Winning pair of Hereford genes

With quality genetics running through his Hereford stud, Wessel Wessels of Platdoorn Herefords can’t help but receive prestigious awards such as this year’s Farmer’s Weekly-ARC Best Elite Hereford Cow. Mike Burgess reports.
Issue date 19 October 2007

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The Farmer’s Weekly-ARC Best Elite Hereford Cow of 2007, TW 0012, hails from the Platdoorn Stud in Ventersburg, Free State, owned by Wessel Wessels. She was bred from the Helen bloodline that has produced many quality Herefords, including the great maternal dam TW R 70, which won the Farmer’s Weekly-ARC Best Elite Cow in 1999. Platdoorn Herefords also received the award in 1988 (TW K19) and in 2001 (TW B5). TW 0012’s dam was TW C 0049 from the Platdoorn Hereford Stud, artificially inseminated with semen from Domino 053, born in the US in 1972. Wessel received the semen as a gift from the late Billy Kingwill, a Hereford breeder from Graaff-Reinet. TW 0012 boasts a proud production history: of her nine calves, only one heifer was culled, while four have been retained in the stud. Her three sons have been sold – two as stud bulls (a Gold Merit and Merit bull) and one to a commercial cattleman.

Her daughters are also performing well in the Platdoorn Hereford Stud: TW 99 37 has had five calves in seven years (intercalving period (ICP) 389 days); TW 00 68 four calves in six years (ICP 398 days) while TW 01 49 has had three calves in five years (ICP 390 days). Platdoorn: raking in the awards The average calving weight last year was 34kg for heifers and 36kg for bull calves, while weaning weights averaged 208kg for heifers and 219kg for bulls. The herd as a whole has also performed well, being named Bloemfontein regional winner of the Absa-ARC Beef Improvement of the Year Award in 2002 and the 2005 Bayer-ARC Platinum Award for the bull TW O 40 031. The Platdoorn Hereford herd was established by Wessel’s father in 1958 from stud cattle bought from around SA, and the stud was registered in 1961. When Wessel returned to the farm in 1990 after completing a BCom Agricultural Economics Degree at Stellenbosch University, he inherited the and Merino stud, as well as a Braford stud from which the first Braford calves were born in 1985.

There was also a Holstein herd, of which most were sold at a dispersal sale in 2004. Farming income is around 44% (beef), 44% (sheep) and 12% (dairy). “I have always enjoyed the genetics side of farming,” Wessel says. The Hereford’s renowned feed conversion ability has always impressed him. “I think it’s an excellent breed to farm with. It also has exceptional meat qualities, and is very fertile.” Breeding gold The Ventersburg area where he farms consists of good sweetveld grazing but is not suited to crops or planted pasture. The Herefords are supported in summer with a 1:1 phosphate-salt mix, and in winter with a protein lick. The 135 females in the Platdoorn (with an average replacement rate of about 25%) are bred from early December to early March. Heifers are mated at between 21 and 24 months, and he uses artificial insemination extensively – 88 females during the past breeding season. Internationally sourced semen used in the past breeding season includes from the well-known bull Hersch Rambo from in Canada and Haven Wizard from in the UK.

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Locally, semen is sourced from good-performing bulls across the country, including his own before they are sold. Cows or heifers are inseminated once and those that don’t conceive are put to the bull in a single-sire breeding herd. As for marketing, he believes in providing the highest quality genetics possible, and sells bulls and females at a production sale supported by a number of other Hereford breeders. The 30 August sale featured Platdoorn Herefords, Miquiline Herefords of DJ Louw of Koffiefontein, Kabul of Danie Kriek and Sons of Reitz, and Blinksaad Herefords of Oswald de Klerk from Victoria West. Some 26 bulls, three pregnant cows, 14 pregnant heifers and 12 open heifers aged at 12 months were offered. Contact Wessel Wessels on (057) 651 4836 or 082 902 8646. |fw