Farewell Rustin!

We are proud to announce the sale of our primary stud sire, Rustin MHB 06-30 (Marula 25 x KPO 21) to Eloff Muller from Tambaraine Boran. Rustin has been the primary stud sire at Vastrap Boran for the past three years and has left an indelible mark on the herd with his great offspring. He is incredibly virile and has worked tirelessly! In our opinion, Rustin comes very close to being the perfect Boran bull. He has a great head, he is broad in the chest, and he has a perfect topline with well defined rib-eye muscles. He is well muscled with strong forearms and hocks. He weighs 780kg in good condition and has excellent capacity. To round things off he has a perfect sheath and an elegant tail which hangs to the ground. Most importantly he is virile and produces fantastic calves! Good bye our Rustin. We wish Eloff all the greatest success with this magnificent bull!

Rustin MHB 06-30 (Marula 25 x KPO 21)

Rustin MHB 06-30 (Marula 25 x KPO 21)

Rustin MHB 06-30 front view

Showing off his head, broad chest and muscular back (2014).

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Showing off his broad back and rib-eye muscling.

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In 2010 as a young bull with a bright future.

 

Putting our Bulls to the Test

This week we were visited by Siebert and Gerdus from Studbook who took measurements of our bulls for performance testing. Performance tests are an important complement to other criteria in our bull selection. We believe that rigorous selection criteria, which includes performance testing contributes to the betterment of the Boran breed. The tests allow us to rank each bull against its peers using a range of calculations derived from measurements of average daily weight gain (measured over 6 months); fat layering on the rump and rib; marbling on the sirloin and sirloin size; length and height of animal; skin thickness and scrotum circumference.

At the 2014 Vastrap Boran auction we will be offering 20 of our best 2011 bulls. These bulls will go through a three-step process of evaluation. First, inspection by the Boran society. Second, a more detailed inspection and grading  by a group of fellow Boran breeders, and lastly the performance testing. After each evaluation round the poorest performers are slaughtered and only 20 of the top performing bulls from a group of 50 will be offered at the auction. By doing this we endeavour to provide bulls that will be good ambassadors for both Vastrap Boran and the Boran breed as a whole.

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A cluster of Boran

At Vastrap Boran we’ve decided to coin a new collective noun for the Boran – a cluster. We think this perfectly describes the strong herd instinct of the Boran. They always stand together in a tight-knit group, which helps them to ward off predators and defend their young.  This attribute also makes it much easier to manage the herd as illnesses can be spotted quickly and animals are less likely to stray, especially in mountainous or bushy terrain.

The beautiful breeding cluster shown in the photos below is currently running with Rustin MHB 06-30, the main stud sire at Vastrap Boran.

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Losing Hope

There are few things more enjoyable than heading out after a long day on the farm to spend some quality time with our main herd of Boran cows. They are usually very happy to see us and come running in their cluster to say hello. Long before Quentin started his cattle stud he always told me that he loved being a stockman because cows have personalities. I didn’t really understand this until I met the Boran – curious, serene and beautiful animals each with their own little quirks.

The matriarch of our herd is Hope MHB 04-11 (see The HOPE bloodline). She is a beautiful polled white cow with a strong head and the most gorgeous gentle nature (see Hanging with Hope). Importantly, she is a breeder of bulls with three stud sires among her progeny (see Husky MHB 07-09 and Hero MHB 06-13). We are savouring every moment with her as she will be sold at our auction on 16 August. It seems terrible to have to let her go, but we’ve made a commitment to sell every single 9 year and older cow, which includes some of our very best (see 2013 Vastrap Boran Auction). Hope is the front-page girl on our auction brochure which will be released soon. I think she does a great job showcasing the quality of animals that will be on offer!

We’ll miss you Hope, but I think your absence might open the way for some other beauties to reveal their personalities. I can see there are some characters just waiting for an opening! You have left your mark on the Vastrap Boran herd and still have much work to do in your new home, where ever that may be.

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Heifer bonding

We spent Easter Monday morning replenishing salt licks and checking on the animals as our staff had the weekend off. These Boran heifers were weaned a month ago and seem to be doing really well.

Easter 056We have seen from visiting other farms that Boran cattle respond very well to a bit of extra care and attention. When time allows, we make an effort to bond with the animals. It’s a slow process, but eventually the effort will pay off and these little beauties will be comfortable with people and have great temperament.

