KwaZulu-Natal - Dundee farmers are counting the cost of hail and electric storms over the festive season that left livestock dead and maize crops destroyed.
Weather officials say storms over central KwaZulu-Natal last month were some of the worst in recent history.
Brian Greenhough, who milks 600 dairy cows a day, said 14 “prime” animals were killed in one lightning strike on Christmas Eve.
“It is uncommon to lose so many cows from one strike… this was severe,” he said.
The windows and roofs of outbuildings were also damaged by hail, said Stephen McKenzie, who also farms in the area. Kenny Robinson, who lost two cows with one-day-old calves from lightning, said the lightning bolts were unlike any he had seen.
“I know they only last a couple of seconds, but these were very long seconds,” he said.
Greenhough said the meat from the heifers, who were about to calve, had been valued at about R12 000 each but, could not be consumed or sold. This was because the carcasses were “cooked” by the lightning and decomposed quickly.
Mduduzi Mthembu, from the KZN weather office said a “severe” storm alert was out on Sunday for Kokstad and Matatiele and moving towards Ladysmith and Newcastle.
Tigger Bryden, a dairy farmer in Matatiele, said the storms were normal and similar to what had been experienced in the district during the past 25 years. However, the rain was more patchy.
Suresh Naidoo, the head of Canegrowers, said sugar farmers along the coast were anxious about the weather for this month and next month.
“We’ve had good spring rains. If we get rain over the next two months then we will have a bumper crop, but if we don’t then things could be as tight as last year,” Naidoo said. - The Mercury