What do you get whenever you cross a Brahman with a Hereford? You get the Braford: a fertile animal with superb mothering talents that has an extended life expectancy and produces a carcass that may be in contrast with South Africa’s greatest. Susan Marais travelled to Bethal in Mpumalanga to study extra about this distinctive breed from Gert van der Merwe and Johan de Jager, homeowners of the Bonheur Brafords stud.
Prior to now, Brafords have been referred to as the best-kept secret within the beef cattle world. Nevertheless, it’s not a secret that these medium-framed animals are among the many most fertile cattle on the planet.
“Its medium body signifies that the animal is ready to get well from a harsh winter a lot faster than an animal with a big body. That’s the reason it’s the perfect animal for the Mpumalanga Highveld,” says Gert van der Merwe, founding father of Bonheur Brafords. “A burdened animal can not ovulate, and that makes conception inconceivable.”
We’re sitting in his farmhouse simply exterior Bethal in Mpumalanga. Because the early Nineteen Eighties, Van der Merwe, a certified veterinary technician, has been farming on this piece of land. Previous to this, he was an agricultural counsellor for the previous OTK (now Afgri).
Initially he began out as a dairy producer, however through the years the farm diversified into numerous commodity crops (maize and soya bean) and canopy crops (silage and irrigated legumes). In itself this has turn into a noteworthy enterprise.
Van der Merwe, in partnership with Barenbrug SA, processes and exports cowl crop seeds to varied international locations around the globe.
In 2002, he realised that the dairy’s funds now not made enterprise sense. In line with his calculations on the time, milk may solely be produced profitably from coastal pastures, a far cry from the dry highveld soil on which he toiled.
This pressured him to rethink his marketing strategy, and he shifted his focus to meat manufacturing, particularly of sheep and cattle.
Horses have additionally at all times been a robust element of the farm. His solely daughter, Elri de Jager, inherited this ardour. Not solely did she shatter all earlier data along with her efficiency on the Western Mounted Video games in Parys, Free State, final yr, however she can also be a polocrosse champion. It was on the native polocrosse membership the place she met her husband and Van der Merwe’s farming associate, Johan de Jager.
De Jager was not raised on a farm, however was born with a farmer’s coronary heart. After taking part in rugby for the College of Pretoria for just a few years, the younger man from Middelburg, Mpumalanga, went to the US to work on a crop farm.
“Within the much less busy winter interval I might assist the neighbouring black Angus farmer through the farm’s calving season,” says De Jager. “The cows would calve within the snow, and the calves could be placed on a trailer and be introduced right into a barn. The moms would observe, and subsequently the probabilities of hypothermia could be lowered.”
After his stint within the US, De Jager returned to South Africa and have become a fertiliser salesman, and likewise met Elri.
As we speak, De Jager is generally in control of livestock, whereas Van der Merwe oversees the cropping a part of the enterprise. The enterprise covers 1 500ha of land. A few of that is owned by the household, whereas different elements are rented.
The land is located at 1 660m above sea degree, and the soil varieties fluctuate from turf to sandy. Water is drawn from boreholes, whereas a farm on the dam offers water for irrigation.
“I’m steadily handing over the reins, however I’m not planning to ever totally retire. I’ll in all probability stay on the farm and nonetheless be a part of the enterprise in an advisory capability,” says Van der Merwe.
BREEDING TOP GENETICS
Van der Merwe says the choice to begin a Braford stud was straightforward due to the heterosis of the breed. That is the results of crossbreeding a Brahman (Bos indicus) with a Hereford (B. taurus).
The cross between these breeds has resulted in an animal that’s greater than the sum of its elements.
From the Brahman genetics, the Braford has inherited longevity, a easy pores and skin and good strolling capacity. From the Hereford, it has inherited ease of calving, excessive fertility, and a fantastic body for meat manufacturing. The Bonheur stud was registered with BreedPlan in 2013 and presently consists of 566 registered animals.
“We solely have a single calving season,” says De Jager. This stretches from Might to September, which could appear lengthy, however is because of the truth that they purchased in animals from numerous breeders.
“We’re making an attempt to shorten the breeding interval by two weeks per yr to rectify this difficulty over time.”
They purchased high genetics from numerous breeders to broaden their stud’s gene pool as broadly as doable.
Prime semen was additionally imported from Australia to reinforce the gene pool even additional.
The trade appears to agree with the Bonheur breeding plan, as one of many stud’s bulls was bought for a record-high worth of R200 000 at their earlier manufacturing public sale in 2021. Their subsequent manufacturing public sale can be held on 22 June on the Polocrosse Membership in Bethal.
One of many primary distinguishable qualities of this breed is that Braford heifers are typically prepared for conception at an earlier age than different breeds’ heifers, and usually give start to their first calf at round 28 months.
“As soon as an animal has reached 340kg, it is going to be artificially inseminated,” says Van der Merwe.
Which means the heifer will calf when it has reached 80% of its grownup weight of 480kg to 500kg.
Nevertheless, as soon as the primary calving is accomplished, the brand new mom can be given a further month for restoration earlier than breeding once more. Van der Merwe says that is performed as a result of reconception, fairly than preliminary conception, is the trickiest half in terms of profitable breeding.
When it comes to the inter-calving interval, Van der Merwe and De Jager try for each cow to provide a calf yearly.
Calves are weaned at between six and 7 months. By then they’ve gained 45% to 50% of their mom’s physique weight. “This interprets into a median weaning weight of 225kg for heifers and 235kg for bulls throughout the stud,” says Van der Merwe.
De Jager says one of many Braford’s greatest genetic traits is its feed conversion fee.
The US’s Nationwide Middle for Biotechnology Data has calculated that at optimum ranges, an 18- to 20-month-old Braford ox ought to have a median every day weight achieve of two,45kg, with a feed conversion ratio of 5,3:1. In different phrases, for each kilogram of beef produced, the ox consumes 5,3kg of feed.
This makes it a really sought-after breed in feedlots, says De Jager. To make sure that Bonheur stays aggressive, they partake yearly in a 126-day Section C take a look at at Sernick.
In Might 2022, Bonheur’s Braford bull GM 20 043 achieved Gold Benefit at Vleissentraal/SA Stud Ebook’s Elite Bull Development Take a look at on the Bloem Present.
Brafords not solely obtain fantastic leads to feedlots, however are capable of carry out effectively on pastures as effectively, says De Jager.
“This breed additionally has wonderful marbling and delivers top-quality meat.”
BIOSECURITY AND DISEASE PREVENTION
No farmer can efficiently farm with no correct biosecurity plan. Regardless of being educated as a veterinary technician, Van der Merwe nonetheless consulted a veterinarian to attract up a biosecurity plan for the farm. Veterinarians are additionally essential to the screening course of to search out out which cows are in calf and to find out if there are any abnormalities.
“Veterinarians merely supply a extra complete service, and you recognize rapidly if something is flawed,” De Jager explains.
Moreover, the Bonheur breeders take traceability very critically. No animal is moved onto or from the farm with out the required inspections being made.
They’ve additionally invested in radio frequency identification gear this yr to make pasture-to-plate traceability simpler.
“As soon as you might be armed with the right info, it turns into simpler to know which animals to do away with,” says De Jager, whereas Van der Merwe provides proudly: “Johan is a really targeted farmer. He makes choices along with his head and doesn’t let his coronary heart intervene!”
E-mail Johan de Jager at [email protected].