There is a stereotypical picture that comes to mind when we think of farmers – an Ol’ MacDonald, wearing short shorts, long socks and with a straw of wheat in his mouth to complete the look. Although I now know this not to be true, this was also my perception – and Adele Bain (AB) blew it right out of the water! Adele owns and manages a pasture based dairy farm called Cosa-Moo-Selot in the Gamtoos Valley, Eastern Cape. A mother of two boys, farming together with her husband Christo, Adele is passionate about sustainable farming and makes sure she looks nothing like a farmer while doing it (read fabulous). Here are Adele’s responses to the questions I asked her to give you a glimpse into her life:
AM: When did you start farming? Did you grow up on a farm?
AB: We bought the farm in November 2014 and that is when we started dairy farming. I never grew up on a farm, but my Dad had a small herd of dairy cows (jersey cows) and Brahman’s on a small holding in Bathurst. I think that is where the love developed as a child and why we always wanted to return to farming with cattle, albeit dairy.
AM: Why did you want to become a farmer?
AB: I dearly wanted to work with animals and love cattle. I wanted to be a vet, but life sometimes gives you lemons to make lemonade. After numerous years in transport we were given the opportunity to start farming. I have two boys, and my eldest has always wanted to be a farmer since the tender age of 2. I think it was a natural transition into farming.
AM: What is the biggest change you have encountered during your years of farming?
AB: In the short period of time that we have been farming, the drastic climate change year on year is astounding.
AM: How have advances in technology, such as machinery, genetics, or chemicals, affected your farm? You can give an example
AB: It is an exciting time of the year for us, as our genetics we are breeding on, and with, will hopefully start being proven in the next few months with our heifers that will be calving. We are using sexed semen on our whole herd to accelerate our groups of daughters and genetic improvement of the whole herd quicker.
AM: Have you observed changes in the number, size and type of farms that are found your immediate locale? What is your attitude toward any trends you may have noticed?
AB: We hope to be the trend setters! (Laughing out loud). Only teasing, but yes we have noticed that the farms in our immediate locale seem to be increasing in size and numbers. It seems as if the old tendency of being a numbers/litres game is still the mind set. I would love to farm with less animals providing higher litres and I believe that will only be possible with superior animals.
Adele, Christo and their two boys on the farm
AM: In another world, where you were not a farmer, what work do you think you would do?
AB: We have been around the block and are finally home as a farmers!
AM: What are the most difficult and most satisfying aspects of farming for you?
AB: The most satisfying is the fresh smell of a calf breath! The most difficult aspect of farming is the time it takes to finally see your decisions made reflected, albeit the time to wait for the proven heifer to finally come into lactation, the pasture to grow after being nurtured with love and lots of needed rain water! The reaction to every action is the most frustrating wait and difficult aspect of farming. I truly believe you are taught to have patience when you start farming.
AM: What advice could you give to any young person interested in getting into farming?
Talk to local farmers in the area and get to know the conditions. Read and learn about what aspect of farming you want to do before entering it. Make sure you have a great team of experts in the field that assist you and whom you can get advice from. Love every moment of it.
AM: Lastly Adele, do you have any hobbies or interests outside farming? Please tell me about them?
AB: We love fishing and any form of water activities/sports. If we have the opportunity to break away from farming we love spending our family time together at Sundays River angling, ski-ing and frolicking in the sun! I assume that is why we bought the farm on the river, for our love of water and what goes with it.
If she is not taking pictures of her favourite little people (left), she is taking pictures of her calves (centre), all with her right-hand companion by her side (right).