Hi everyone, it’s Quentin here. We are starting to gear up for the 2017 Vastrap Auction, which will be held on Friday, 18 August. This weekend, while taking photos of the new crop of 3 year old bulls that we’ll be offering, I noticed something which highlights the great value for money that can be had at our auction. We pride ourselves in our rigorous selection process for our bulls (see Bull selection & performance testing), offering only the best bulls for sale each year. There is something for everyone, bulls that will be an asset to any herd, stud or commercial, at very affordable prices.
The photos below illustrate how bulls that did not get sold at the auction last year, which I then held back to use in the Vastrap herd, have developed. These bulls could have been snapped up for a steal last year!
Two of the bulls offered at the 2016 Vastrap Auction (full brothers out of a Jackie/Khan mother, VST 13-59 & VST 13-102), which I really liked, did not get a bid. When they were not sold I kept them to use in the Vastrap herd. Another bull – a Goliat son VST 13-36 – was not offered at the auction because he was slightly less developed and I thought there were better Goliat sons in the auction group.
Here are some photos of the three bulls as they look now. I think that they have developed into pretty nice specimens and I am very happy to have them in my herd.
The main reason I wanted to share these photos is to demonstrate the real value for money you can get at the Vastrap Auction: a buyer could have picked these stunning bulls up for R18’000 last year and several others that went for between R20’000 and R25’000. Another reason was to demonstrate that Boran bulls only actually reach their prime at about 5-6 years and that one needs to factor this in when buying bulls. The bulls we sell at the Vastrap Auction are all between two and a half and three years of age and 100% veld raised. They are selected by their performance against each other on veld conditions and they are only made auction ready for the three months after selection.
For the discerning buyer, there are both very good value for money bulls and future herd sires available at reasonable prices. I have sold all my previous herd sires at extremely good prices to fellow breeders after I have used them for 3-4 years. It amazes me these bulls can sell for hundreds of thousands, yet people are not prepared to pay nearly the same for their sons that have been put through a much more rigorous selection process than their fathers and should perform better in the long-run.
We look forward to introducing you to our selection of bulls for the 2017 Vastrap Auction in the weeks ahead! Please let us know if you would like to be added to our mailing list.
Thank you to everyone who supported the 2016 Vastrap Auction on Friday, 19 August. We had a lovely dinner at Vastrap the night before the auction catching up with people who had travelled from far to be there. The next morning, quite unusually for the Free State at this time of year, we woke up to a huge thunderstorm and it rained on and off throughout the morning. It was cold and wet and muddy, but that didn’t deter the Boran enthusiasts who had travelled from far to attend the auction. We hauled out the gas heaters, lit a bond fire and handed out blankets and sherry in the auction tent to keep everyone warm! The team from OVK/CMW did a fantastic job of running the auction smoothly in challenging weather conditions. By lunch time the sun was shining and everyone enjoyed the steak braai for lunch. The organisation of an auction takes a huge physical and emotional toll, but it is all worth it when you see what an effort people make to get here. We were happy to see many repeat customers, but also lots of new faces.
There was something on offer for everyone, with prices varying from R16’000 to as high as R160’000. Astute buyers, who had done their research and know their genetics, were richly rewarded on the day with real value for money on top quality animals. We are proud to say that every animal that got a bid was sold without any negotiation. Our policy is to sell all animals that are offered on the day and not to quibble over prices. We are proud to be associated with all our guest sellers (Peinke Ranch, Frontier Boran, Brenaissance, Pratos, Kieras & Heeltevrede Stoetery) who offered exceptional quality animals that did very well on the day.
The average price of bulls sold on the day was R39,000. The top priced bull was VST 13-84 (Jackie MHB 09-20 x Khan MHB 04-27), which sold for R160’000 to Burnie Staal from Bos Blanco. This bull is the son of the top priced cow, Jackie MHB 09-20.
The average price of females was R34’000. The top priced female was a heifer, PT 14-08 (Shakira BA 08-86 x Magnum CI 07-127), which sold for R160’000. The top priced pregnant cow was Jackie MHB 09-20, which sold for R140’000. The top priced 3-in-1 was Faith PRB 12-08 (with a beautiful Zorro bull calf), which sold for R110’000.
At Vastrap Boran, we verify the parentage of every stud animal through DNA testing at Unistel laboratories. This is not only because we use more than one bull in each breeding herd (multi-siring), but also because we believe that it is crucial to establish the parentage of our animals with 100% certainty.