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Touring with the Free State Boran Club

The Free State Boran Club organised a tour to Stompie Olivier (Hotspot Boran), Quentin de Bruyn (Vastrap Boran) and Makena Scheepers (Letselaskraal Boran). This was followed by a Boran stud breeders’ course held at Rikus Stander’s farm near Marquard (Mount Kenya Boran).

The tour was extremely well supported by 21 fellow Boran breeders. It was an awesome opportunity to showcase our Boran herd to fellow breeders and we really enjoyed the opportunity to see great quality animals in other herds. There was also plenty of time for socialising. Great thanks to our sponsors, OVK, Voermol and Embryo Plus, which enabled us to have an amazing evening at Oranje Guest Farm near Fouriesburg where we were treated to fantastic hospitality by Makena and Mona Scheepers.

Cindy MHB 07-10 - one of the cows seen at Vastrap Boran.

Cindy MHB 07-10 – one of the cows seen at Vastrap Boran.

At Makena and Mona Scheepers.

Free State Boran club members at Letselaskraal Boran with Makena and Mona Scheepers.

A cluster of beautiful Boran at the magnificent Letselaskraal.

A cluster of beautiful Boran at the magnificent Letselaskraal.

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Contemplating beauty.

Oranje Guest Farm near Fouriesburg.

Oranje Guest Farm near Fouriesburg.

Albert van Zyl and Rikus Stander.

Albert van Zyl and Rikus Stander.

The two day Boran breeders’ course was presented by Mario du Preez and Stefan Buys. The course is a must for both aspiring and current breeders with a focus on the tools needed to run a stud successfully and to create common goals for the Boran breed in South Africa. Again, we need to thank both Rikus Stander and Willie Anderson for allowing us to use their facilities and their animals to judge and for being so generous with their time.

The new committee of the Free State Club have started the year brilliantly with great communication, enthusiasm and delivery. The success of both the tour and the course can be squarely attributed to Albert van Zyl (Meander Boran), Rikus Stander and Stompie Olivier. Well done guys! Click here to see the new Free State Boran Club website.

The grass is greener!

It’s amazing what a difference rain makes, especially in the usually dull Free State! Earlier this week Quentin did a photo shoot with some of his Boran cows that are being prepared for embryo flushing at Stompie Olivier’s farm about 40km from Vastrap near Hobhouse.  Some of these cows will also be on sale at the Vastrap Auction on 16 August, 2013!

Here are some stunning photos showing the lush veld and gorgeous cows in their full glory. Just look at the contrast with a few months ago!

Winter contrast

Dry winter veld – Ginger MHB 06-48 with calf by Rustin.

Swimming in grass!

Swimming in grass!

Afternoon showers.

Afternoon showers – Hope MHB 04-11

Now where is that pot of gold?

Now where is that pot of gold?

Too cute!

Too cute!

Flush group.

Contented flush group.

Bonding with Cindy MHB

Bonding with Cindy MHB 04-04.

Motherly Affection

Boran cows have extremely strong mothering instincts, which make them very protective of their calves. Perhaps this has something to do with their heritage in Kenya of grazing in the veld alongside wild animals (see The Boran: God’s Gift to Cattlemen). I saw this first hand one day when I was walking the dogs and came across Hope MHB 07-12 who had been separated from her new born calf. Some how the calf had landed up on the other side of the fence from her. She was going crazy and started charging the dogs! I quickly got them out of the way and went to call Quentin to help. It was quite a struggle to get her through the gate without being charged, but all she wanted was to keep her calf out of danger. She was perfectly happy once they were reunited.

Below are some beautiful photos capturing special moments between Boran cows and their calves.

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A farmer’s work is never done

I’ve been trying to write this post since early yesterday morning, but our internet connection was down and somehow I never finished it. I haven’t posted about the farm in ages because we’ve been away so much. It has been raining heavily in most parts of the country except here with us. Every time rain is forecast it is scaled right back down on the day and we end up with nothing. The veld is greener than it was, but there is still very little food for the cattle and the wheat crop has suffered a lot. We had a few light showers over the weekend and yesterday so fortunately Quentin has started planting maize, but it will need to rain again soon for the crops to germinate properly.

Not very lush veld and wheat fields.

Here is a story to show you that a farmer’s work is never done, even on a Sunday. Start out thinking it’s going to be a relaxing day and before you know it a whole lot of work is happening!

