Part-time Tuli breeder makes good – again

What started off as a weekend hobby about 20 years ago has turned well-known auctioneer Stephan Welz from Dullstroom in Mpumalanga into a successful and highly-respected breeder of award-wining Tuli cattle. Sharon Götte spoke to him about his herd and in particular his Farmer’s Weekly-ARC Best Elite Tuli Cow for 2008.
Issue date : 24 October 2008

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Stephan Welz and his wife Carmen decided 20 years ago to buy a 50ha country getaway. At the time Stephan had little knowledge of or interest in farming, but soon found himself buying up neighbours’ land as it came onto the market. In 1992 he bought his first five cows. “Having done our homework we became convinced that the Tuli, a naturally polled indigenous breed, renowned for its small calves, tick resistance and good temperament, would be easier to manage given that we weren’t farming full-time,” recalls Stephan.

This decision proved to be a good one. Calving problems are extremely rare in the herd and Stephan was able to stop vaccinating against the tick-borne diseases redwater and gallsickness prevalent in the area. “We don’t dip our calves until they’re weaned, which adds to the herd’s high resistance levels,” he explains. T ulis are Sanga cattle which, although classified as Bos taurus, developed in isolation in southern Africa since 700AD and differ quite substantially from European and English breeds. They are not related to the Brahman-type Bos indicus cattle, giving the added bonus of healthy hybrid vigour when crossing breeds of the different genera.

The seeds of a stud
Having decided to start a herd, Stephan soon discovered good females weren’t that easy to obtain. So they visited Zimbabwe where the modern Tuli is said to have originated. Over a 10-year period, from prominent Zimbabwean breeders, imported about 120 animals to form the genetic base of his now established Blomvlei Tuli Stud herd. Fourteen years later, one of the initial Zimbabwe imports is now 18 years old and about to calf again for the fifteenth time. Another of the Blomvlei cows, SW 94 0015, is the Farmer’s Weekly-ARC Best Elite Tuli Cow for 2008.

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Bought from a commercial breeder as an Appendix A animal, she is 13 years old and has produced 13 calves in 12 pregnancies, one was a set of twins. Of her 13 calves, eight were bull calves, four of which were approved for registration as have three of her five heifer calves, with two still to be inspected. One of her sons has been retained as a Blomvlei stud sire. he Blomvlei Tuli Stud consists of 90 breeding cows, 20 replacement heifers and a commercial herd of 30 cows. runs five single-sire breeding herds averaging 30 cows. Each herd has a spare sire kept on the farm. “Due to the expense of DNA tests, we use only single-sire breeding,” says e tried artificial insemination in the herd, but had a low success rate and now goes the natural route, with an average conception rate of 90% among cows and slightly lower on heifers. On average, the cows in the herd have six calves before being culled, with a substantial number having had more than 10 calves.

At birth, heifer and bull calves weigh on average about 30kg and 33kg respectively. Stephan keeps extensive records of each animal, carefully recording dam and calf weights at birth and weaning, as well as at 12 months and 18 months. After using the computer programme StudMaster for many years, Stephan is changing to BeefPro. “Being of BC (before computer) age, Carmen also finds our old card system useful,” quips Stephan. The cattle are identified by tattoos, branding and ear tags. DNA records are kept of all the bulls used. Stephan uses two breeding seasons between December and February, or July and September and heifers are normally put to bulls at about 24 months old.

Farming achievements
Despite being a part-time farmer, Stephan has achieved remarkable success. His Blomvlei Tuli herd was nominated as a ARC Herd of the Year finalist for Mpumalanga for the past six years consecutively and he was awarded the Farmer’s Weekly-ARC Best Elite Tuli Cow Award in 2005. He has also served as president for the Tuli Breeders’ Society for 10 years and currently serves on the council. His latest award came from the society in recognition of his “most awarded cows” in the last year, namely 15 Elite, Superior or Excellent cows.

While proud of these achievements, a recent registration of a land claim on his property has somewhat dampened Stephan’s enthusiasm. Despite this he urges young cattle farmers to farm with integrity. “Be honest with yourself, fellow breeders and with buyers,” he says. These words of advice have clearly helped him to reach achieve his high standards. Contact Stephan Welz on 083 266 6829. |fw