The confirmation of the parentage of stud animals through DNA testing is still not compulsory in most cattle breeds, but there is a strong case that it should be. In our opinion, if the parentage of an animal is not accurate, the animal should no longer be called a stud animal and would be no different from a commercial animal. When buying a stud animal the parentage of that animal determines two out of the three criteria that one looks at to assess its breeding potential, namely genetic make-up and performance data. Even if an animal’s physical attributes are absolutely perfect, that counts for nothing in the world of stud breeding if it’s parentage cannot be verified.
In Quentin’s short time as a stud breeder, he has tried to learn from as many experienced breeders as possible. He has been fortunate to have interactions with many breeders who have much more knowledge about stud breeding than him. These include some of South Africa’s most prominent breeders in their respective breeds, Philip Barnard (Angus), Bernie Staal (Brahman & Boran) and Arthur de Villiers (Bonsmara). In chatting to them about what to look for in a stud bull, the common theme has been to use a balanced approach. A buyer needs to look at the bull’s physical attributes, at the bull’s performance data and at the bull’s genetic make-up (or parents).
Without parent confirmation through DNA testing a breeder/buyer cannot be 100% sure of the parentage of an animal. Errors can occur with allocating the sire of a calf in many ways. There can be errors in record keeping. A female can be accidentally allocated to an incorrect breeding group. The documentation with the pairing data can be lost or damaged. A stray bull can jump a fence while you are away and you are either unaware or your staff do not tell you for various reasons. One may even just plainly forget to write it down timeously. In short, it happens all the time even in the best-managed herds!
According to Dr Munro Marx from Unistel, random testing of stud animals through independent parentage verification tests have found parentage errors as high as 42% in South Africa. That is scary! Extrapolating this to the entire stud herds of any breed, it would render any performance data entirely redundant. Obviously, the high error rate of the independent testing is skewed because of repeat offenders and the fact that only animals that are not already DNA verified are randomly selected for testing. However, it is still important for buyers to be aware of the perils of buying something that is not parentage verified through DNA testing.
If the parentage of an animal turns out to be wrong, then two of the three factors that one considers in buying the animal become redundant and one cannot accurately predict the breeding potential of that animal. Moreover, it is now compulsory for all bulls being used in a stud herd to have their parentage positively verified through DNA testing. A bull whose parentage cannot be positively confirmed is cancelled by the breeder’s society and its offspring cannot be registered!
We have had personal experience with this in our Angus stud herd, when we recently had to deregister 16 stud heifers because we used a bull that could not be parentage verified by DNA. The bull was purchased from a respected stud breeder and it was used immediately before we realised that the DNA had not been verified. Our rush to use the bull at the start of the breeding season and our trust that all was in order on the seller’s side, ended up costing us dearly and this is not a mistake we will make again.
Given the importance of accurate parentage for stud animals, one has to ask whether it is worth taking the risk of buying an animal that is not DNA verified? In order to use a bull in a stud herd, the parentage will have to be verified eventually so why not before the point of sale, leaving the risk with the seller? We would suggest that all animals sold under the auspices of the Boran Society should be DNA verified. How else can the Society give a buyer the assurance of parentage of an auction animal and corresponding accuracy of the performance data? At the very least, the catalogue and opening information page on an animal on Logix should indicate clearly whether both parents have been verified through DNA.
Below is an example of one of the 20 three year old Boran bulls that will be sold at the 2016 Vastrap Auction, VST 13-102. This bull’s DNA animal information page on Logix, shows that his DNA and parentage have been verified. We can assure you that this is the case with all the animals we sell as is clearly printed in our Vastrap Auction checklist. The 4th Vastrap Auction will be held on Friday, 19 August @ 11h00.
Every year as part of our efforts to ensure that only the best 3-year old bulls are offered at the annual Vastrap Boran Auction, some independent fellow Boran breeders help us to do a visual evaluation of our bulls. It was one of the coldest mornings of the year, but seeing how far the bulls have come made it all worthwhile. We had two visitors from Botswana watching the proceedings and we made sure they were bundled up in warm jackets and beanies!
Stompie Olivier (Hotspot Boran) has been showing with cattle ever since he could walk and we highly respect his knowledge and eye. Due to his “showing” experience, he has an excellent eye for conformity and correctness of both females and bulls. Oom Theo van Zyl (Faurzyl Boran) has been a stud breeder for 30 years and is very strict and picky in his selection of animals. He know what commercial and stud breeders are looking for and which type of bulls breed well. Rikus Stander (Mount Kenya Boran) has a very keen eye for detail and does not miss faults like small testes, bad hooves and leg conformation. He was unfortunately not able to attend our selection day this year. These breeders and cattlemen have knowledge and experience way in excess of ours. They are also not emotionally involved with our cattle and their opinions are not biased due to sentimental attachment to certain dams or sires. We are grateful for their time, effort and the honest opinions and critique they give. As a stud breeder, Quentin believes that one should continuously learn from those more knowledgeable than yourself, continue to grow, ask questions and take constructive criticism. The path to becoming a better breeder is a journey and not a destination.
