We are, with immediate effect, closing half of our egg operation. Please read this entire post as it explains why and then lists the clients that will continue to receive eggs from us.
Last Friday our irrigation quota was cut again and consequently we have no Theewaterskloof water with which to irrigate our pastures anymore (I am still paying off a R250,000 fine for overuse of water last summer, I cannot afford another fine and there is no water in the dam anyway). We have always been able to irrigate 126 hectares.
Our regenerative agriculture project is based on the fact that we enable our pastures to regrow after grazing. This has been possible for the last 9 years thanks to rain or irrigation water. We cannot do this anymore.
We are only going to be able to irrigate 18 hectares of pasture. There is a small dam on the farm that has enough water to keep the 18 hectares going until the end of May. If we do not have normal winter rains by then, I will close all operations.
Let me preempt a few questions as to why only half the egg business and not the broiler chickens, the pigs, the vineyards and the cattle.
1. The laying hens are very aggressive graziers on the pastures. This has, up to now, never been a problem as with water being applied to the pastures after their grazing our multi species pastures have bounced back even stronger incorporating the life giving chicken manure. There is no longer any water to ensure this recovery. We have spent the last 9 years as custodians of the land building fertility and I am not prepared to ruin this work. The 18 hectares is enough for 8 Eggmobiles with 300 hens in each. The cattle need to graze there too.
2. We have built up enough grazing for the cattle and the broilers and the pigs for the next 4 months which is when we are hoping that the rains will have started in earnest. We have been able to have this grazing cushion because we have built up the Carbon content of our soils and hence the water holding capacity. Remember that each 1 gram of organic matter in the soil holds 8 grams of water. High density grazing of animals and the BioDynamic fertility sprays have enabled us to be the first farm in the world to sell Carbon credits from our pastures.
Regenerative farmer currently playing rugby, David Pocock, took the video below at the winter solstice in 2017 elaborating on our soils and the drought we were already facing back then. Unfortunately the wind makes it even harder to understand what I am trying to say. Up to the day of filming we had received 80ml of rain. A normal winter for us is 700ml. The last normal winter rain was in 2014. To an extent the soil I talk about in the video has saved us.
3. We use 5% of the recommended water for our vines because we have built the Carbon content of our soils (up by 20% from 2011 to 2017) by high density grazing our cattle and the use of compost and because we don’t kill the cover crop with a herbicide. If you kill the cover crop by now your soils are all bare and consequently the vines are stressing a lot more as bare soil is up to 20 Celsius hotter than covered soil. Cooler soils happier microbes and longer photosynthesis which means more Carbon in the soils. Hence our vines are fine. These have been organically certified for 4 years.
4. We have been reducing our cattle heard over the last 2 years. In 2016 we had an average of 300 head of cattle on the farm and today we have 73. We have done this because over the last 3 years we have had half the normal rainfall.
What does the future hold?
If our Western Cape government does not get on top of the alien vegetation in this province then there will be no change for the good. Here Maitre study on alien vegetation is a very detailed peer reviewed study on the actual impact of alien vegetation throughout the country. It is well worth a read. The salient point for me is that in 2000 a full 33% of the precipitation in the Western Cape was being consumed by aliens. You decide if there are more aliens today than then.
The massive gum trees suck up thousands of litres of water every day.
Not only would cutting down all these different types of trees create jobs, if done properly the exercise will make money as the potential income streams are as follows: lumber, mulch, essential oils and biochar. Also our groundwater would not be depleted. This is what is known as a win win win situation.
Our egg clients going forward (until it rains and we can double production) are listed below.
Spier – Hotel, Eight, Hoghouse and the Farm Kitchen
The Loading Bay
Paul Roos Spar
Wellness Warehouse = Kloof Street Branch only
Bread and Wine