Part-time Beefmaster breeder Pieter van Deventer has received his first Farmer’s Weekly–ARC Best Elite Beefmaster Cow award, but for the past four years, his herd has been an Absa-ARC Beef Cattle Improvement Herd of the Year provincial finalist. He’s also on the Beefmaster Breeders’ Society of SA council. Chris Nel reports.
The Farmer’s WEEKLY–ARC Best Elite Beefmaster Cow for 2008, AHA 99 008, was bred in Pieter van Deventer’s Hybrid Beefmaster stud near Lichtenburg in the North West. Pieter bought her dam RAU 90-44 from Fred Rautenbach of Rautmaster Beefmasters in Lichtenburg in 1998 and then mated her with the Rautmaster bull RAU 93-113. In October 2007, the BLUP evaluation date, she was 8½ years old and had calved seven times, giving six bull calves and one heifer. Three bull calves have been approved for registration and one has been retained in the herd. Three bull calves have been sold and two bull calves and the heifer have been culled.
Her last bull calf, AHA 07 445, weaned at 330kg (corrected 205-day weight of 292kg), 57,3% of his dam’s weight. In 2008, two of AHA 99 008’s half-sisters (from sire RAU 93-113) in the Hybrid Beefmaster herd also received Elite status.
The Hybrid Beefmaster stud herd consisted of 65 cows and 20 replacement heifers on the day of the Farmer’s Weekly visit. The high replacement figure of 23% per year is characteristic of a herd in an upgrading programme. Pieter uses four herd sires, two of which are self-bred and two bought in. Bulls are tested for trichomoniasis and vibriosis before and after the breeding season. Breeding takes place in three to four single-sire breeding herds of 25 to 30 females each, in breeding seasons running from 30 November to 15 January for heifers and from 30 November to 15 February for cows. Heifers are first mated at between 12 and 15 months.
In 2007, all cows were mated by natural service, while 70% of the heifers were first artificially inseminated, with a follow-up bull for those failing to conceive. Overall conception rate was 93% (cows) and 80% (heifers), while calving rate in relation to females mated gave the same figures. All calves were weaned, except for one that went missing. All females not calving are culled. The herd’s average intercalving period (ICP) was 371 days (2005), 384 days (2006) and an outstanding 358 days in 2007, for a three-year average of 376 days. Calving weights averaged 32kg (heifers) 36kg (bull calves) in 2006 and 3kg (heifers) 32kg (bull calves) in 2007. Weaning weights averaged 245kg (heifers) 276kg (bull calves) in 2006 and 235kg (heifers) 263kg (bull calves) in 2007. The average cow in the Hybrid Beefmaster herd gives from eight to 10 calves before she is culled.
Pieter keeps meticulous computerised records using the ARC’s BeefPro programme. These records include ear-tag number, calving date, cow and calf weights at calving, 100-day weight, cow and calf weights at weaning, 365-day weight of heifers, Phase D weight and measurement of bulls, 18-month weights of heifers and bulls and a register of mating.
Typical annual marketed production includes 30 weaned calves to feedlots, six long weaners (culled Phase D bulls from own feedlot) to abattoirs, eight breeding animals to stud breeders, 12 breeding animals to commercial cattlemen and five culled breeding animals to abattoirs.
Main cattle diseases in the area include lumpy skin disease, anthrax, botulism, black quarter, bovine viral diarrhoea, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis and are prevented by annual vaccinations. Brucellosis is prevented with a combination of Stam19 and RB51 annually. Ticks are managed while tick–borne gall sickness is prevented by regular pour-on and spray treatment.
The production system
The Hybrid Beefmaster herd is run on the 342ha farm Twee Buffels Geschiet some 35km east of Lichtenburg. The land type is one of gently undulating plains at an altitude of 1 480m to 1 520m. Clovelly, Mispah, Hutton and Glenrosa are the dominant soil types. The natural vegetation represents a transition between Acocks Veld Type 48 (Cymbopogon-Themeda Veld) and Acocks Veld Type 61 (Bankenveld). The average rainfall is 550mm a year and grazing resources include 180ha natural veld divided into 13 camps and 135ha rain-fed Smuts finger grass pasture. A total of 25ha dryland maize provides maize grain for licks and the Phase D test feedlot, and stover on the lands after the harvest. The herd is run on the veld and the pasture with a salt/phosphate lick in summer. During the dry season, Pieter provides an energy lick (Opti 40 from Noordwes Veevoere), while a production lick post-weaning helps heifers gain weight before the breeding season starts.
An insight into the farmer
Pieter is a professional man who farms part-time having started in 1993 on 130ha of land leased from his father-in-law. He has slowly built up one of the country’s finest small Beefmaster stud herds. “My first cattle were Bonsmara-type cows and I bought my first Beefmaster bull in 1994 for R2 000,” he recalls. “In 1996 and 1997, I had the opportunity to obtain a number of old cows from Fred Rautenbach, which made a huge difference in upgrading my herd.” He explains that in the upgrading programme, productive cows of no specific genetic background are used from an existing herd after they have been approved. Such suitable females are then bred to registered Beefmaster bulls, so is their approved progeny, until the fourth generation, which upon inspection and approval is registered as Studbook Proper.
“The Beefmaster is the ideal breed for me,” says Pieter. “It is selected solely for functional efficiency of the essential traits of fertility, hardiness, milk production, weaning weight, disposition, conformation, with equal emphasis. The initial three-way crossing of Brahman, Hereford and Shorthorn retains most of the hybrid vigour in the progeny.”
Contact Pieter van Deventer on 084 603 5081 or e-mail [email protected]. |fw