All breeders place slightly different importance on certain attributes and each bull is discussed to reach consensus. The evaluations are based purely on phenotype (not genetics). Structural correctness and meat attributes are used to give bulls a rating of A+ for herd sires, A for stud sires, B+ for top commercial , B for average but passable and C for cull. It is quite important to note that these bulls are all fully registered SP Boran bulls, having passed inspection by the Boran Society of South Africa. They have also been selected against each other based on their performance in a phase-D veld performance test (see Bull selection and Performance testing). Of the original 70, that started the year, 43 were left over for this physical inspection by the independent breeders. Typically there are about 5 bulls that get an A+ rating, 15-20 that get a A- or A rating, 15-20 that get a B+ rating and about 10 that are B or C. The B’s and C’s are all culled even though they performed well in the veld test, have been passed by the Boran Society, but are not deemed worthy of the Vastrap Boran brand and will not be good ambassadors for the Boran breed.
Only 20 of our best 3-year old bulls will be offered at the 2016 Vastrap Auction (Friday, 19 August 2016). These 20 have been selected using a combination of their phase-D veld test performance and their physical evaluation with genetic diversity playing a smaller role. Vastrap bulls not only encompass the best genetic combinations from proven lines, but have also gone through far more rigorous selection than their fathers ever did. Watch this space to see which bulls made the grade in our final selection!
Vastrap Boran is excited to introduce one of our new stud sires, Samurai SS 11-31 (Dianna SS 06-03 x Kobra SS 08-61). His mother, Dianna SS 06-03 (HVT 97-15 x HVT 95-03) caught Quentin’s eye very early in his stud breeding career when he visited Corn van der Watt in January 2012. She is an extraordinary cow – beautiful with a stunning femine wedge, good length and width and fantastic breeding ability. Kobra also impressed. On that visit Quentin saw three different groups of multi-sired embryo calves at Sandsonia, and in his opinion, Kobra’s progeny were leagues ahead of the other bulls used on the same dams.
We would like to thank Corn and Johan for offering such a top specimen for sale. In our opinion, Samurai impresses both phenotypically and genetically. We would also like to thank Stephen Johnson with whom we consulted extensively before making this purchase.
One of the main reasons that Quentin remembers Dianna so well is that her breeding goes back to 1603 on the sire side and ADC 3746 (Mutara) on the dam side, which is so similar to one of our best cow bloodlines, namely Savanna. The Savanna granddam, Savanna TLM 00-03 is also a HVT 95-03 (1603) daughter out of B 96-009 (ADC 8408). Both Savanna and her daughters produced some of the best offspring every year. Unfortunately, the Savanna bloodline does not flush very well, so we have not been able to multiply this bloodline effectively. With only natural mating, it is also extremely difficult to produce a stud sire that we can re-use in the Vastrap herd since many of the females will be related to a Savanna son bred out of one of our own stud bulls. With his breeding, Samurai is therefore the perfect addition to our herd.
Below are some photos showing the consistent quality of the Savanna offspring.
Based on records going back 119 years, 2015 was the driest year ever recorded in our district. At Vastrap we recorded 386mm in 2015 compared with a long term average of 620mm. Our rainfall for the 2015/16 summer has only been 300mm. Two dry summers in a row have really taken their toll causing a succession of crop failures and a depletion of grazing. Even Quentin’s father, Bill de Bruyn, who started farming here in 1955 can’t remember farming ever being so challenging.
We’ve been hopeful that the drought would break since January, but every shower we get is just too little to really make a difference and is followed by a few more weeks of extreme heat and drought. The growing season is basically at its end and we have very little grazing left and hardly anything baled. Our last two maize crops have been a failure and the sunflowers not much better. Most concerning of all, we are starting the “dry” season with our earth dams empty or at critically low levels. Getting our animals through to October/November is going to be a serious challenge if we don’t get a big downpour before winter sets in.
