The cow that won this year’s Farmer’s Weekly-ARC Best Elite South Devon Cow award is the product of careful breeding by Ian Robert Turnbull the established Andiro Devon Stud in the Eastern Cape. Her dam was one of Ian’s commercial Devon cows, also an Appendix A animal, and her sire was Winston 95 019. “She comes from good genetic lines,” explains Ian. “has had six heifers and one bull calf, with five of the heifers being approved for registration. I have sold one heifer and the bull calf. None of the calves have been culled or died and one of her calves, 01 36 has already had four calves with an intercalving period of 364 days.
The calves include some good bulls, 02 26 being the most noteworthy.” an’s father started farming South Devons commercially in 1948 and established a stud in 1956. Ian took over the stud in 1986 and has been developing it since. “love their docile workable nature,” says Ian. “They have a good dam line and produce a good amount of milk.” an’s first three sires were bought from the Culroyse Stud of George McFarlane from Maclear. Two other sires were self-bred Appendix bulls from Ian’s commercial herd. “still breed both commercial and stud South Devon cattle, with an 85% stud to 15% commercial ratio,” says Ian.
“In my stud have five herd sires and four breeding herds. At this point still have single-sire breeding herds, but I’m planning to have multiple sire herds, “ explains Ian. H e doesn’t use artificial insemination because of the price and he says it’s impractical in the mountainous terrain where his farm is situated. “It takes a lot of time and effort to monitor cattle constantly in these mountains,” he says. “do however achieve a conception rate of 87,7% and a calving rate of between 83% and 86%. My weaning rate is the same as the calving rate and my breeding season is from 1 December to 10 February, for cows and heifers.” e tried to let the heifers calve earlier, but because they don’t get extra feed, it doesn’t work in the Eastern Cape climate.
“I’m just not prepared to let heifers calve young and feed them,” he explains. “let them calve at between 33 and 36 months.” an’s herd average intercalving period for the last three seasons has been between 370 and 386 days, and his cows produce on average 7 to 8 calves before they’re culled. The calving weights for the last three seasons have been 36,4kg for heifers and 39,3kg for the bulls, and weaning weights are 218kg and 226,5kg respectively.
The weaners go to the feedlot from April to May and he doesn’t run oxen on the farm. Culled cows and non-pregnant females are sold to a local Cape Mohair and Wool agent. an works on the policy that if a heifer or cow doesn’t produce a calf, she’s culled without exception. His stud bulls are sold to stud breeders and commercial cattlemen, primarily in the Eastern Cape, mostly at the South Devon sale in Cathcart. He says that one will never make mega bucks at the sales, but they do maintain a happy average and quality bulls are available at good prices. There are only eight South Devon Breeders in South Africa and advice is shared openly.
Feed routines “The most interesting attribute of my herd is that they get very limited supplementary feed in the form of protein licks in winter and a phosphate and salt supplements in summer, and they are run on extremely sour mountain veld between 2 000m and 2 600m above sea level,” explains Ian. “The supplements are due to an inherent lack of minerals in the area.” Ian says he is able to keep supplements to a minimum because the farm has a long-standing family tradition of good veld management. And he was lucky to have taken over a well-grassed farm.
“We have rainfall of approximately 750mm per year and good ground water reserves,” he continues. “Due to the climate we have a few cattle diseases.” He inoculates for anaplasmosis, anthrax and quarter evil and as an extra precaution the bulls are bled when they are young and again between two and three months before sale. “The best advice I can give a cattleman wanting to specialise in a breed is that when buying breeding bulls, make sure the bull is fertility and performance tested and CA and TB free. Most importantly, love the breed,” advises Ian. Contact Ian Turnbull on 082 705 3056. |fw