It’s a little disconcerting to suppose that the luxurious, inexperienced valley on the foot of the Elandsberg, which rises to an elevation of 1 653m above sea degree, was as soon as the scene of intensive coal mining. Most traces of the Kempslust mining exercise have, whereas nonetheless not absolutely erased, been hidden beneath a inexperienced cowl of younger vegetation.
Located between the cities of Paulpietersburg and Utrecht inside the Amajuba and Zululand district municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal, the Elandsberg space is one among South Africa’s most vital water supply areas and the first catchment for the Tugela and Pongola river techniques, which provide an excellent many downstream customers.
Because of this, the realm obtained formal environmental safety in 2021 with the declaration of the 25 000ha Elandsberg Protected Setting. It comes as no shock then that for Chris van Niekerk, Johan Kemp and Riaan Venter, who farm on the slopes of the Elandsberg, environmental safety is a major focus.
Van Niekerk and Kemp have been enterprise companions for 30 years, operating a 3 500ha farm. Venter joined the farming operation as a 3rd companion about 15 years in the past.
Nowadays, their fundamental farming operation is beef cattle manufacturing. In addition they farm sheep, and are within the course of of creating a kiwifruit orchard and hope to start out harvesting their first fruit inside the subsequent two to a few years.
About seven years in the past, the enterprise companions determined to start out breeding their very own bulls for his or her business beef cattle operation. This finally steered the enterprise in a brand new route.
“Earlier than we began breeding Droughtmasters, we’d purchase Grassfields Beef bulls from the late Hubert Shaw and his son Rustin to make use of on our business herd. At one among their gross sales, they’d Droughtmaster bulls and feminine animals on supply, and we had been impressed by their temperament, uniformity and conformation,” says Kemp.
In 2014, they began breeding Droughtmasters and purchased two teams of F1 and base cows, consisting of 14 in-calf cows from F4 Droughtmaster bulls, on the Shaws’ annual manufacturing sale.
“Proper from the beginning we discovered them to be hardy and in a position to carry out effectively in our in depth circumstances,” says Van Niekerk.
They purchased their first Droughtmaster bull in 2014 from Underberg-based breeder Chippie Watson.
With the assist of Ian Currin, a technical adviser for the Africa Droughtmaster Cattle Breeders’ Society, the enterprise companions sourced high genetics from well-known breeders to additional enhance the stud herd. The Shaws additionally assisted them by giving them entry to one among their Droughtmaster sires.
“We later acquired shares in two of the Shaws’ stud sires and used their semen to artificially inseminate among the feminine animals in our herd. This helped us make quicker progress in enhancing the genetics in our stud,” Van Niekerk says.
In 2017, they purchased a Droughtmaster stud sire from Hurwitz Farming and one other bull from Watson in 2020.
“We are actually within the lucky place the place we’re in a position to breed all of the bulls that we’d like for our business herd ourselves, which suggests we now not have to purchase in any bulls for the business herd,” Van Niekerk says.
Their Elandsberg Droughtmaster stud has grown to incorporate about 100 registered breeding feminine animals, whereas the business herd consists of roughly 600 Droughtmaster-type feminine animals, that are mated with two-year outdated stud bulls.
The farm is in a sourveld space, and the principle grass sort is crimson grass (Themeda triandra). Summers are scorching and humid with most temperatures within the excessive 30s, and winters are largely delicate, however the space can expertise very chilly days with temperatures dropping to day-time lows of 5°C. Whereas a uncommon incidence, the realm does typically get snow in winter, particularly increased up within the mountains. Rainfall usually varies between 850mm and
1 000mm each year.
“In our beef farming operation, we concentrate on preserving the pure veld; overstocking just isn’t an choice. We strictly abide by the carrying capability of 3ha/LSU,” says Van Niekerk, who’s the stud grasp for Elandsberg Droughtmasters.
Camps are grazed on a rotational foundation and are left for lengthy sufficient intervals between grazing to permit the veld to relaxation and reseed. The farm is split into 12 summer season camps, protecting an space of about 1 700ha, and 19 winter camps. In addition they make use of planted pastures, together with 25ha of Smutsfinger grass and 14ha of Eragrostis that get harvested as soon as for haymaking, after which the lands are fertilised in order that grass can be utilized as standing hay.
There are additionally 28ha of ryegrass planted beneath irrigation, which will get rotated with silage maize. The silage maize is used as a finisher feed for cull cows which might be offered from the on-farm feedlot for slaughter.
As a result of the farm is in a sourveld area, it’s important that animals are supplied with licks throughout winter and summer season, which the companions supply from Lamprecht Feeds in Amersfoort.
Breeding and choice
“We solely have one breeding season. Heifers are paired with two-year-old bulls from mid-September and the breeding season for cows begins on 1 November,” Van Niekerk says.
He says trichomoniasis is among the greatest challenges they face as state veterinary companies are missing within the testing, monitoring and remedy of trichomoniasis in communal cattle.
Different animal ailments that pose a menace embrace African and Asiatic redwater, black quarter, lumpy pores and skin illness, gallsickness and bovine ephemeral fever (BEF). Animals are vaccinated for BEF, black quarter and lumpy pores and skin illness yearly. Animals are solely dipped as mandatory.
Heifers and cows within the stud breeding herd that fail to conceive after one breeding season are moved to the business herd the place they’re given one other alternative. In the event that they fail once more to conceive, they’re culled from the herd.
The common birthweight is between 30kg and 33kg. Calves are weaned at eight to 9 months weighing in at roughly 235kg.
Currin visits the farm yearly to carry out a cautious choice to find out which animals born within the stud between the ages of 18 months and two years are to be retained within the stud herd.
“We choose for temperament, fertility and physique conformation. Bulls have to have sturdy, masculine heads, sturdy legs for strolling, good size and depth, well-developed scrotums and good sheaths,” says Van Niekerk.
Some of the vital exams that they’re operating in the intervening time is to find out whether or not or not the Droughtmaster has a better dressing proportion than the common beef cattle animal in South Africa.
To measure this, they’re monitoring the every day feed consumption of 150 long-yearlings that they’ve equipped to Heiner Hinze’s feedlot in Commondale. After three-and-a-half months, these animals might be slaughtered at Allen’s Butchery in Hluhluwe, the place the dressing proportion might be recorded.
“We attempt to preserve an excellent stability between the stud and business herds. With a purpose to make optimum use of the veld, we can not develop the stud a lot bigger than 100 to 120 feminine animals; as a substitute, we concentrate on enhancing high quality,” says Kemp.
He says the Droughtmaster has develop into such a preferred breed in South Africa inside a brief time period due to its distinctive temperament and its potential to adapt to varied weather conditions. Expertise has additionally proven that Droughtmasters have sturdy prepotency.
“Breeding with Droughtmasters has been a particularly rewarding and pleasant expertise for us, and we’re very happy with the animals we now have bred thus far and the standard of our stud herd,” says Kemp. They haven’t but held their very own manufacturing public sale, however hope to have the ability to achieve this in about two to a few years’ time. They’ve, nonetheless, been promoting bulls immediately from the farm, after they’ve been efficiently used on their very own heifers. These bulls are offered as business bulls.
“Industrial beef producers are of the utmost significance to us, as they characterize our major marketplace for high quality bulls. It’s our duty to produce them with breeding inventory that may enhance the genetic potential of their herds, and earn them higher market costs for his or her animals,” says Van Niekerk.
Cellphone Chris van Niekerk on 082 306 8784. Go to the Africa Droughtmaster Cattle Breeders’ Society at droughtmasterafrica.co.za.