat for the third time.
Cheryl van Heerden also resigned as the Union secretary. She has been a pillar of the Union for 17 years. Her efficiency and dedication to the position will be sorely missed. Cheryl is still the Provincial manager of the Red Meat Producers Organisation (RPO). Heidi Wellman from Elandskraal has since taken up the post as Union secretary and she is doing a sterling job in filling some very big shoes.
From a security side, the district has been fairly lucky in comparison to other districts. This we feel is because of good police work by our farm watch force, Warrant Officer Jakes Juggan who rushes out to all incidents on farms and helps where he can. The only farm attack this year involved Oom Waffie Potgieter. Thankfully and by the grace of God, he survived the attack and is still farming.
This attack has sparked off a total area security shape up and huge thanks should go to Kobus van der Walt (de Jagers Drift); Fritz Botes (Hattingspruit); Andre Spies (Helpmekaar) and Hein Potgieter (Dundee) for taking the reins and running with the area groups. With the calibre of these men, we are in good hands.
Stock theft scourge
Stock theft this year has been horrific. Huge numbers of cattle and sheep have been stolen. Nick de Beer lost 18 cows in one night at the beginning of the summer. Thankfully, the cows were picked up by the Stock Theft Unit in Standerton when they were offered for sale. The thieves were arrested and it seems more arrests are imminent. Well done to Glencoe Stock Theft Unit members, Steven Brown and Dolf Kruger, on your persistent chipping away at the problem. We hope the right man is now in your sights and the Judicial System will give him his just reward.
Like most South Africans, farmers are quite excited about the prospects ahead of us in 2018… farmers like to follow other farmers. A good shepherd opens up the sheep in the morning and walks in front of them to the pasture. He then sits and watches them from a distance to keep them safe from jackals and then in the evening, he herds them from behind back to safety. We are hoping this will happen with our new farmer leader, leading the ruling party.
Lastly, to end with an extraction from a poem from Rudyard Kipling. This quote is essential to the tillers of the land and the farmers and farm workers of the rural districts:
“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you;
But make allowances for their doubting too; If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run;
Yours is the earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more important- You’ll be a man my son”!

Andrew Adams, Dundee and District Farmers Union

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