We set off on Sunday morning to forage for wild plants that I want to use in a neglected area of the garden. Every time I go for a walk I notice new wild flowers that I would like in the garden, but I never have a spade or a bag handy. My beloved agreed to come along to dig in the hard dry soil.

Dainty white vygie thriving in the hard clay soil.

Pink vygies.

Some type of aloe.

Tired dogs.

A cow skull for our collection.

Shortly after leaving home we noticed that the sheep were grazing in the wheat, which is not a good thing. It would be worse if it was cows, but sheep can do damage too and they were not supposed to be in that field! We raced around trying to herd them back to where they were supposed to be, knowing that there was a gate open somewhere that shouldn’t have been.

Naughty sheep grazing in the wheat.

My beloved chasing sheep on a Sunday.

Back where they should be.

Making sure the gate is firmly closed.

Whilst herding the sheep we drove past a herd of our Boran cattle and stopped to check if everything was okay. They looked happy and content except for this little baby who was obviously standing in the wrong place at the wrong time and got shat on by his mother!

Wrong place at the wrong time!

Phew! Something stinks around here!

Then we were starting to get tired and the dogs were hot, so they went for a swim in the not-so-deep dam.

Refreshed Coco.

Then we noticed that the sheep had escaped again and the Boran bulls were in the wrong place too! So we drove all the way round the valley to find the open gate and chase the bulls back to where they were supposed to be, which is far away from the cows!

Act confident and pretend to know what you’re doing Marisa!

Chasing the bulls back through the open gate.

Then, just because we were already in work mode, we went to check on one of our Boran heifer cows who was close to giving birth. When young cows give birth for the first time they can experience problems so it is important to monitor them closely when the time is near. As it turned out she hadn’t calved yet, but there were a whole lot of other cute babies around. Visiting the Boran never feels like work and Quentin’s face lights up and relaxes the moment he sees his Boran beauties  – unlike when he sees sheep grazing in the wheat!

Rose (MHB-06-05) with her new calf sired by Griffen (MHB 06-27).

Hanging with Hope

You have probably gathered by now that we love our Boran cattle. They are so beautiful and serene. Having them on our farm has really added another dimension from a business perspective, but also for the pure enjoyment of them. Our Boran stud was significantly expanded late last year when Vastrap Boran (VST) acquired the whole of Mollshoop Boran (MHB), one of the most well-known Boran studs in the country.

Quentin loves cattle farming above all other farming, because cows and bulls have personalities. Each one is an individual. A character. But that doesn’t mean that they like us. No, a cow will usually run away if you try to get close to her out in the open veld. Unless they are being worked in a cattle crush, most cows and bulls tend to mind their own business and stay clear of people. One has to be careful though, because cows can get quite aggressive when they are protecting their young calves. I avoid walking between cattle and their calves when our blind dog Paris is with me. Even our little beagle Coco can be a liability because she is so curious and likes to bark at the cows!

The Boran tend to be a bit more friendly than other breeds of cattle and some of them are very tame. At Vastrap, there is no bigger character than Hope (MHB 04-11). She is one of the top cows in our stud herd – a polled cow (no horns) with a strong head that has already bred three stud sires – but she is also the most friendly. She loves a good tickle and scratch especially if you bring her a treat of lucern pellets.

Magnificent Hope MHB 04-11.

A little tickle and scratch to say hello.

Can’t get enough of them pellets!

We love taking people to meet Hope and she especially loves kids, because they give her more food and they are a whole lot cuter than us!

Ashley meeting Hope for the first time.

Dylan saying hello to Hope.

Wait-up! I haven’t finished eating yet!

When we had visitors a few weekends ago we took the kids out to feed Hope again. It was a freezing cold morning and the kids were all bundled up in their winter kit. But the cows were happy because they had just been put into a newly harvested maize field, which tastes delicious and nutritious compared to the dead winter grass.

Cold cows enjoying the left-over maize.

Some pellets for you Hope?

Haven’t had enough yet?

She looks hungry Quentin.

Here Hope, try some delicious lucern pellets.

She likes a good pat and a rub while she is eating.

Thank you Alexander… munch, munch, munch.

And then last Sunday after Quentin’s birthday lunch we took another ride out to see Hope (see A Whiff of Spring!). Thankfully it was MUCH warmer. But Hope liked the pellets and attention just as much as ever. She can’t get enough of those pellets and we can’t seem to get enough of her… the things we do for amusement on a farm!

I’m not leaving this bucket until the last pellet is finished!