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HomePigMaximising Brangus weaner progress with top-quality genetics

Maximising Brangus weaner progress with top-quality genetics


A profitable industrial beef cattle enterprise is one which retains cow mortalities to a minimal, whereas reaching most weaner progress. Rian van Wyk, who farms Brangus in Mpumalanga, spoke to Lindi Botha about his breeding philosophy.

This bull, Curve Bender, is used as a stud sire, as his progeny produce small calves that grow to be heavy weaners. He has already produced 105 registered progeny.
Picture: Lindi Botha

Rian van Wyk, proprietor of Jagtdrift Brangus within the Panbult space of Mpumalanga, has constructed his enterprise on well-adapted, early-maturing cows that constantly produce sought-after weaners.

He attributes a lot of his success to selecting a breed with beneficial traits that centre on fertility, maternal skill and passable weight acquire, whether or not on the veld or in a feedlot.

Brangus cattle have been launched to Jagtdrift 24 years in the past together with bulls of 4 different breeds. Through the years, nonetheless, the Brangus feminine animals outperformed the others when it comes to fertility and maternal skills, and at the moment the herd is sort of wholly Brangus. Van Wyk’s objective is for your entire herd to comprise purebred Brangus throughout the subsequent two years.

The Jagtdrift Brangus herd consists of 900 breeding cows and a stud element for breeding superior bulls. By utilizing Brangus, Van Wyk has diminished cow mortalities and improved weaning charges because of the breed’s smaller calving weights.

“Calving issues are a big contributing issue to cow mortalities, and consequently decrease weaning charges. I make the birthing course of simpler by breeding for smaller heifer calves that common 33kg, and bull calves that common 35kg,” he says.

He emphasises {that a} cattle farmer’s success fee is essentially decided by the variety of calves weaned. “Our complete weaning proportion is about 76%. This contains mortalities, inventory theft and anything that stops a weaner from attending to market, as a result of conception charges imply nothing if there aren’t any weaners.”

Rian van Wyk selects to realize a year-on-year enchancment in his herd.

Whereas smaller calves usually imply smaller weaners and smaller mature animals, Van Wyk depends on ‘curve-bender’ bulls to enhance weight acquire. “Should you measure the efficiency of cattle on a graph, there needs to be a straight line that runs from the underside left-hand nook to the highest right-hand nook because the animal ages and picks up weight,” he explains.

“It’s due to this fact [obvious] {that a} larger calf can be heavier at 200 days, after which at 400 days, than a smaller calf, because the birthweight tasks what the mature weight can be. So in the event you breed for smaller calves, a smaller animal will go to the feedlot at 400 days, which [reduces] your revenue.

“However when you’ve got a curve-bender Brangus bull, whereas his progeny are inclined to provide small calves, these calves acquire a considerable quantity of weight as they mature, offering an upward curve on the expansion graph. So you’ve gotten the benefit of simpler birthing for the cows, whereas nonetheless reaching good weaning weights and good weight acquire within the feedlot, which implies they’ll be in excessive demand.”

Fewer than 10% of cattle have the genetics to make sure curve benders, which is why it took Van Wyk three years to search out the precise bull. Aptly, he named him ‘Curve Bender’, and makes use of him as a stud sire to spice up this trait within the herd.

To shorten the choice interval, Van Wyk makes use of genomic testing to find out whether or not a bull calf has the specified genetic make-up of his dad and mom. Which means fairly than having to attend for the bull calf to develop and show his efficiency over time, a DNA take a look at may be carried out quickly after beginning to find out which of the genetic markers of his dad and mom he carries. Such a calf can due to this fact be used or offered along with his full worth in thoughts from the beginning.

Fertility and breeding
4 of the most costly failures a cattle farmer can expertise are replica losses when cows don’t calve, mortality, an absence of progress, and inventory theft. Van Wyk due to this fact emphasises {that a} producer ought to by no means skimp on animal well being, genetics, vitamin and good fencing.

With regard to increased conception charges, he notes that bull choice is essential.

“Select bulls in line with their maternal data and efficiency take a look at outcomes,” he says.

“It will information you when it comes to the genotype.Phenotypically, early-maturing bulls could have shorter legs, particularly a shorter cannon bone, which is the bone between the knee and the hoof. The diameter of the scrotum goes hand-in-hand with sexual maturity, with a bigger diameter indicating earlier maturity.

“As soon as the animal has reached sexual maturity, there’s additionally a change in hair color and high quality. A male’s midsection have to be lighter than its neck and again finish. The plain darkening of the neck is an indication of sexual maturity.”

Breeding cows needs to be chosen to calve early, and positively earlier than they’re 39 months previous. That is the cut- off date in an in depth system; thereafter a cow is taken into account infertile. Ideally, the calving age needs to be 30 months. Cows are additionally chosen for useful udders and teats, in order that calves can drink from day one with out somebody having to take advantage of the cows first.

Diet performs a significant position in fertility, and Van Wyk’s feeding programme ends in heifers that may be mated earlier. The farm has a maize and soya bean crop element and, along with gaining access to sourveld, the cattle are allowed to graze on the residue right here within the winter months, when the grass is unpalatable.

