Producer: Klaas Louw
Klaas and his family before him, have been farming in this area for almost 100 years. There is a long history of starting small, working together as a family, a history that has known the good times as well as the bad.
Klaas’ grandfather “immigrated” from the old Transvaal to the Cape Province in the earlier part of the 19th century. He established himself and his family between Loeriesfontein and Niewoudtville on the farm Brandkop and started farming with sheep on a small scale. To earn an extra income, he also transported wood to the boarding school at Loeriesfontein. He later increased his farming operation with the help of his two sons. In the late 40’s they started leasing more land of which Brakkie, Klaas’ current homestead, was one of them.
All the land they leased belonged to Kolie Strauss, a prominent lawyer in Calvinia. In the early ’50s, Oom Kolie allowed Klaas’ farther to buy Brakkie, but he lacked the funds to buy the farm. Instead, he decided to drive to Oom Kolie to negotiate a solution. Oom Kolie agreed that he pay him back in six monthly installments, money that would come from the wool that would be sheared. Every six months his dad took the money he earned from the wool to Oom Kolie to pay his debt. As luck would have it in a matter of two years the wool price boomed and that put his father in the position to pay off the farm in a very short period.
Currently, all farming activities are handled by Klaas alongside his two farm managers, Appie Olivier and Jonathan Watermeyer. They currently farm with only Dorper sheep having made the transition from Merino’s years back. Klaas loves the sight of a beautifully built sheep breed, a trait that both the Merino and Dorper possess. He prefers the Dorper breed as he farms extensively, and they do not require as many hands and attention. Furthermore, they never graze as a flock, something that is the total opposite of the Meatmaster, Merino, Damara, as well as other African breeds. Some farmers believe this to be a negative trait, but he argues that a flock of sheep should never graze in a flock as it creates a coffee grinder effect that harms the veld. A lesson he learned from his father many years ago.
Klaas believes this area is truly exceptional and can be attributed to two things. The area has very little parasites that call for only a few vaccinations per year. The type of veld they have is also very significant. Almost all bushes and plants are edible, there is very little that the sheep won’t eat. He reckons that is why the meat is also very special, “if the time of the year is right, and the lamb is not too old and has not had too much stress throughout its life, we produce the best and most tender meat in the country.”
He says his biggest challenge at the moment is predators as they can wreak havoc in one single night that can have a massive financial implication. The other big challenge is the drought, something that is not new to this area. The economy is very bad at the moment which keeps the market price for meat low. The input costs are ever-increasing, but the meat prices remain stagnant.
Klaas Klouw’s farming philosophy has not changed over the years and was passed to him by his father. “My father had a saying ‘few sheep, lots of money, lots of sheep, little money’, in this region you have to be conservative with the number of animals you keep on your land” This is not a place for taking risks, being conservative is your biggest ally.
When asked about what gives him joy here, he answers emotionally “At the moment it is very dry here, the biggest joy is when it rains and the veld flourishes, you see the Boesmangras grow tall and lush…. This, for me, is the best feeling you can imagine” “Space is another aspect, it is so hard to describe it or put it into words…. that for me is very special” For Klaas, it is extra special to be able to share this farming experience with his family!