'Looking my cattle in the eye and shooting them broke me'

By admin
20 November 2015

Farmer Tolla Faber has cried a lot in his life. But nothing came close to looking his livestock - which he scrimped and saved to buy - in the eye and shooting them.

Farmer Tolla Faber has cried a lot in his life. But nothing came close to looking his livestock - which he scrimped and saved to buy - in the eye and shooting them. Faber leases the farm Helderfontein in Hertzogville in the Free State. He said some of his other cattle just collapsed where they were standing, dying of malnutrition.

'How do you start over at my age?'

He is the one of the many farmers who have been forced to their knees because of the protracted drought.

On Friday morning he cried again - this time out of joy. He could not believe strangers were sending help his way in the form of feed for his livestock.

"The Lord is sending his blessings," he said after being assured again and again that a truck was on its way, bringing 100 small bales of hay. On Saturday 25 large bales will be delivered.

Help on social media

Farmers from around the country are now pitching in to help one another, sharing their experiences on the Facebook page Boere in Nood (Farmers in Need).

And this sharing has started to bear fruit – from bales of hay, transported free of charge, to moral support and, where possible, financial donations that have either been pledged or already delivered.

The relief offered to Faber is testimony to this generosity.

Faber (65) and his wife, Jannet, managed to build up their number of cattle to 150 in the past 14 years – but this is now down to 51.

"This is not the first time I have been hit this hard," he said. "But back then I was younger. How do you start over at my age? I now have to leave my wife on the farm while I took on a job as foreman for a construction company.

"I can't afford to bring her from the farm – and that is basically what we have left."

Started with nothing

He and his dad lost everything in 1999 while farming in Douglas. There was a maize scandal during which farmers were not paid for their product.

"I had nothing. My wife and I got a call from someone in Hertzogville who offered me a job looking after his cattle."

With R100 to their name, the family took up the offer. Everything they managed to save went towards buying their own cattle.

"We saved enough to buy one cow, then two, then three. Before the drought started we had 150 cattle.

"Now you will understand why I broke down when I had to shoot my cattle. It nearly killed me, but I had to [do it]."

Faber lost 31 cattle in six weeks – nine he had to shoot, the rest just collapsed and died. But he refused to give up.

"The Lord's ways are powerful. Jy kan jou syfers uitmaak, maar Hy kan al daai somme anderste doen [you can plan, but ultimately it is not in your hands]. What He has done for me before, was nothing short of a miracle. And now to hear today help is on the way, I have no word," he said before breaking into sobs.

"I have been knocked down before. I will get up again," he said.

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