Winter wildfires are practically a given in the Stutterheim district of the Eastern Cape province of South Africa where George Viljoen farms. The firefighting trailer that he built himself not only reduces the risks associated with runaway fires, but can also be used for other purposes such as the spraying of livestock against parasites.
Years ago, before you could buy a firefighting trailer at the co-op, George Viljoen (53), of the farm Prairie in the Stutterheim district had already devised ways to combat runaway veld fires. The square plastic water tank that he had on the back of his pick-up truck to transport water to the fire fighters had given up the ghost after a few years due to all the shaking and bumping of the pick-up.
George, who loves welding and working with metal, decided a few years ago to build something more durable that could be towed by a tractor. He purchased a 1000 litre Jo-Jo tank in East London for R900. Back at the farm he dismantled the chassis and axle from an old trailer and used a couple of lengths of square tubing to build the base on which the tank is mounted.
A friend of his, who worked at a local wood mill, donated two sturdy planks to form a platform at the back of the trailer chassis for the workers to stand on while en-route to a fire. The rest of the equipment, such as the irrigation pipe, taps and spray head, were either purchased new from the local co-op, or he already had on the farm.
The tank, Honda motor and suction pipes cost George about R6 000. A new firefighting trailer would cost more than R40 000 nowadays.
George says that he also uses the implement to transport water to camps where he is busy erecting game fencing. The ground where he drills holes to plant the poles must first be well drenched.
In addition, if he puts dip in the tank, the various spray heads enable him to spray his cattle and sheep against external parasites.
Another implement that George built himself is the water trailer. It consists of a 2 500-litre water tank on a trailer and can be filled or emptied in minutes by means of a four-stroke Honda pump. The tank that rests on the chassis is so well balanced that one worker can easily hook it on and off the tractor. George uses the water trailer to fill the drinking troughs in the camps, or to take water to firefighters. The water trailer cost him about R10 000.
Every farmer who works with cattle in a crush knows the frustration of having to use the same crush for both large cattle and calves. Normally there are a couple of stubborn calves that will turn around in the crush before they get to the head clamp and it is takes a lot of effort to get them lined up again.
To overcome this problem, George built a narrower crush for the calves which is 500mm wide next to the normal crush (which has a width of 750mm). It is just wide enough to accommodate the electronic scale. Right at the front of the crush, just before the head clamp, he fitted steel plates on either side. Because the calves can’t see out at this point, it calms them down and they are more willing to place their heads into the open head clamp.
“Now it is a pleasure to manage the calves in this narrower crush, and I can easily brand or dose more than 60 calves in 20 minutes. The workers are just as happy as it is no longer a case of shouting and cracking of whips when we are working with the cattle.” The sturdy crush, made from 32mm square tubing, cost R10 000 along with the head clamp.
ENQUIRIES George Viljoen, cell 082 456 3635; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.