When the soya bean is harvested in March, a 60ha space is planted to oats. This produces protein- and vitamin-rich grazing, which may be grazed from June. The animals with the very best feeding requirement, corresponding to heifers calving for the primary time, are positioned on these fields to graze.

This high-quality grazing implies that heifers don’t lose situation whereas in calf, explains Van Wyk. It additionally ensures that they receive sufficient protein and different vitamins to make sure physiological maturity whereas nonetheless feeding their calves.

“If heifers are mated too quickly (youthful than 30 months), they run the danger of inhibiting their very own progress, as milk manufacturing takes plenty of protein and minerals from the physique. In order for you them to conceive once more in three months, they must be in prime situation.”

Van Wyk follows a breeding programme that permits cows to calve on the identical time yearly. This prevents the calving date from shifting to the purpose the place the cows finally skip a 12 months.

“You may’t obtain this in the event you don’t have the precise feeding programme. If I relied solely on veld grazing, for instance, this wouldn’t be doable.”

Jagtdrift’s breeding season falls barely later than the norm for the world. Van Wyk goals for calving from December to mid-February, as that is when the farm’s grazing is at its finest.
Feeding is the best expense for a beef cattle farmer, and it may be notably expensive when there’s inadequate pure grazing accessible.

Jagtdrift has a carrying capability of 1 MLU/2ha, a determine which takes summer season grazing into consideration, as in winter the cattle graze largely crop residue and hay produced on the farm.

Van Wyk goals to wean his heifers at round 200kg and bull calves at 205kg. For his industrial herd, a great season usually ends in these animals reaching 225kg and 235kg respectively.

Enhancing genetics
Jagtdrift has a registered Brangus stud, which provides the industrial herd with prime genetics.

“The one means to enhance [on] your cows is with higher bulls. In case your calves have extra progress and genetic potential than their dams, then you understand you’ve succeeded. I purpose to make sure that not less than 60% of my calves every season are an enchancment on the earlier era. The upper this proportion, the quicker I can advance.”

Breeding his personal bulls places Van Wyk , as these animals are already tailored to the farm, whereas animals purchased in run the danger of not adapting to their environment.

On common, 1 000 cows are mated yearly, and of those, roughly 30% conceive by way of synthetic insemination (AI). Some 20% of this AI is finished with imported semen from bulls that Van Wyk deems to be the very best on the earth.

“The imported semen additionally aids in advertising and marketing, since genetics from the very best bulls on the earth are in excessive demand,” he says. “It’s additionally essential to usher in genetics from an out of doors herd [outcrossing], because it offers a end result that’s much like heterosis.”

He additionally makes use of semen from his personal prime bulls. The remaining 70% of feminine animals are mated naturally, with a number of female and male animals positioned in a camp collectively.
DNA testing on the calves determines which have been the extra profitable bulls, and people which can be the least efficient are finally culled.

As soon as weaned, the cattle spend six months on the veld and are then positioned within the on-farm feedlot for about 140 days.

The highest-performing bull calves are saved again and raised individually with the intention to endure a variety course of. One of the best 35 are offered or used to switch Jagtdrift’s herd bulls, whereas the remaining are offered for slaughter.

Since cows usually have a lifespan of about 9 years, Van Wyk goals to switch 100 cows annually. He retains 300 heifers again, and after choosing these that may develop into alternative cows, breeds the rest on the market as in-calf breeding heifers.

Cows on the finish of their lifespan go into the feedlot with their calves. As these calves haven’t adjusted to the veld, they’re despatched to slaughter with the dams.

Jagtdrift sells animals at two manufacturing gross sales yearly: the Mpumalanga Brangus Membership Sale, and the Vleissentraal Ermelo Annual Sale.

Recommendation to younger farmers
Van Wyk emphasises the significance of conserving purchasers in thoughts on the subject of breeding.
“Consumers, feedlots and butchers have totally different calls for, and it’s essential to stick to those necessities if you wish to promote your animals at a good value. Hold your prospects happy.”

His advice for farmers who’re beginning out is to concentrate on high quality, and all the time attempt to lift the bar of the herd.

“Breed with good feminine animals and purchase the very best bulls you possibly can afford from an space that has related ailments to these in your individual space; bought-in bulls should be capable to adapt. Get to know different breeders who will encourage you, and seek the advice of with consultants frequently.

“Whereas purebred animals fetch increased costs than their crossbred counterparts, crossbreeding can add kilograms to your calves. Nevertheless, [in the case of the latter], it’s essential to solely use terminal breeds corresponding to Charolais or Limousin, in order that their traits aren’t introduced again into the herd.”

He additionally stresses the worth of setting long- time period targets and planning to realize these outcomes.

“With the assistance of fine advisers, draft and implement a household succession plan. Construct and preserve a crew of personnel who meet the set commonplace. These ought to embody each cattle consultants and enterprise consultants.”

E mail Rian van Wyk at [email protected].



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