FARMER FOCUS: Mild winter causes red water outbreak

Whenever there is a family debate about earth warming, I remind them that: “The older I get, the colder it becomes”.

There must be a scientific explanation for the fact that after the age of 60 one is more prone to feel the cold than before that age.

But there may also be a local reason. I maintain that South African homes are not really built to keep the cold out – rather to keep the warmth out. Our houses rarely have central heating. Perhaps with good reason, because South African winters are not that long. Three to three-and-a-half months is about the measure, and then very often you would have wonderful sunny days in the middle of winter. Then the day temperature is 22-24C or 16C when it is really cold. That, however, does not detract from the fact that I have felt more intimidating cold in South African homes than in European ones.

I actually prefer winter farming to summer farming. Winter farming is more stable and under control. The summer thunderstorms and floods can cause havoc. But enough is enough. Now is the time of year when I have had enough of the cold and when I am looking forward to real change in the weather. Let us hope that this is a normal year, because then we can expect that change from the end of the second or third week in August. Then green grass sprouts will start showing their colours and the days will become mild. We will still have cold spells, but they will be the exception rather than the rule.

An indication that things are perhaps not as cold as I perceive them to have been is that I have had an outbreak of red water in the middle of July. Red water is a very virulent tick-borne disease that very often leaves a fatality or two if it is not treated early. So far I fortunately have been spared that. But red water is almost unheard of during winter and the only reason must be that we had a fairly mild winter so far.

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

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