In the past two weeks, we have been hearing the sounds of a small aircraft flying around the farm. This is the sound of a low flying yellow crop sprayer (an air-tractor). The farm is spraying herbicide and fungicide on the wheat and canola to prevent disease and unwanted weed competition, the weeds and crop diseases thrive in these wet conditions. We hope you enjoy some of the photographs we took of the excercise.
With the season winding down, planting and lambing done we start with the next stage of the farming operation , fertilizing and moving of lambs and ewes across the farm to the medic camps. We have also had 3 new Angus heifers arrive to join the Waygu herd and had good start to the season with some great rainfall of 289mm for this year.So with average annual rainfall of over 600mm for our area, we are halfway there! We have also said farewell to Spartacus, Nepolean and Mackay our 3 buffalo bulls who have been with us for almost 8 years. They have been moved to a new home in the Eastern Cape and we look forward to raising the next generation on Elandsberg.
We are very proud to announce the arrival of Lindam!! The Quagga Project foal born recently at Elandsberg Nature Reserve from mother, Nina and father, Mark. The foal is a very good example of a Quagga Project animal, with reduced striping and a brown background colour. The young male and his herd are often seen in the area just below the guest house, as you enter the nature reserve. Look out for them on yoru next visit.
At the begining of May every year its all systems go with the planting of our crops, which can potentially take up to two months. The main crop that we plant is wheat and then oathay, barley,canola, medics and triticale- which is a hybrid of wheat and rye, combining the yield potential and grain quality of wheat with the deasease and enviromental tolerance of rye.
At the moment we have finished planting the medics( which is a nitrogen fixing crop) and are currently in the process of planting wheat, which we do so at roughly 60 hectares per day per tractor. We still have 500 hectares to do. Once that is complete we still have 300 hectares of triticale to plant. We wish the grain farmers well as we know that this time of year they work very hard, working six days a week from seven in the morning till ten at night. Good luck boys!
During the month of March and April is a special time for us at Elandsberg Nature Reserve. During these months we welcome new arrivals to our team. These being the rare geometric tortoise hatch-lings. In this season ,so far, Jackie our tortoise conservationist has collected 27 of these cute hatch-lings. When they are found they are assigned a numbering system which helps identify individuals which in turn we name. Each season has a different theme in terms of names. This year it is stars and constellations. We encourage guests to come and view our hatch-lings and if they have not already been named,maybe they will be lucky enough to name one. Here are a few photographs from the latest Geometric Tortoise experience.Enjoy!
We are halfway through April and midway through our lambing seaon, with hundreds of merino lambs spread all around the farmhouse. Elandsberg has done exceptionally well this year with 900 twins expected from our 500 stud ewes. This is the prefect opportunity to join our Sunday family lunch offering at the Deckhouse, with a lazy stroll after to see the cute lambs and proud moms! Please make sure to book and we look forward to welcoming you to the farm.
It was all excitement this morning with the team ready to dart and gather DNA for 3 of our male buffalo, Spartacus, MacKay and Napolean. They have been sold and are in quarantine until they move to their new home in a few months. This is a necessary TB test to ensure that they are in good health to be transported off the farm. After darting the bulls, there was an opportunity to give Spartacus a much needed pedicure. He had been experiencing some difficulties with one of his front hoofs. The bleed took around 2 hours and went off without a hitch and the pedicure was salon standard! Here are a few close up photos of our encounter today.
With the arrival of March comes the first of the flowers seen around the Reserve.Bright burst of pink can be seen between the dry bushes from the vantage of the landrover. Some of the ones we have noted are the unique looking Paint brush Lilly- Haemanthus sanguineus otherwise known as an April Fool- Haemanthus pumilio which is highly endangered and the Brunsvigia elandsmontana which is critically endangered and endemic to Elandsberg Nature Reserve.
