Vastrap team visit to Sparta

Vastrap team visit to Sparta

At Vastrap we believe a motivated and happy workforce is essential to the success of our business. We currently employ about 22 people who live on the farm with their families. Every couple of years we like to take the team on an outing to get them off the farm and share new experiences (see Farm team fun with Clarence X-Treme; Close encounter with lions; Celebrating the World Cup!). This year we took the team on a tour of Sparta Beef in Marquard. We thought it would be interesting for everyone to learn more about the meat production chain in South Africa and how we as farmers fit into it. Not only do many of our weaners end up at feedlots like Sparta, but the grain we produce is also a key input in the production of beef.

The set-up at Sparta is very impressive with massive investment in infrastructure and equipment. It really is quite something to see! Our guide, Daniel, took us through the whole process from when the animals first arrive, to the sorting pens, feeding lots, working pens, silage bunkers, feed storage and mechanics workshops. The amount of heavy equipment they have is truly incredible and the silage bunkers are huge!! After the tour we enjoyed a lunch at the Sparta Polo club which has beautiful views overlooking Marquard. To end off the day, Quentin handed out awards for Long Service (5, 10, 15, 20, 25 & 30 years); Excellent Workmanship; 100% Attendance; Extra Effort and Retirement. Over the years our staff have been incredibly loyal to us. This year Francis Koetle celebrated 30 years of service and will receive a pregnant heifer cow as thanks. Thabiso Rasoeu has retired after an amazing 37 years of service and he started working when Quentin’s father, Bill was still farming!

A huge thank you to Sparta for hosting us. A great day was had by all!

5 Years of Service: Lehlohonolo Motsetse; Mpho Jack; Teboho Nkoli

10 Years of Service: Khopiso Motake; Teboho Mahase; Daniel Ntsau; Andre Scheepers

15 Years of Service: Mokete Rasoeu

20 Years of Service: Sani Motsetse

30 Years of Service: Francis Koetle

Excellent Workmanship: Francis Koetle; Lehlohonolo Motsetse; Tshidiso Jack; Andre Scheepers; Tseliso Koetle

100% Attendance: Daniel Ntsau; Tseliso Koetle; Sabata Khatlako; Francis Koetle

Extra Effort: Teboho Mahase; Tseliso Koetle; Tshidiso Jack

Retirement: Rahaba Ntshasa (27 years of service); Thabiso Rasoeu (37 years of service); Abraham Khatlako (22 years of service)

2017 Vastrap Auction: Farewell Mollshoop

2017 Vastrap Auction: Farewell Mollshoop

Thank you to everyone who supported the 2017 Vastrap Auction on Friday, 18 August. In many ways it was an emotional day for us as we bid farewell to the last remaining Mollshoop Boran cows that were the founding matriarchs of the Vastrap herd. Our Boran journey started with these cows and we have them to thank for the consistent quality and character of the Vastrap herd today. We bid farewell to the Mollshoop Jackies, Roses, Odettes, Hopes, Savannas et al and happily start afresh with their Vastrap (VST) offspring still carrying their names. We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome as the results on the day surpassed our expectations!

This was our 5th auction and without a doubt the most smoothly run, thanks to the great service we received from the whole team at OVK/CMW led by Johan Scholtz and Paul van Biljon. From the marketing, the setting up, the auction logistics through to the loading and administration, we continuously felt a sense of comfort that everything was being run efficiently and professionally. We would like to extend a huge thank you to all the OVK/CMW staff. We can wholeheartedly recommend OVK/CMW service to anyone thinking of holding a livestock auction. Thank you also to Johan van der Nest for bringing his A-game and lifting the auction with his usual unique style!

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, not only from the stud industry.

We are proud to be associated with all our guest sellers (Peinke Ranch, Pratos Borane and Heeltevrede Stoetery) who offered exceptional quality animals that did very well on the day. Huge congratulations to Peinke Ranch for having the highest price cow and bull on the day – Shakira PRB 14-21 (R205’000) and Leika PRB 14-18 (R140’000).

2017 Vastrap Auction Results
  Average Price Highest Price
All Bulls (17) R43 000 R140 000
Cows (25) R65 000 R205 000
Heifers (6) R34 000 R55 000

The average price of commercial pregnant cows was about R16’000.

Shakira PRB-14-21 sold for R205’000 to Damina Roberts.

Naledi MHB 11-52 sold for R140’000 to Rory Kockott KKT Boran.

Xany MHB 11-33 sold for R90’000 to Dr Ben Spies.

Rose MHB 06-03 sold for R85’000 to Peinke Ranch.

Jackie MHB 07-29 sold for R80’000 to Frontier Borans.

PRB 14-18 sold for R140’000 to Rohan & Dylan Meintjies Sterkfontein Borane.

Kingston VST 12-28 sold for R60’000 to Ockert Werner Model Borane.

VST 14-34 sold for R50’000 to Ockert Werner Model Borane.

PT 14-21 sold for R55’000 to Dr Ben Spies.

