Farmer’s Weekly-ARC Best Elite Drakensberger

This year’s Farmer’s Weekly-ARC Best Elite Drakensberger Cow, FD 95 0021, was born and bred on F anie van Dyk’s Brakenjan stud
Issue date 5 October 2007

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Photos: Mike Burgess

This year’s Farmer’s Weekly-ARC Best Elite Drakensberger Cow, FD 95 0021, was born and bred on F anie van Dyk’s Brakenjan stud. However, without a little intervention from Lady Luck, the events leading up to FD 95 0021’s birth would probably have remained but a dream. Mike Burgess writes.

FD 95 0021, the Farmer’s Weekly- ARC Best Elite Drakensberger Cow for 2007, hails from the Brakenjan Drakensberger stud of Fanie van Dyk of Lushof farm in Brandfort, Free State. Not far from Fanie’s farm is the well-known Grasmunt Drakensberger stud of Carel Nel. In fact, because these Grasmunt Drakensbergers originally inspired Fanie to establish his own Drakensberger stud, it is fitting that Carel sourced Fanie’s first Drakensbergers for him. “In 1992 Carel went to a Buffalo Valley Drakensberger stud sale in Carolina,” Fanie recalls. “I had first met him a few days prior, and asked him to keep a lookout for suitable Drakensbergers for me. In this manner I obtained 13 cows with 12 calves. In time I bought more females, including the 1993 Drakensberger Farmer’s Weekly-ARC Best Drakensberger Cow CL 82 16, and a few bulls from the Grasmunt Drakensberger stud.” Fanie explains that he has always respected the Drakensberger’s adaptability to the conditions on his farm. “The Drakensberger is a no-nonsense breed, adaptable, hardy and with no calving problems,” he says.

“Its ability to get on without intensive management has allowed me to get on with the farm’s 900ha cash crop production of maize, sorghum and sunflower.” Another 900ha supports the Drakensberger herd (and until recently, a flock of Mutton Merinos), run on crop residue in winter. Some 15ha of oats are used mainly for rounding off Drakensberger stud bulls for sale. In summer, cattle receive a salt phosphate lick, and in winter a protein lick. Today the Drakensberger herd has replaced the Mutton Merinos and has gone from strength to strength to bring Fanie success in the stud industry. Among his highlights are receiving this year’s Farmer’s Weekly-ARC Best Elite Drakensberger Cow Award, as well as a Bayer-ARC Platinum Award in 2005 for the bull FD 04 0001. When fate intervenes T he Elite cow FD 95 0021’s dam, Buffalo Valley Sarie BV 87 133, was one of Fanie’s original cows obtained from the Buffalo Valley Drakensberger stud.

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Her sire Grasmunt Bennie CL 88 24 was bought from Carel’s Grasmunt Drakensberger stud. Both parents have interesting anecdotes linked to them, explains Fanie. “During the very dry year of 1995, some of my Drakensbergers were transferred to SA National Defence Force land not far from Bloemfontein. A worker phoned me one night to tell me a cow had calved but the calf was missing. My brother Henri (a commercial Drakensberger farmer) and I then left in pitch darkness in search of the future 2007 Drakensberger Farmer’s Weekly-ARC Best Cow. She was eventually found safely with her dam in one of the 1 000ha camps and was immediately baptised Soekie. As for Grasmunt Bennie CL 88 24, it was a dream that brought him to Lushof. Carel had sold him to a commercial farmer in Winburg before dreaming that his real home was Brakenjan Drakensbergers.

Fanie was told of the dream and he eventually managed to swap Grasmunt Bennie for another bull to fulfil this seemingly weird case of divine intervention. Today’s success Today Fanie runs 100 breeding females with a replacement rate of 15% to 20%. Heifers are introduced to bulls at around 24 months, and two to three weeks before the cows are introduced. The breeding season on Lushof begins in the last week of September running through to December. Last year he used three bulls (all of his own breeding) with two breeding herds. This year the Brakenjan herd’s conception rate of 85% is mainly due to the drought, but in other years it is over 90%, says Fanie. Last season’s calving percentage was 88%. Fanie explains that the Brakenjan Drakensberger herd competes well with other registered Drakensberger herds in SA, and has regularly achieved above-average herd weaning weights and intercalving periods (ICPs) (see box: Weaning weights and ICPs).

Fanie is also one of six Drakensberger breeders who have joined forces to create the 6+ production sale to pool their resources and improve the quality and marketability of Drakensbergers from the area. “We exchange bulls, we work as a group,” he explains. The most important consideration is the combined marketing clout they have developed from the 6+ production sale, held annually on the Bultfontein show grounds for the past nine years. This year with their 10th sale, on 12 September, the 6+ breeders – Nello Drakensberger Stud (Louis and Elizna Nel), Keurkuil Drakensberger Stud (Daan and Alta Bothma), Brakenjan Drakensberger Stud (Fanie and Linnie van Dyk), Grasmunt Drakensberger Stud (Carel and Anita Nel) and Swartbult Drakensberger Stud (Kobus and Marietjie Bezuidenhout) – again offered 36 bulls and 48 females in calf. Last year’s average price was R16 538. Contact Fanie van Dyk on (051) 821 1678 or 082 774 4952. |fw