Farmers picking up pieces after devastating Free State fire

Last week, 7 000 sheep were left without grazing after almost 30 000ha were destroyed during a runaway veld fire in Boshof and Dealesville in the Free State. Photos: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Last week, 7 000 sheep were left without grazing after almost 30 000ha were destroyed during a runaway veld fire in Boshof and Dealesville in the Free State. Photos: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Farmers in the Free State have begun surveying the extent of damages caused by a runaway veld fire that swept through Boshof and Dealesville recently.  

The tragedy struck the province on Thursday, 20 May, destroying almost 30 000 hectares of land, leaving 7 000 sheep without pastures to graze. 

Reportedly, numerous pieces of livestock and game either suffocated from smoke inhalation or burnt to death. 

Several families in the areas of Dewetsdorp and Welkom have also been left desperate for help after losing their properties to the fire.   

Details of what caused the fire have not been determined.  

Dr Jack Armour, commercial manager of Free State Agriculture. Photo: Supplied/FSA

Meanwhile, Dr Jack Armour, commercial manager of Free State Agriculture (FSA), says that while they still do not have the official statistics, he can confirm that many more animals have succumbed from their injuries since the fire broke out.  

According to Armour the strong wind that occurred in the area on Thursday made it difficult to control the fire.

For hours, fire fighters battled against the fire, which was finally stopped by about 20:00 the same night. 

Speaking to Food For Mzansi, Armour says, “Farmers [are] still assessing the damages. The big need for the farmers was finding alternative grazing for their livestock and game, where [the] largest parts of the farms have burnt out.”  

To address the immediate feed needs, Armour says farmers have decided to utilize bales and grass (roughage) donated to Boshof and Dealesville. He explains that this is being done because feeding before the grass has grown back after the spring rains is not feasible in this case.  

It can take between eight to nine months for the grass to grow back.   

Long season ahead   

In media statement issued by FSA, Armour says that because it is lambing season and many sheep have been burned, special formulas will have to be provided for the lambs.  

Free State Agriculture, in collaboration with Sernick feeds, have made 30 tonnes of feed pellets available to farmers. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

FSA in collaboration with Sernick feeds, have made 30 tonnes of feed pellets available to bring immediate relief. This is being administered by the FSA office, while the allocation of feed will be coordinated by the local agricultural associations to affected farmers. 

While a thorough assessment of the damage and losses is underway, Armour states the fire has taken place with the arrival of winter. “There is a long season ahead for fields that have been destroyed.”  

FSA calls on organisations or individuals to make a financial contribution for future needs through the FSA’s disaster fund. Click here for banking details.  

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