Economics of Sussex cattle on the veld and in the feedlot

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

There are many reasons why producers must consider a specific breed in their crossbreeding programme. In addition, many of these attributes are difficult to quantify, and the economic benefits are not always evident. Sussex cattle, however, possess qualities of which the economic benefits are easily measured.

The most important of these qualities must be the growth rate. In South Africa, producers produce weaners that are sold to feedlots and are finished in large numbers. Both the weaner and the A-grade price at the abattoir are determined by supply and demand, and the producer has no control over these market forces. What the producer can control, however, is how much of his product he can produce in the shortest time.

Producers have become used to Sussex bulls adding 20 to 30kg to their average weaning weight at seven months. This figure may even be higher if the dam is an indicus type.

Lighter calves may be marketed at a higher R/kg price, but the figures show that the old adage “weight beats price” still rings true.

How Sussex cattle can boost your beef production and profit

The national Sussex herd has an average cow weight of 582kg and an average weaning weight of 235kg at seven months. At a price of R37/kg, these calves fetch R8 695 each when sold to a feedlot. A calf weighing 180kg must be sold for R48,30/kg to achieve the same result.

A 100ha farm with a dry material production of 1,5tons/ha/year can carry 24 Sussex cows of 582kg. The same farm can carry 29 cows of a lighter breed weighing 480kg. The difference of five animals is due to metabolic weight being used in calculating the carrying capacity.

The revenue calculation is simple. Twenty-four weaners of 235kg each produce a total of 5 640kg beef or 56,4kg/ha. Twenty-nine weaners of 180kg each produce a total of 5 137kg beef or 51,37kg/ha. The difference of 503kg equates to R18 611 or R186,11/ha. The heavier weaners, although fewer, will produce more beef/ha. If the lighter weaners of 180kg fetch a price of R39/kg, they will still yield R83,37/ha less than the heavier calf.

Keep in mind that the metabolic weight of the cow reaches a point where revenue starts reducing. The statement is not that heavier cows are better, but heavier weaners are. This is a simplified example assuming a 100% conception and weaning rate, but it simply illustrates the value that a heavier Sussex cross weaner may add to any cattle farming operation.

The benefits of crossbreeding with Sussex cattle

Between 2016 and 2019, a database was compiled of 3 000 animals in a feedlot in the Free State. This database consisted of 50% pure Sussex or F1 Sussex cross weaners. The other 50% consisted of various breeds. The results showed that the Sussex and Sussex-cross animals, on average, had an average daily gain (ADG) of 0,3kg higher than the other animals in the feedlot.

When considering a dressing percentage of 60% and a feeding period of 135 days, the Sussex and Sussex-cross animals had a carcass weight that was 24,3kg heavier than the average. At the current A-grade price of R53/kg, this equates to additional revenue of R1 287,90. The Sussex carcasses also showed significantly less bruising due to their calm temperament, making it much easier to load, offload and handle them at the feedlot and abattoir.

Whether you are looking for a heavier weaner, animals that are finished quicker or just more profit per hectare, consider a crossbreeding programme with Sussex cattle. (Prices at the date of writing. Prices may vary at the date of publication)

For more information, contact the Sussex Society of South Africa at 051 410 0955,, or visit their website.

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