Against this backdrop, we have been absolutely gobsmacked by the resilience of our cattle, particularly the Boran. They have done us proud through these very stressful conditions. We expected our fertility rates to plummet and especially did early pregnancy testing to see which animals we could sell, but the results were astounding. Our overall pregnancy rate is about 85%, which is lower than last year, but many farmers would be very happy with that in a normal year. We were also extremely surprised by the amazing quality of our most recent batch of Boran weaner calves (weaned on 29 March 2016). We would normally be happy with a wean ratio of 50% for bull calves and 45% for female calves, but our ratios were much higher than that for our first group of 2015 Boran weaners (see table). The group of bull calves from first time calving mothers achieved an average wean ratio of 60% and average weight of 234kg, which is really extraordinary in these conditions!
It’s been a real struggle staying positive with the world looking so dead and brown over the past few months and with the constant worry about where next to move the cattle so that they would not run out of food and water. What a pleasant surprise then to get results like these and to witness first hand the resilience of this beautiful cattle breed that we love so much. Our faith in the Boran is stronger than ever!
Vastrap Boran participated in a feedlot trial of Boran crossbred weaners with Sparta Beef organised by the Free State Boran Club. The initiative was planned and implemented by Rikus Stander of Mount Kenya Boran. The results are great news for the Boran breed. In particular, the feed conversion rates (FCR), both during backgrounding and the feedlot phase were better than the feedlot average and the slaughter percentage was also excellent. Sparta management was very pleased and positive about the results of this particular group of Boran crossbred weaners.
Based on the performance of this group, Mr Tinus Greyling, head buyer for Sparta stated emphatically that he would not discriminate on the purchase of this type of animal. Mr Louw van Reenen, co-owner of Sparta and feedlot director has stated personally that the final results were very good and that we should be pleased.
However, Mr Greyling and Mr Van Reenen both added that this was one pen of particularly good animals and that the results of this trial was by no means a guarantee that all Boran crossbred animals would fair so well. There are huge variances within breeds and even more so with cross breeding to a multitude of other breeds. The key to performance is that one should begin with good quality foundation cows crossbred with good quality bulls. In this case the majority of the crosses were with tried and tested commercial Angus cows. The weaners supplied by Vastrap Boran were all from larger framed Khan sons (see Khan MHB 04-27), and this included the best performing animal of the trial. It is also extremely important to note that these were not pure Boran weaners, but mostly first generation (F1) crosses and a smaller percentage of second generation (F2) crosses with mostly British beef breeds as the foundation animals (see “ The Commercial Future of the Boran: Crossbreeding”). This feedlot trial therefore does not address the question of whether pure Boran animal are suitable for feedlot conditions.
Selecting the weaners
On the 10th of July 2015, 129 weaners were delivered to Sparta Feedlot in Marquard. There were 108 animals delivered by Vastrap Boran (Quentin de Bruyn), 9 from SP Els Boran (Fanie Els) and 12 from Jodan Boran (Danie Botha). From these, 81 Boran crossbred males were selected for the pilot – these were mainly F1 animals, but there were probably about 12 F2 animals included. The animals that were excluded were either females or pure Angus. We were given a very competitive price of R20.50/kg. Vastrap’s group of 108 animals averaged 223kg and included 20 females, thus giving us R4,577.65 (ex-VAT) per weaner.
Backgrounding performance & Sparta Tour
A group of about 24 people visited Sparta on 10 October to view the animals that had by now completed their “backgrounding phase” and were in the feedlot proper. Importantly, Danie Botha invited buyers from various livestock auction companies that were also present. Sparta management was very hospitable and gave us a grand tour of their facilities. The tour included viewing of the processing of weaners entering the feedlot for the first time, viewing of animals at various stages of their feedlot life and a look at the complex feed storage and mixing facility. There was a lot of information about the management and performance of feedlot animals, invaluable knowledge for any weaner calf producer. A highlight was viewing their incredible silage bunkers, which have been awarded the best silage quality in South Africa for the last 2 years!
Whilst viewing the Boran weaner pen, we were given data on their performance. During the backgrounding phase, the Boran animals performed at the long-term average of the feedlot in terms of Average Daily Gain (ADG) (1.46 kg per day per animal), but interestingly much better than average on the Feed Conversion Rates (FCR) (1 kg of live mass gain per 4.36 kg of dry mass eaten). When asked which was more important, Mr Tinus Greyling (head buyer for Sparta) emphatically stated that FCR is much more important for the profitability of the feedlot which was very good news for the Boran.
