Afrikaner: The beef breed for Africa

Animal scientists are propagating the idea that the cattle industry should be divided into father and mother lines. The industry thus requires a mother line with a small to medium frame that can be mated to a large-framed bull to produce a heavy weaner.

The following attributes of the Afrikaner make it a popular mother line:

■  As a result of the relatively small birth mass of the calf (30 to 35 kg) and the particular shape of the hindquarters, the cow seldom experiences difficulty in calving;
■  The cow is fertile and has a long, productive life. Cows of 18 years of age that have weaned 15 calves are not unheard of;
■  She is a good mother and has a good temperament, low calf mortality and excellent walking ability. She weans a heavy calf in a cross-breeding programme;
■  The cows are of small to medium-frame size and are economical as a result of their low maintenance requirements. Experiments conducted at the Glen Agricultural College showed that 100 Afrikaner cows with calves were able to thrive better than 80 Taurus cows with calves on similar grazing.
■  The Afrikaner is hardy, adaptable, are easy to handle and disease-resistant, especially tick-borne diseases.

The role of the Afrikaner bull

A large percentage of the commercial cows in this country are cross-bred cows, consisting mainly of medium-frame to large-frame types. Amongst the large-frame types there is often an increase in the incidence of problems such as inferior adaptability and difficult calving, whilst cow efficiency is also usually lower. It is wise to use a bull from a mother-line breed on these cows to improve the quality of the female progeny.

More and more animal scientists are propagating the idea that there is no other system which can beat one based on marketing oxen off the veld. Many breeders are of the opinion that an ox eats just as much as a cow; there is, however, a large difference in their respective maintenance requirements.

The protein requirement of a 350 kg ox is 330 g/day, whilst that of a 350 kg dry cow is 340 g/day; for a pregnant cow of the same mass the requirement is 444 g/day and for a lactating cow it is 721 g/day. It is thus not only possible but also more profitable to keep two oxen rather than one lactating cow.

The Afrikaner is one of the beef breeds that can be finished for marketing in the shortest time and practically the only breed that can be finished off the veld within the most desirable age and carcass mass ranges to produce the ideal carcass. Furthermore, in the feedlot the breed is marketable in the shortest time: 102 days compared to an average of 111 days (Sandfontein Feedlot). Afrikaner bulls may thus be used to good effect in a cross-breeding programme, especially with the leaner breeds that are difficult to finish off on the veld.

In a cross-breeding programme with other early maturing breeds, such as the Hereford, Angus and Sussex, oxen may be marketed off the veld as early as 18 months of age.

Mr Thys Fourie of Danielskuil uses Hereford bulls on a portion of his Afrikaner cow herd. On the resultant progeny he uses Afrikaner bulls to breed slaughter oxen that can be marketed directly from the veld. In an experiment using Afrikaner bulls on 100 Afrikaner x Hereford cows, he obtained the following results:

■  Inter-calf Period 367 days;
■  The oxen were marketed directly off the veld and 25% of them were ready at 18 months of age. The average live mass was 380 kg and the carcasses averaged 200 kg Super A and A1;
■  The remainder of the oxen were marketed off the veld at 26 months of age with live masses between 480 and 530 kg and carcass masses between 250 and 280 kg. As a result of the fact that many of the carcasses were over-fat; they graded Prime B and B1.

The long, productive lifetime (12 years and longer) and low mortality of Afrikaner bulls are a great advantage. Prolapse and sheath problems are minimal (Trials: University of Pretoria).

The breed has one of the most favourable correlations between feed conversion ratio and average daily gain (Trials: ADSRI, Irene).

Its meat is of a high quality and tender, tasty and succulent, and in a cross-breeding programme the Afrikaner improves the quality of the meat of the breed with which it is crossed, in particular with regard to tenderness (De Bruyn, ADSRI, Irene).

Trials conducted at the Omatjenne Research Station showed the Afrikaner to be best out of five breeds in respect of grading. As a result of the better grading the income/carcass of Afrikaner oxen was the highest: 15% higher than three of the other breeds and 26% higher than the fourth breed.

Purebred and Afrikaner cross-bred oxen regularly yield champions on the hoof and on the hook at large shows in the interbreed slaughter oxen competitions held by the Meat Board.




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