Northern Farm was forced to sell 800 of the Bovelder breeding stock on 14 April. This was in spite of many efforts to find workable solutions which would suit all roleplayers – Joburg Water, Onderstepoort Veterinary Department, the Northern Farm Recreational User Group, Joburg Municipality, the Northern Sewage Works and the Farm itself.
A letter signed by Prof C M de la Rey (Vice Chancellor) and lecturers of the Pretoria University's Faculty of Veterinary Science (Onderstepoort) stated that “the Bovelder cattle herd ... is of significant strategic importance to the Faculty of Veterinary Science. This farm is used for all three focus areas of the University, namely education, research and community engagement.”
The letter also stated that the large herd size was ideal to demonstrate population dynamics that could not be done on a smaller herd. It remains to be seen how selling the bulk of the breeding stock will affect Onderstepoort's research.
“For research purposes and post-graduate education the cattle herd of Northern Farm has played an important role. This is of direct financial benefit to the University, and of great value to agriculture and food security in South Africa. The destruction of the herd will have a detrimental effect on research programmes.”
Regarding community engagement, the letter continued: “The possibilities to develop projects in collaboration with Northern Farm are vast. An education programme for developing farmers to be hosted at Northern Farm, is currently under investigation in collaboration with Dr Danie Odendaal and Afrivet Training Services. This novel idea fits in with the University’s strategy to play a role in attaining poverty relief and food security on a national scale.”
That now seems like a pipe dream. Then there is also the question of what happens to 20 megalitres of partially-treated sewage water that Northern Farm receives per day from Northern Sewage Works. To date this has been treated on the Farm by an integrated system of furrows, dams and irrigated pastures grazed by large herds of Bovelders. When the farming equipment is sold next, as ordered by Joburg Water, how will this system be maintained and what will happen to the 20 megalitres of water? Dumped into the Jukskei River?