The cow Eversar Agnes ninth CNN 0030 is the Farmer’s Weekly-ARC Best Elite Sussex Cow for 2008, but her owner Chris Nel is breeding champions by the dozen. Wayne Southwood visited the farm to talk to him about his cattle
If a breed can produce cows like this, we’re on the winning path,” says of the farm George in the Petrus Steyn district, Free State. He bred the cow Eversar Agnes ninth CNN 0030 in his stud herd. She is 11 years old and has produced 10 calves and, when Farmer’s Weekly visited the farm in July, was heavily pregnant with her 11th calf. Her average ICP is an impressive 363 days. Her records show she is an outstanding mother.
In the flesh she was in excellent condition for her age, a well-balanced, feminine cow with a good udder and ample capacity that, if conformation alone was the criterion, would have well deserved her status as an cow. Moreover, the breeding cows in the herd are like peas in a pod. When ninth 0030 was returned to the herd, it was difficult to locate her again as the cows were all so similar. C hris’s animals have achieved many successes and awards, both on measured performance and in the show ring.
His bulls were Phase D Champions twice in a row at the Rand Show, first the father and the following year the son. At the Pretoria Show Eversar bulls won the Vleissentraal-ARC Special Performance Test Class twice, and three of his cows have won Farmer’s Weekly-Best Elite Cow awards, the first as far back as 1986. His Sussex stud herd, slowly established during the difficult early 1970s, today consists of 150 cows. Chris’s other farming activities are growing maize, wheat and sunflower, and a Dorper Stud. His and production sales are held annually on the farm in mid-August.
Chris explains that his goal is to breed medium-sized, well-muscled animals that can look after themselves on the veld. The cattle graze only veld with a phosphate lick in summer, and on maize stover with a production lick in winter. Eight years ago he had a calving problem in his herd. “I’ve managed to sort it out very effectively by measuring the pelvis of all heifers and young bulls at around 18 months of age, just before mating,” he explains. “I cull about 10% of the heifers and bulls if their pelvis is too small or too narrow.
Dr Piet van Zyl of Heilbron does the rectal examination on the heifers every year and is developing an apparatus for measuring the various pelvis dimensions more accurately.” After the first year of this approach, Chris saw an immediate improvement in calving ease. Recently, 32 heifers calved without a single problem.
The average birth weight of his calves is 37kg and the average weaning weight is 273kg. Other culling criteria are poor udders, sub-standard performance, low weaning indices and poor feed conversion. Chris puts 35 to 40 bulls through Phase D testing on the farm, but no longer sends bulls in for Phase C testing as he feels it’s become too expensive. Contact Chris Nel on (058) 871 3308. |fw