A truly Elite Nguni Cow for 2011

Following in the footsteps of her dam, AVM 96 0039 has taken this year’s title of Farmer’s Weekly-ARC Best Elite Nguni Cow.

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AVM 96 0039 is this year’s Farmer’s Weekly-ARC Best Elite Nguni cow. She was bred and is still going strong in Auvinus Martens’s Magaramombe Nguni herd, on the farm Renosterkop near Groblersdal, Limpopo.

At the age of 14 she had had 12 calves and was again pregnant when Farmer’s Weekly visited the farm in July. Her first calf was born when she was 36 months old, the second 376 days later.

Her last intercalving period (ICP) was an outstanding 326 days for an average ICP of 369 days. Her reproduction index (based on age of first calving and ICP) is 111, her average weaning index 102 and her efficiency index 101.

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Her estimated breeding value (EBV) for birth weight (direct) is -0,22 with an accuracy of 87. Her birth weight (maternal) EBV is 0,45 with an accuracy of 88, her weaning weight EBV (direct) is 2,00 with an accuracy of 84. Her weaning weight (maternal) is 4,80 with an accuracy of 86.

AVM 96 0039b achieved her Elite classification in 2011. Seven of her calves (four heifers and three bull calves) were presented for approval, and only one, a bull calf, wasn’t approved. Auvinus retained all four heifers in the Magaramombe herd.

AVM 96 0039 is the Magarombe Nguni herd’s second Farmer’s Weekly-ARC Best Elite Cow. Her dam, DOAL 90 1416, received the award in 2007 at the ripe age of 17 years. First calving at 36 months, she produced 14 calves with an average ICP of 368 days. Excellence runs in the family!

Auvinus established the herd in 1993 and has been participating in the National Beef Cattle Recording and Improvement Scheme ever since. His breeding and selection policy aims to breed low-maintenance Nguni cattle in harmony with nature, maintaining traits achieved over thousands of years.

He also integrates genetic improvement and functional efficiency, paying particular attention to fertility, milk and growth, to keep EBVs in balance with the breed’s hardiness and low maintenance traits. The enterprise consists of a cropping division on 60ha irrigated land and a cattle division on 410ha. The cattle are run on 8ha rainfed blue buffalo grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) pasture and 402ha veld grazing, with a generalised carrying capacity of 8ha/MLU).

As veld forms the basis of the herd’s relatively free-range management, Auvinus manages it carefully and only buys in feed in drought years. Crops (13% of total land area) account for 80% of annual farming income while the beef division, run on 87% of the total area, brings in 20%. According to a National Beef Recording and Improvement Scheme report from 10 November 2011, the Magarombe herd consists of 38 cows and heifers older than 24 months, and no fewer than seven Elite cows and one Superior cow, all older than 10 years.

This report gives the herd’s average age at first calving as 30 months, the ICP between first and second calf as 384 days, the ICP between the second-last and last calf as 365 days and the average ICP as 369 days. An outstanding 95,7% of heifers and 65,0% of bull calves are approved. Breeding takes place in single-sire herds with one bull per 20 females in a 12-week summer breeding season starting on 1 January.

The calving rate in relation to females mated is practically 100%, and calf mortality is very rare. Herd sires are usually used for three years. Weaning weights average 175kg for heifers and 185kg for bull calves. Auvinus markets breeding animals aged 18 months to two years at the Northern Nguni Club sale. He rounds off culled steers on grain and sells them at 15 months to a local butcher.