FARMER FOCUS: Thunderstorms cause 18-hour power outage in SA

The long-awaited first rains of the new season have arrived – unfortunately with a bit of a bang.

It arrived in a massive storm with strong winds, lightning and hail. The result was a power outage of just under 18 hours.

Normally we have about two to three power outages a year during the summer months, mainly as a result of severe thunderstorms. Then the power is out for two to three hours. To install a fairly sizable generator just for these expected occurrences is just not economical.

An 18-hour outage is, however, a totally different matter. For a dairy farmer it can be devastating. You can lose milk if it is not effectively cooled down, and the cows have to be milked otherwise they can end up with mastitis.

Fortunately in this case the outage started at 6pm and lasted through a fairly chilly night until about midday the next day.

I had a full tank of very cold milk before the outage started and it was about 5C the next morning, so we did not lose any milk.

We also spent a long time ensuring the cows were properly and gradually milked out. There also appears not to have been any damage to the cows.

The problem is just that it is quite nerve-racking when you expect an outage of two to three hours and you are constantly assured during a long and worrisome night that the matter is being attended to and is under control – and then it lasts for 18 hours.

But the good news is that we had 22mm of rain. The fields should be transformed from a grey brown to a bright green within days. The milk production should increase – at least until the major heat sets in, in about a month’s time. The prospects are also good. The South Easter has started blowing in Cape Town (1,400km away) and that normally is an indication that rain is on the way.

Let us hope this time without a major power outage.

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

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