At this point, the Boran group had been in the main feedlot for 55 days and had an ADG of 1.61kg. This was again approximately the average of the feedlot, but not much more could be said as we were not given the FCR and the animals still had a long way to go. It was interesting to note that several of the F2 Boran had done significantly worse in their ADG, but because FCR was not recorded for individual animals and only for the group as a whole, it was not possible to make an informed decision about whether this was good or bad for the overall test result. At some stage a group of purebred Boran will have to be included in the performance test to gain valuable information about their ADG and FCR relative to other breeds and the feedlot averages. All in all though, it was a highly successful day and the data was looking very positive for the Boran.
118 day performance
Another visit was scheduled for 9 December 2015, which was attended by about 25 people. There were many new faces and some who had been on the previous tour. Again, the Sparta management were very kind to give us a tour of the entire feedlot much the same as the previous tour, but this time we got to see our group of Boran crossbred animals in the week before they were to be slaughtered. We also got given more data. The animals were weighed on 8 December after 118 days in the feedlot. The ADG was 1.77, which is excellent and well above the feedlot average. The animals looked very good too and now all we required was the final FCR and the slaughter results to complete the picture. The wait for these final results have been painfully long since we were all so excited to see and analyse the final results!
Final results and slaughter percentages
The final ADG was 1.63 after taking into account the death of 5 animals. The ADG of the group before accounting for fatalities was 1.77 kg per day per animal. Interestingly, one of the animals that died was the poorest performer at the first viewing with an ADG of only 0.18kg per day, but two others had been very good performers with ADG figures of 2.04 and 2.13 respectively. An important reason to continue to pilot the Boran in the feedlot would be to establish whether this number of deaths is a once off or whether the Boran are more susceptible to deaths under feedlot conditions that other breeds.
Overall, this specific group of Boran crossbred animals performed very well in the feedlot environment. Their ADG of 1.63kg gained per animal per day was slightly higher than the feedlot average. Their FCR of 1kg of live weight gained per 4.87kg of dry matter eaten was well above average. The slaughter percentage of 58.83% was also outstanding and the grading of the carcasses was also very good (8 x A3, 68 x A2, 1 x A1).
We can be very happy with these results, but we also need to acknowledge that it is only one group of animals. The quality of the foundation animals undoubtedly plays a role in determining performance. There are huge variances in the quality and performances of animals within the same breed and no bull of any breed will be able to ensure good performance of its offspring in the feedlot when used on poor performing cow herds. We need to continue to run more feedlot pilots and gather much more information to be able to make informed decisions. For now, the good news is that Sparta were very happy with the results, that they were able to make a decent profit from these animals and that, at this stage, there is nothing to indicate that Boran crossbred weaners do not perform in the feedlot!
Like many other parts of the country, Vastrap has been affected by a severe drought this year. By last week the veld was looking very desert-like with no roughage or green shoots for the animals. Things were so bad that we started grazing animals in the road and calling in favours to get extra feed bales from the Cape. Worse than that, most of our earth dams had run dry. In the 16 years on the farm, I cannot remember it ever looking worse. Thankfully, a huge storm rolled through our district on Friday providing massive relief. It will take a week or two for the veld to rejuvenate, but at least there is some water in our dams now.
We were starting to get very worried about the impact of the drought on our annual embryo programme in December given the importance of environmental factors for fertility. Embryo flushing still forms an important part of Vastrap Boran’s breeding strategy. We flush only our best (5-7%) animals and only once a year. Hopefully, the rain has come just in time to salvage this year’s programme.
Flushing enables us to multiply our best genetics, thereby systematically improving our herd more rapidly than natural breeding. It also enables us to test different combinations of cows and bulls and to introduce new bull genetics with bought semen. Although there is some experimentation, 80% of the combinations we use in flushes are ones that have already proven themselves. Below are photos of some of the stunning cows we will be flushing next month.
We enjoyed a fantastic day at the 3rd Vastrap Boran Auction on Friday, 14 August. So much time and effort goes into planning the auction and there is always a lot of stress about how things are going to turn out. It is such a blessing when we wake up to a beautiful, windless blue-sky day and know that there’s nothing more to do but enjoy it. As much as we love our cattle, the people involved with the Boran are very special too and we really enjoy the interaction we have with everyone around the auction. It is wonderful to see people coming back each year, but even better to see new faces and to have the opportunity to build new relationships. We are incredibly grateful for the effort that people make to travel from far to visit our little corner of the Eastern Free State to view and buy our animals. All the hard work really is worth it when the end result is so much fun! Thank you to our partners in the auction, Frontier Borans, Peinke Ranch, Bos Blanco and Heeltevrede Boran Stoetery for contributing to the success of the day.
For a full run-down of auction results please click HERE.