Collage of Best Elite Cow winners
These cows were the entrants in the 2021 ARC National Best Elite Cow Awards.

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The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) will once again present its National Beef Performers Awards in 2022. This is the 44th instalment of the awards, the aim of which is to showcase the best of the best in seven categories, all relating to beef cattle performance and beef cattle producers. Each of the seven categories is sponsored by various agricultural companies and role-players, and serve to honour those who have excelled in their breeding and production practices, as well as the mentoring of fellow producers.

The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) has been a key stakeholder in these awards since its inception and continues to play this role this year. As of 2022, Plaas Media is the main sponsor of the awards and will also be sponsoring certain categories.

The Best Elite Cow awards category has been in existence for more than four decades and has become synonymous with the Awards event. It is also one of the most prestigious in our country when it comes to the acknowledgement of beef cows with truly exceptional performance traits. This award category in fact only considers actual reproduction performance of participating cows, and physical appearance is not part of the selection criteria at all. For cows to be eligible for consideration they should exhibit exceptional reproduction figures and other economically important traits including their maternal ability and pre-weaning growth rate (weaning weight of their progeny). This award category is also contested, as in the past, among cows across all breeds and only one cow per breed will be crowned as the top female of each participating breed. Our valued partner, Farmers Weekly, has been the sole sponsor of this award category for 46 years in a row, which in itself is indeed praiseworthy.

Both registered and commercial cows are eligible to participate and specific qualification criteria include age at first calving; the average inter-calving period; days since the last calving; the completeness of records for weaning weights; performance records; Breeding Values regarding wean direct and wean maternal; birth maternal (where available) and the number of calves with reliable weaning weights. For commercial cows where no BLUP breeding values are available, the criteria evaluated include, in addition to criteria already mentioned, the weaning index of the cow’s calves individually as well as for all calves weaned. Additional criteria used to identify the best performing cow per breed include average efficiency index (if available); approval ratio (percentage of her progeny approved for registration by the relevant breeders’ society); reproduction index and the percentage of performance-tested calves. – Dr Ben Greyling and Frans Jordaan

Read about other awards categories:

For more information, send an email to Dr Ben Greyling at or to Frans Jordaan at You can also visit the Beef Cattle Improvement Scheme website.