Extending a helping hand to farmers in drought-stricken areas

Landmeterskop, known to the public mostly because of its popular holiday cottages, is a substantial farming operation which combines Dormer Merino sheep with wheat crops. The owners, Theuns and Valerie Steenkamp, recently were in a position – with the help of equally generous transport companies – to help other farmers in need.

Parts of South Africa are currently experiencing what some termed “the worst drought in a century”. Farmers in many areas of the country are facing disaster. On 3 February this year, the fourth consignment of animal feed that Landmeterskop donated to the farmers were loaded onto trucks. This time they were delivering to the West Coast. The transport of the load was sponsored entirely by Sean Myburgh and Donald Stockhall from DPMM Hauliers.

Danie Hefers of Fokus, an Afrikaans TV programme about social, economic and political affairs, was on Landmeterskop to film the event. (Watch Fokus on Sunday evening, 14 February 2016 at 18:30 – 19:00.)

Flip de Bruyn who co-ordinated all of this, explains: This incredible journey began one evening in Langebaan in December 2015. Chatting with a group of friends around the fire, Derrick Linde mentioned how his parents in Hertzogville were struggling from the effects of the severe drought in the area. Franco Koch (Derrick’s friend) had generously offered to help with feed but had no means to get it to Hertzogville. The plan seemed so simple in theory but putting it into action proved to be very challenging. As frustration mounted, my wife and I turned to prayer. Believing and trusting God to set the wheels in motion – literally! The next day I went to my friend Jacques Brand of Truck & Cargo. Jacques posted a request on Facebook for transporters willing to drive at no cost. Within three hours we had our first transporter and soon after many very enthusiastic offers came in. The first load soon left Moorreesbburg for Hertzogville. Soon we had willing transporters but no feed. Derrick Linde stepped in and put me in contact with Theuns Steenkamp – he had 500 bales of feed which he donated and off it went to Reddersburg, Bethlehem, Hertzogville, Bloemfontein and the West Coast. It is heartwarming to see how willing people are to step up to the plate when others are in need!

A letter from Terry

Hi Valerie
It is more than a week since we left the farm or should I say tore ourselves away.
To write in the guest book is a great way of expressing the amazing stay we had, but I just wanted to personally thank you.
Thank you so much of allowing us to share a part of your piece of paradise. Everything was just so fantastic.
Janis (my wife) turned 60 on the day we arrived. She had no idea where we were going, only that I was taking her away for the week. I cannot tell you how excited she became when we entered the main gate and came around to the dam and saw a pair of Blue Cranes doing the dance. That was the start of our incredible stay.
We so enjoyed feeding the Lambs, the Ducks and the Alpacas! We felt like kids again! We even drank goats’ milk which was surprisingly nice.
Then there is Tsala! What a treasure you have in her. So efficient and friendly – a huge asset you have in her!  Wow!
We were sad to leave but we have tons of photos to look back on and I mean tons. Janis is an artist so she sees art in just about everything even the dew on the grass so she clicks and clicks away.
I hope when we next visit, we will meet. Please  give Tsala our regards
Warm Regards
Terry
 PS  I’ve attached a few pics
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Landmeterskop’s Bat-eared foxes (Otocyon megalotis)

At last we managed to get some photos of one of the pairs of Bat-eared Foxes with their four cubs. Initially we only spotted the four cubs, but they were later “herded” by mom and dad who led them in a fast run to safety from the prying human eyes! Although their Afrikaans names are Bakoorjakkals or Draaijakkals, they are not jackals. They actually belong to the canine family – the same as dogs. Draaijakkals describes how it runs as it twists and dodges and can turn quickly on its own track.

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The name Bat-eared Fox originates from their large bat-like ears, which enhances their hearing but also serves to dissipate body heat. This species is small and jackal-like in appearance, with slender black legs and a black, pointed muzzle. A light-coloured or white band runs across the forehead to the base of the ears. The coat is silver-gray, and longish with a grizzled appearance. The tail is long and bushy, black on top and near the tip.

Their total body length varies between 75 and 90 cm; their height at shoulder is 35 cm and their weight ranges between 3 and 5 kg.

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The jaws are not very strong and the teeth are small and weak, but they have lots of teeth (46 to 50) – more than any other mammal – with between 4 and 8 extra molars for grinding. Mastication (chewing) is very fast and prey is well chewed. A step-like protrusion, the subangular lobe, on the lower jaw anchors the large digastric muscle. This causes a quick chopping jaw action with very little side-to-side movement which allows them to chew 5 times per second! That makes them a perfect termite-mashing machine!

These foxes are widespread in western and central areas of the southern African subregion. It prefer areas of short grass or bare ground in open grassland or scattered shrubland.

They are active mainly at night (nocturnal) but are seen during the early morning or evening, normally avoiding the heat of the day by sheltering in thick shrub, tall grass areas or burrows. Our photos were taken over midday while they were out enjoying the winter sun after the rain and cold, playing and foraging in the newly sprouted wheat fields. These foxes are active diggers and will excavate their own burrows, but often modifies those dug by another species. Although normally silent, they communicate with soft contact calls, whines and chirps and a loud bark when alarmed.

Bat-eared Foxes locate their prey primarily by hearing. While foraging they stop periodically with head cocked and ears pointing to the ground, listening for the sounds of grubs and termites below the surface. Then they leap forward and dig shallow holes with their forepaws. The claws on the forefeet are long and ideal for digging in even the hardest soil. An insect-eater, they are the only carnivore to have largely given up eating mammalian prey. They cannot tackle big prey.

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A large part of their diet consists of termites and dung beetles; other prey include insects, millipedes and centipedes, scorpions, spiders, fruits, eggs, snakes, lizards, frogs, occasional small mammals, birds and soft tubers and roots.

Pairs mate for life (monogamous), and family groups consist of parents and their offspring. Different family groups may mix together when feeding. The gestation period is about 50 days; litters of two to five cubs are born in underground dens from October to January, dispersing in June or July.

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Predators occasionally include large raptors and caracal and they succumb to diseases such as rabies and distemper. Their resemblance to jackal leads to conflict with stock farmers who falsely accused of them of killing livestock and regard them as vermin. They also become victims of traps set for problem animals and large numbers are killed on the roads. Currently the species is not regarded as threatened but there is the future threat of loss of suitable habitat due to human activities, building, farming, etc.

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Mr Potts and Mrs Belly join the Landmeterskop family!

Recently, Mr Potts and Mrs Belly, two pot-bellied pigs, joined our animal family on Landmeterskop. Although their very distant ancestors came from China, these two were born on a smallholding near Teslaarsdal, Caledon. In honour of their arrival, the pigsties on our farm had been restored! As pigs, and especially pot-bellied pigs, are very affectionate animals that love companionship and body closeness, and are often kept as pets. They can weigh anything from 43 to 136 kg, and can live up to thirty years. This pair had no trouble settling in with our other pigs, the Kolbroeks, and the alpacas, goats, chickens and human visitors. They are indeed very happy and thriving!

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