Recently our head chef Louise Gillet found one of these beauitiful creatures near her residence. Whilst doing some research she found out that is was a blagged-legged Burrowing Scorpion (Opistophthalmus fuscipes).These scorpians are found strickly in Renosterveld, Sand Plain Fynbos and Strandveld vegetation types. They are endemic to the western Cape with the above mentioned vegetation types being critically conserved, which makes this little creature quite a rare sighting. well done Louise!
Here is an update on our camera traps, hopefully the first of many.
Unfortunately no leopard sightings this time, but we did manage to get a photograph of an aardvark along with some interesting photos of Baboon,Gemsbok and Bontebok
We know that with the abundance of rain, comes the Spring flowers which are always wonderful to see but as the streams dry and the days become hotter there is always another flower we are hoping to see, the Dagger-leaf Sugarbush
It is a Redlist plant species with populations found in small areas in the Western Cape.It is one of the smaller species with quite petite creamy-white flowers.The name, mucronifolia means sharp-pointed leaves (Latin) and in Afrikaans it is called the kasteelskloofsuikerbos
The bracts (modified leaves on the outside of the flower) are sometimes lightly tinted with pink; they are also pinkish on the edges. There are about four or five rows of these bracts. Shortly after it opens it has an attractive cup shape, but the bracts continue to open more widely into an almost horizontal position. This exposes the inner, vital parts of the flower, the anthers and pollen presenters, that are bunched in the centre. When the flower-head dries out, the involucral bracts tend to close again, protecting the developing seeds. Several insects and birds serve as pollinators. The seed-heads retain the seeds for a long time, releasing them after a fire .
Its been a while since our last story but there has been so much happening on the farm we thought we would add one big story to tell you all.We have had a real mixed season of weather with some late rain with the harvest being held up slightly but still proving to be successful. 325 ha of wheat still needs to be collected with 826 ha already been collected. Our yield for the wheat is roughly 3 tons a hectare, which is good considering the lack of rain we recieved leading up to the harvest. All of our canola has been collected and the triticale,barley and oats still to be harvested.
Three weeks ago the sheep shearing took place to great success with many of our guests being able to witness the excercise.The A.I. of the sheep has also taken place with great success, but only a few guests with a iron constitution were able to witness the operation!
The Wagyu project is also doing well with some new calves expected in the new year. The embryo transplant was also very successfull. During this year Wagyu has really taken off with the official membership doubling. as a ressult we have been able to sell six of our bulls for breeding and we shall in the next few months be able to purchase 25 embryos from the States. In turn we hope to be using our own females for breeding. With the bonsmara females still being used as surrrogate mothers.
The Quagga project is also seen allot of changes this last year after the game aunction, with the core herd animals being brought to Elandsberg and 2 other peoperties.It has been decided that these will be the main breeding animals and their offspring will be sold off in the future to other reserves. We had a few relocations to manage and the Reserve team was on hand to assist with the moving of the animals to Elandsberg.
We do hope to welcome you in the near future, to see some of our breeding projects and see our working farm in action.
They have bailed around 400 bales these last few weeks with 14He of oat hay harvest while still green,the wrapped in plastic. In an anaerobic environment the bale ferments breaking donw ligning and cellulose and improves palatability for the cattle on the farm.It provides them with good nutrients content over the dry periods of summer.
Spring is here and the visitors have returned for Summer.From dawn to dusk you can hear the melody of birdsong fill the air. It is a hive of activity with nest constructions and mating displays.Some wonderful sightings of our resident Fish Eagle collecting twigs have been recorded and the ever elegant Blue Cranes are gathered in flocks all around the farm. We are planning a Birding weekend in October with Western Cape Birding, hosted by Dr A Odendal. Please send us an e-mail for more information.
Better late than never- The rains have fallen quite late this year so our usual display of flowers are slightly late. Our guides have seen some beautiful specimen around the Reserve including the rare Ground Protea. Be sure to take a drive to our area to see the majestic colour display.
