Frosty Summerhill Silhouettes
(Annet Becker)

The frost has finally arrived. Summerhill Stud’s Agriculture Manager, Barry Watson, shares with us his thoughts on this imperative cycle in nature.

“Finally it has come, the first for the season, a good touch of frost. It finally arrived after a light sprinkling of rain yesterday which undoubtedly helped supply the all important moisture that was to be frosted. June the 5th, and yes it has come late.
Almost four weeks late as compared to last year (the 9th of May). What we must also bear in mind is that even last year’s frost was late. If you ask some of the older generation who have farmed this part of god’s country for decades, they will tell you that the first frost used to come in the second to third week of April, every year, regular as clock work. Is this a global warming issue?

For us biological farmers who have to take into account natures cycles as part of our every day labours, this late frost comes with a whole host of issues for thought, especially for those who work with god’s noblest creatures.

Firstly, frost has to come annually to put back the balance of microbial and fungal life in our soils. Remember first that we farm grass or else there would be nothing for our horses to eat. This reset in the soil helps set back the pathogenic build up which occurs throughout our summer months. You may well ask why we have these pathogens in our soils to begin with especially if they could have an effect on our horses. Well you know the saying “Too much of a good thing is …….”. They help keep a balance in the environment but as the season progresses they always have a tendency to build up as the season comes to an end. For us grass farmers the beneficial bacterias and fungi that are effective, are the ones that help capture free nutrients in the soil and air above and transform them into a form that can be readily absorbed by the plant, thereby fertilizing the natural way.

For the serious stockman, they know that late summer is the most critical time for a whole host of diseases, especially those that are carried by vectors such as midges. Now if the frost is late, the population of these vectors, and also certain diseases, grows larger before the frost comes. This means that by the time the spring rains come the population that has been lying dormant throughout winter will be greater in numbers than if the frost the previous season had come earlier.

Frost also stops many a disease in its tracks as they simply can not handle the cold.

So even though we may have runny noses and sore throats, mother nature has a reason, there always is reason for what she does.”