Woodrose’s 3rd elite cow

The Red Poll is one of the numerically smaller breeds in South Africa. To have bred three of the four cows to ever receive this prestigious award is quite an achievement for the Woodrose Red Poll Stud. Chris Nel visited the farm to find out more.
Issue date : 12 December 2008

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The Red Poll is one of the numerically smaller breeds in South Africa. To have bred three of the four cows to ever receive this prestigious award is quite an achievement for the Woodrose Red Poll Stud. Chris Nel visited the farm to find out more.

The Farmer’s Weekly-ARC Best Elite Red Poll cow for 2008, an 97 038, was bred by Anzabeth Nieuwoudt of the Woodrose Red Poll stud in Schweizer-Reineke, from sire HUK 616 and dam AN 91-009. This was the stud’s third Farmer’s Weekly-ARC Best Cow Award – the others were in 2004 and 2006. In fact, Woodrose cows have received 75% of the awards for Red Poll cows since this competition was instituted in 1979. The Woodrose stud is an integral part of Renier and Anzabeth Nieuwoudt’s diversified farming enterprise of maize, planted pasture and beef on their family farm Biesiesvlei.

For the past 25 years, since inheriting the stud from her mother-in-law, Anzabeth has been running it with dedication and flair. Her goal is to breed cows with excellent maternal characteristics and productive breeding values that can add value to stud herds as well as in crossbreeding for beef production. Ten-year-old AN 97 038 first calved at the age of nearly 37 months but has produced eight calves with an average ICP of 360 days, a figure shared with Ben Fyfer’s Nguni cow as the lowest ICP of all the 2008 Farmer’s Weekly-ARC Best Elite cows. She calved twice in 2004 and is about to calve again. Of her eight calves, two were bull calves and six were heifers. Both bull calves and five heifers have been approved for registration. One bull calf and five heifers have been retained in the Woodrose herd, the other bull calf and one heifer have been sold.

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On the day of the Farmer’s Weekly visit, the stud herd consisted of 120 breeding cows and 20 replacement heifers. The replacement rate in the female breeding herd is normally 20% a year, but Anzabeth is currently expanding the herd to a targeted 150 breeding cows. Five herd sires are used, four which are self-bred and one brought in. Breeding takes place in four single-sire breeding herds of 30 females each. Around 20% of cows are first mated by AI, obtaining a conception rate of 65%. Those not conceiving are put to the bull. Heifers are first mated at an average age of 21 months from September to November, and cows  from October to December. All heifers are naturally served.

Fertility is an outstanding Red Poll breed trait. Natural service in the Woodrose stud gives a conception rate of 94% in heifers and 92% in cows. Calving rate (in relation to females mated) is 92% for heifers and 91% for cows, with the same weaning rates. The average ICP for last three seasons is 396 days. Calving weights averaged 36kg (heifers) and 38kg (bull calves), with weaning weights 240kg (heifers) and 266kg (bull calves). Longevity is another strong point – the average Woodrose Red Poll cow produces nine to 10 calves before she is culled, with some cows producing up to 11 calves. AN 97 038 is therefore not yet exceptional in that respect.

The cattle run on 10 camps of 350ha Kalahari thornveld (Acocks Veld Type 16), as well as on 86ha planted pasture (fodder sorghum), supplemented by a phosphate lick in summer and protein lick in winter. As is custom in such a mixed enterprise, the cattle graze on 50ha maize stover in winter. Harvested maize grain is also used as constituent of the feed of Phase D calves, and as a supplement for cows milked for the Nieuwoudt family and the farmworkers. Red Poll cows give ample milk (it is a dual-purpose breed) with more than sufficient milk left to rear their calves as well. The Woodrose Red Poll stud has been participating in the National Beef Recording and Improvement Scheme and its predecessors since 1984.

Anzabeth keeps comprehensive records of all calves born into the stud until they leave the farm. In the case of bull calves these include birth weight, weaning weight, Phase D weights and results, Phase C test results where applicable, vaccinations, sale records and accolades. Heifers’ birth weight, weaning weight, calving records, weight at calving and weaning, vaccinations, sale records and accolades are recorded. Records are kept on a combination of books and computer, on the Stoetmeester programme.

The Woodrose Red Poll stud is known for the quality of its dams. In 2006, it had seven of the eight ARC Best-Producing Red Poll Cows in South Africa and in 2007, four. It has won four prestigious ARC awards for measured performance during the past four years: the Farmer’s Weekly-ARC Best Elite Cow Award in 2004, 2006, 2008, and a Bayer-ARC Platinum Bull Award in 2007. It also has a proud show record. At the 2008 Red Poll National Show in Riversdal, AN 01 0064 was Champion Cow and Breed Champion Red Poll animal and AN 05 0031 was the Junior Champion Cow. What advice would Anzabeth give a young farmer wishing to go into beef production? “In addition to doing everything else right, keep a record of inputs. This will help you to select for efficient and productive animals,” she says. Contact Anzabeth Nieuwoudt on 083 447 2813. |fw

Anzabeth Nieuwoudt with AN 97 038, the stud’s third Farmer’s Weekly-ARC Best Elite Cow.