ARC National Special Performance Test Class

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

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.

This very popular award category, sponsored by Plaas Media, has been presented for over 40 years and rewards only bulls with exceptional performance traits. Bulls which were awarded gold or silver merit certificates when they completed a standardised growth test (Phase C) of the National Beef Recording and Improvement Scheme during the year that precedes the awards event are eligible to compete in this award category.

Standardised growth test stations are situated in five provinces and simulates a feedlot scenario. However, individual feed intake, growth and feed conversion are measured. The amount of feed consumed is the biggest cost driver and growth ability is the profit driver of a feedlot enterprise. More than 70% of beef cattle in South Africa is rounded off in feedlots and is the primary market for commercial weaner calf producers. Additional traits measured in a centralised testing centre are scrotum circumference, which is an indication of bull fertility, and body measurements such as body length and shoulder height.

Residual feed intake (RFI), a trait that describes a bull’s ability to utilise feed efficiently, is also considered. Essentially, it describes the animal’s biological efficiency and its ability to convert feed into meat. This feed efficiency is important in the beef herd, as up to 65% of the feed on the farm is used to meet mature cow maintenance requirements.

Feed efficiency is thus directly associated with financial gain or profitability and due to its economic importance, it became more relevant as selection criteria to select for more efficient animals.

Only one bull per breed eventually is identified as representative of the entire breed in terms of performance and functional efficiency. Bulls are not adjudicated across breeds as during previous years (interbreed adjudication), meaning that every bull is crowned as the overall national winner within the participating breed. – Dr Ben Greyling and Frans Jordaan

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