Farmer Focus: Chaos descends while away on holiday

The past few weeks were a very busy, if not unsettling, time on the farm.

My mother passed away at the age of 95 and we held a memorial service for her on the farm. She was quite a lady. A descendent of the first French Hugenot to settle in the Cape in the late 1600s, she grew up on a farm in the eastern Free State, got married to my father on the farm, remarried at 91, stayed in cities all her life, but remained a farm girl at heart. I am sure she would have appreciated the send-off on the farm.

All my children, some of the grandchildren, and many family members came from far and wide for the service. Because it was during the school holiday time some decided to stay for longer. Some stayed for two weeks and we also had other friends and family who stayed with us. I also went away on three occasions to look for animals to buy in.

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Because of all this my wife and I decided that we needed a break for a few nights. The best for us at this time of year is the Kruger National Park. Not so much for the game viewing, but for the excellent weather and relaxing atmosphere.

The first bad omen was when the water pump started to give us problems the day before we left. On the second morning away we got the message that the truck used for milk delivery had broken down. Soon thereafter, the message came that the Land Rover sent to recover the truck had broken down. The next day the message was that the feeding tractor had broken, and on the second last morning the message was that my dog Frisco died. Frisco died of old age. He was a marvellous dog. His sole self-imposed purpose in life was to ensure my safety. He would not let me out of his sight and nobody was even allowed to approach me without his personal approval. I was heartbroken.

According to my wife, the mentioned setbacks must be regarded as a strong message to me that I should retire. In my defence, I can only argue that we had a wonderful time in the Kruger. We saw the Big Five (lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo and rhino) on the first morning in the park, which is extraordinary. And, the animals I bought in to supplement my herd, some as far as Bredasdorp (1,600km away) arrived on the farm in excellent condition and seem to be acclimatising well.

Danie Schutte is an organic Ayrshire dairy farmer who also processes dairy products on his 90ha farm near Pretoria, South Africa