Johan Rautenbach of Blesbokfontein in the Lindley district in the Free State is the breeder of JA 99 099, the Farmer’s Weekly-ARC Best Elite Drankensberger cow for 2010.It’s the third time one of Johan’s cows has won this award, the first in 1998 and the second in 2002. Three of his bulls have also received Bayer-ARC Platinum Bull awards, and his Jatro Drakensberger Stud is no stranger to Farmer’s Weekly readers.
The start of the Jatro Drakensbergers
Johan started farming in 1983 with maize and a few cattle, including Drakenbergers. In 1989 he bought 11 pregnant stud heifers from Tiens Zietzsman and never looked back. His breeding goal is a fertile, medium-framed cow weighing around 500kg, producing enough milk to annually wean a good calf of at least 45% of her body weight. Johan reduced his breeding herd from 180 to 120 cows, keeping the best.
With this number of cows, it’s easy to replace weaker cows with better, high-potential heifers, he explains. Each year, 30 strictly selected replacement heifers are introduced to the herd. Fertility the name of the gameFertility is Johan’s priority when culling, and cows not in calf are out immediately. As the herd’s calving percentage is 95%, he also relies on breeding values to decide which others to cull. At weaning, he culls below-standard calves, and he’ll cull the mother too if her breeding values warrant it.
The average age of the cows is six, though six cows are older than nine. Johan doesn’t keep cows beyond the age of 11 to 12 years, as very old cows have to be pampered and pulled through winter with extra feed. He uses a single-sire mating system with four herd sires, each running with a herd of 30 to 35 cows. Calving season is from August to mid-October and heifers are put to the bull at 27 months to calve at three years.
Feeding for breeding
In the past some heifers were mated to calve at two years, but due to harsh winters and relatively poor veld quality Johan found management and feeding too complex, and reconception and second calving rates fell. In the winter the cows are on maize stover, supplemented with a home-mixed lick containing Molatek winter veld concentrate. In the summer they’re on veld or Eragrostis pasture with a phosphate lick.
As the veld on Blesbokfontein doesn’t provide high-quality grazing, Johan has established 50ha Smutsfinger grass (Digitaria eriantha) and 300ha of annually rotated weeping lovegrass (Eragrostis curvula). Half of this is grazed and the other half mowed for hay in the winter. Johan mainly markets his bulls at the annual Free State Drakensberger Sale in Frankfort on the second Wednesday in August.
Call him on 082 180 1189, or e-mail [email protected].