Herd management

Inspection time is Reflection time

We have just gone through a Bonsmara inspection a couple of weeks ago. This usually runs with a lot of preparation in the office and in the pastures. Every animal that must be inspected must be there, identification according to breed standards and very important, all data must be up to date.

I am happy to say that we had a successful week during the inspection and that it was a privilege to host the Bonsmara inspectors. It was time to share our mutual passion for cattle, good genetics and Bonsmara. Catch up with old friends and make new ones. It was so enlightening see Eugene and Nico ask for a specific animal’s pedigree and then as soon as they know who the mother and the father is, a lengthy discussion erupts about the bloodline. Just to make it clear they would name all the ancestors of that particular animal by heart along with a “Do you remember that bull did this, or that cow is the mother of that bull I sold for so much to this guy on that sale…. I couldn’t keep track but it is asstonishing to see how they know their cattle AND each others cattle!!!

Nico Pieterse from Syferfontein Bonsmara and SP Potgieter from Stud Proper Farming thank you for taking the time to visit us, being brave to roam into uncharted country faced with unique dilemmas…. You worked hard in the cattle pens and enjoyed Mozambique’s finest (Bonsmaras, beer and the big Baobab) we look forward to next year!

Just a little piece of history, Nico was also present with both my and Eugene’s very first acceptance inspection way back… we could talk with nostalgia about how much oom Arthur de Villiers, one of the founder members of the Bonsmara breed would have loved this new adventure.

What is an inspection?

Capturing a lot of data and seeing a lot of cattle in a short time frame, (we inspected about 250 animals in 2 days) there are certain things that stood out for me, things that I feel the need to share with other cattle farmers and especially with our colleges in Mozambique who are facing the same obstacles we do.

When animals are registered animals, they are subdued to performance testing, Males and females. Performance testing is measuring breeding values of an animal, it is measuring how the animal grew before weaning and how it grew after weaning… (You can also measure how effectively the cow looked after the calf) Basically we measure the animal’s growth up to 18months comparing animal’s contemporary groups with one another. At this stage we did Phase B tests on all our animals. This is an extensive growth tests where the male and females test only ends after they are 18 months old. The reason we did this is to test our animals on the field, without feeding…. The way they will live most of their lives and how they will work… We are breeding Grass Fed Genetics

Other ways to test the males is with a phase D and C test, more about that in future once we start doing those tests here in Mozambique, this will happen, soon, very soon.

Back to the inspection:  After an animal completed the performance tests and it complies with all criteria of the breed, the animal must be inspected by Bonsmara inspectors. One gets senior and junior inspectors. Senior inspectors not only went for grueling practical evaluation, they also had to do a written exam. In other words, they know their stuff.

How is the animal inspected?

Animals are evaluated individually comparing visual functionality with the data at hand and both should be in line with breed standards to be included into a stud. For us as breeders, this feels like taking an exam. You show your life’s work and it is evaluated. Each animal’s good and bad traits are discussed and then it is decided if this animal will have a positive impact in a Bonsmara herd.

Inspectors discussing a bull. They first look at its visual functionality and if they are happy, they ask about the breeding values.

Some reflection

During the inspection, the inspectors made lots of comments, gave hints, shared information and experience. These guys see a lot of cattle and herds in one year, not only their own but all over Southern Africa. On observation that they laid emphasis on, was that the size of our cattle and specifically the bulls are in-line with what is currently happening in the economic breeding hub of South Africa…. Bigger is not better and we are happy to know that our breeding principles and philosophies are not foreign to Bonsmara breeders…. In fact Medium Framed, Easy Fleshing, low maintenance is the way forward.

The importance of a bull.

Another thing that was very evident during the inspections (again), was what a specific bull contributed to to a herd, or what he did wrong….. Apart from the visual evidence you see in the inspection pen, you have all the data captured. Each animal is given a score out of nine. Seven up to Nine being very good, six average and below six …. Well commercial quality and below, I guess. Along with that there are a whole booklet full of rejection codes and reasons…. So to sum this up, because of this sifting process only the cream of the cream stays in the stud. Afterwards, I can go to a specific bull and see what the negative or positive traits are in his offspring…. Amazing hey? We can make informed decisions based on facts!

Can you see the danger of using a bull that didn’t go through this grueling sifting process? And it wasn’t just him that went through this process, his mother did, his father did and so did their mothers and fathers and so on and so on…. So we have generations of data and breeding values for each and every animal…. Can you see the danger of using an unknown bull? Have a look at this article for more info on Bull’s that did not go through this process.

A bull that looks amazing, doesn’t always breed amazing….. more proof

Next time, I’ll elaborate a bit more on other things that dawned on me during the inspection…

Please feel free to comment here with thoughts, questions etc. We will have more B-Branded Bonsmara Stud bulls available later this year

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