Well you know Spring is here when the you see the sea of yellow around you.On Elandsberg we have planted around 100he of canola this year and its planted as a rational crop on the farm.Canola or rape seed as its know in the rest of the world was developed in the early 1970s using traditional plant breeding techniques by Canadian plant breeders to remove the anti-nutritional components (erucic acid and glucosinolates) from rapeseed to assure its safety for human and animal consumption. The canola plant also produced seeds with a very low level of saturated fat, seven percent or below.
Christened “Canola” from “Can” (for Canada) and “ola” (for oil low acid), canola is not, strictly speaking, rapeseed. There is a internationally regulated definition of canola that differentiates it from rapeseed, based upon its having less than two percent erucic acid and less than 30 umoles glucosinolates. Oilseed products that do not meet this standard cannot use the trademarked term Canola.
I was lucky enough to be able to join my first animal capture. The animals in question were 5 bontebok (3 females and 2 males) and 8 of Elandsbergs Quagga. With my experience of animal capture being a verbal experience, I wasn’t sure what lay ahead of me. All that I knew of a capture was that it involved a lot of running, shouting and frayed tempers. This, on the day was not the case at all.
The proceedings started off at round about 9 in the morning with all the players gathering beforehand to discuss the plan for what was about to unfold. The different parties mentioned were Bernard and Nicola Wooding ,Tom & Frank Turner, Clive, Jane and her husband, Sonja, and myself Steve Meihuizen. We were also lucky enough to have the help of the farm labourers from Frank and Toms Farm.
Tom an experienced game capturer laid out our plan in detail. Each of the 3 land rovers lead by Bernard,Clive and Franc had handheld receiver radios which were in contact with Tom who in turn was in contact with the chopper pilot. Tom would ride ahead on his motorbike and identify were the species had finally dropped, and would communicate to the specific vehicles.
Communication was essential, as the darts administered with bontebok had a very quick reaction time and getting there to prop up the bonteboks beautiful marked heads upright. During the choppers initial flight, in order to identify the individuals suitable for the capture, it was amazing to see the bonteboks in full flight across the plains. We always forget that these stunning creatures actually can hit speeds of 70km/h for a prolonged period.
The whole process was carried out without a hitch, communication was cool calm and articulate. Before we knew it the bontebok capture was complete, and the animals were relocated. Of course saying all this, the bontebok played their part by staying in relative open areas so that hauling into the land cruisers was an easier prospect.
In the afternoon round midday we were off to capture 8 of our striking quaggas. Again the procedure was explained in full detail by Bernard and executed by us the willing volunteers. On game drives you can always see the beauty of these magnificent creatures, with their distinctive lighter hind quarters. Getting up close and very personal just puts the appreciation to another level. The majesty of their coats, the strength in their breathing and the quiet grandeur in their eyes (which we had to cover to reduce the stress levels)
Again the capture went off without a hitch and I was very proud to be part of a team that took such care and effort in making the experience swift with minimal amounts of stress towards the animals. At the end of the day preparation was the key element in making the day a complete and utter success.
The vulnerbale Elandsberg Pea Lotononis complanata has been seen in the Reserve. This species is known from two small subpopulations.The first subpopulation is protected in our nature reserve and is stable.The second subpopulations is likely to continue to delcline to to heavy overgrazing and spreading alien invasive plants.The Elandsberg Pea is a long-lived resprouter (geberation length 30 years) that grows very low to the ground and has a beautiful purple flower which appear in June.
Also seen on the drives is the Men in a boat Colchicum capense or Patrysblom in afrikaans . The vernacular name possibly refers to the belief that the corms were scratched out by the francolins although they have been recorded as being toxic to crows.Another possibility is that the marked bracts of some species resemeble the speckled breast of the birds. This flower appears as if it is floating on dry ground.It is a stemless perennial with lance shaped leaves that have fine hairs along the margins.You would usually find this plant in damp clay soils in the South Western Cape and Namaqualand.Flowering times are June to August.
Here are some updated pictures from our camera traps- sadly no sightingof the Leopard, fingers crossed for the next entry.