Value of bulls highlighted at 2023 Stockman School

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

The annual LRF Stockman School kicked off on Wednesday 11 October 2023 at Aldam near Ventersburg in the Free State. This year’s theme was profit drivers in bull selection and this is the first year that Plaas Media acted as the official media partner of the school.

In the first session of the day Prof Theo Venter of the College of Business and Economics at the University of Johannesburg, set the scene by describing the international and national political landscape within which farmers have to operate their businesses. He said although there are numerous challenges, farmers should not forget that people have to eat.

Read more about what to expect of this year’s Stockman School here.

Exports and quality are key

Mooketsa Ramasodi, director-general of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, focussed on government’s investment in the future of the South African livestock industry. He specifically discussed traceability and animal health, saying the future of the country’s livestock industry, which is export driven, lies in having a very good and sound livestock identification and traceability system (LITS) in place. Without this, the sector will be doomed because consumers, whether international or local, will increasingly demand information regarding the origin of their food.  

Prof Phillip Strydom, professor in meat science at Stellenbosch University, focussed on improving the value of red meat through the implementation of a grading system. He said South Africa does not have a red meat grading system, but only a carcass classification system. A grading system would enable the consumer to enjoy a better eating experience due to a better quality description of their meat.

Reproduction and nutrition of bulls

He was followed by Prof Dietmar Holm of the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Pretoria, who focussed on reproductively healthy bulls. Prof Holm called on the industry to adhere to the existing standardised reproductive soundness certification system. In this regard the Ruminant Veterinary Association of South Africa (RuVASA) plays a critical role with regard to VetCert certification, verifying the authenticity of a breeding soundness certificate and reporting the prevalence of important diseases threatening herds on a monthly basis.

During the afternoon session Anri Strauss, ruminant scientific adviser at Chemunique, focussed on the lifetime nutritional management of bulls. She encouraged farmers to focus on cow nutrition during pregnancy to ensure good lifetime production of offspring, because nutritional deficiencies during pregnancy cause decreased lifetime growth, immunity and reproduction of the offspring. This concept is called ‘epigenetics’ and there is currently a worldwide research focus on this concept and how to prevent the permanent impact of poor nutrition on offspring.

Meet the expert speakers of the 2023 LRF Stockman School here.

Importance of disease control underlined

Prof Leon Prozesky, owner of Path Diagnostics Africa, spoke about dealing with disease outbreaks and suspicious deaths especially with the focus on animal poisoning. He urged farmers to take hands and work together when it comes to animal diseases, especially in terms of traceability and the illegal transportation of animals. With regard to animal poisoning, it is vital to get professional help as soon as possible. Good relationships between employers and their labour force, and following a vaccination programme are other aspects which need to be taken into consideration.

Jan van Zyl, well-known Brahman breeder and owner of Kroon Vee Brahmans, brought a practical dimension to the proceedings. He focussed on bull management and how to get more out of a bull. A bull, he said, is not a cost item but an investment, and its true value is reflected in its offspring. It is therefore imperative that all his calves be evaluated and selected stringently to ensure the correct traits are retained in a herd. 

Taking the genomics road

In the last session of the day, Prof Kennedy Dzama of the Department of Animal Science at Stellenbosch University and Dr Nelius Nel of the Directorate of Animal Science at the Western Cape Department of Agriculture discussed the state of genomics and its impact on bull selection in Southern Africa. Although genomics is the latest technological development in genetic improvement, they warned that it is not a silver bullet. Embarking on the genomic road requires a thorough cost:benefit analysis and long-term commitment. – Izak Hofmeyr and Christal-Lize Muller, Plaas Media

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