Famer Focus: Dairy farm passes ‘costly’ organic test

Last week I had to sit what I regard as my annual exam. That is of course my annual inspection for the farm to be certified as organic.

What happens is that an inspector comes to the farm for a full day and I am exhaustively questioned about every aspect of feed, the animals, medication, processing, the pastures and the records that have to be kept.

When I started on the organic route, I used a local certifying authority, but very early changed to a certifying authority based in Germany. I just felt that the Europeans have a longer organic history and are, as a result, better able to make a contribution to the farming operation. So far my expectations have been met, but I must concede the latest certification fees have really bitten me because of the recent devaluation of the rand against the euro.

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The exam went fairly well and Bronberg Farm should again be certified as organic for another year.

I have said to myself very often recently that I have one of two choices: I can either go bigger (expand for the sake of economic survival) or I can go to the sea (retire). The latter I’m not very keen on, as I felt going into farming at a late stage in my life was actually part of retirement. But I was foolish to even think that because farming is all-consuming.

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But I am grateful to report that I appear to be getting the support to be able to expand very soon. With that I will bring in Kevin Langman to assist me on a semi-permanent basis. Kevin has helped me over the past three years with pregnancy examinations of the cows. He knows the herd well and has a good rapport with the farm assistants. Kevin’s presence on the farm will also give me and my wife the opportunity to visit my eight children and seven grandchildren all over the country more often, which is very important to us as grandparents.

We were also in the last week, out of the blue, visited by Ian and Judy Partridge from Sherbourne, Dorset. They were in South Africa for a wedding and decided to make contact. We really appreciated and enjoyed their visit. Other readers are most welcome to do the same when in South Africa.

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