The importance of accurate EBVs in animal selection

In this blog I would like to focus on Estimated Breeding Values (EBV’s) and why are they so important. In particular, how can EBVs be used to help pick which animals to buy in order to build or improve one’s herd. The main point I would like to make is that EBVs supply crucial decision-making information to a buyer, but they are only as useful as the data used to calculate them. It is important to bear in mind that the EBVs published in an auction catalogue do not indicate whether the breeder participates in the National Beef recording and Improvement scheme or how accurate the particular set of EBVs are (i.e. what data on the individual animal has actually been captured rather than inferred). As you will see below, we are doing everything we can at Vastrap to make sure the EBVs in our sale catalogue are meaningful and can be used as an extra tool to select the right animal for your herd.

Unpacking EBVs

Basically, when one buys a stud animal, there are three ways in which to judge the potential value of that animal to your stud. Firstly, one can look at the parentage or genotype (hence the importance of doing proper DNA parentage verification see The importance of  parentage verification through DNA testing), secondly one can look at build or phenotype and lastly one can use EBVs. In rare cases one is able to look at progeny when buying older animals. While parentage and sound functional physical attributes like muscling, leg structure, udder conformation and teat quality will always play a very important role, EBV’s can be used to complement visual screening to select animals. There are several individual EBV’s that allow a breeder to come to an informed decision about what the animal in question can offer the breeder beyond good looks.

All EBV’s are expressed as an index where 100 is the average. Where an animal’s index is below 100, then it has faired poorer than the breed average, while an index above 100 means it has faired better.

I will briefly discuss the individual EBVs below.

  1. Birth EBV – One wants animals that have smaller or lighter calves. This EBV serves as an indication of whether this animal will produce smaller/lighter or bigger/heavier calves. An index of over 100 will mean better than average and equate to a better chance of below average birth weight. This EBV is broken into two categories: the animal’s own birth weight EBV (Direct) and the maternal EBV.  The data that feeds into these EBVs are recorded birth weights of calves born. If one has a calving problem in your herd, one would look to buy a bull with a high calving ease EBV index (i.e. low birth weights)
  2. Calf Growth and Milk EBVs – These values are calculated using the data gathered from wean weights, the mother’s weight at weaning, 12 month weights and 18 month weights as well as the phase-D growth performance testing of bulls which is more accurate than just 12 and 18 month weights and also includes other important data points. Generally a growth and milk index above 100 is very desirable, though like all things in life some balance must be kept. Milk and fertility generally have an inverse relationship and so does growth and calving ease. If one were predominantly a weaner producer, then one would want higher milk and higher growth.
  3. Fertility EBV – The fertility EBV is made of two sub components namely the age at first calf (AFC) and inter-calf period (ICP). Obviously, one wants an animal that has the ability to calve first amongst her peer group and that calves regularly, preferably once a year. An index above 100 is an indication that the animal is more fertile than the breed average and this is based on the past performance of the family members of the animal in question. Milk and fertility often are inversely correlated (the more cow gives to a calf the less likely she is to fall pregnant again), so while one wants the most fertile herd possible, one should avoid negatively influencing the herd milk values in this pursuit.
  4. Cow Weight EBV – The cow weight EBV is made up of the 18 month EBV and adult weight EBV. A heavier animal at 18 months and as an adult has an index of above 100, while smaller animals have indexes low 100. The combined indexes are then used to derive a cow maintenance index, which is inversely proportional to the cow weight indexes, since a smaller cow is deemed to have a lower maintenance value. In harsher environments one would want smaller cows to reduce the maintenance factor.
  5. Cow Value EBV – This is an accumulation of the individual EBV indexes and uses a formula using different weights of importance for the individual EBVs to give an indication of the value of the cow. Personally, I am of the opinion that individual breeders have different needs and therefore place different emphasis on individual EBVs. A breeder should rather look at the individual EBVs to see what is needed in their herd than to rely on a set formula that does not take into account different environments and individual preferences.

EBVs and data collection

Our main purpose in writing this blog is to underline the importance of thorough record keeping and the supply of accurate performance data to the National Beef recording and Improvement scheme. The EBVs supply crucial decision-making information to a buyer, but they are only as useful as the data used to calculate them. It is important to bear in mind that the EBVs published in an auction catalogue do not indicate whether the breeder participates in the beef improvement scheme or how accurate the particular set of EBVs are. One can only judge this by looking at the production data on Logix (Live Stock Information and Genetic Information Exchange) to see whether any weights have been captured.

In the Boran industry, the number of breeders participating in the National Beef recording and Improvement Scheme and performance testing is still low. I am often disappointed to see that animals in which I have a strong interest at auctions do not have a single measured data point – no birth weight, no wean weight, no mother weight at weaning and certainly no 12 or 18 month weight. Without this data, no meaningful insight can be drawn about the potential future performance of the animal and one only has genetics and physical attributes on which to make a decision.

Since buying the Mollshoop Boran stud in 2011, our policy at Vastrap Boran has been to collect as accurate data as possible on every single animal, including birth weight, wean weight and the mother’s weight at weaning. We also collect 12 month and 18 month weights. In addition, since 2011 Vastrap has put 95% of its bull calves through the Studbook administered phase-D veld performance test, which provides additional important information such as testes development, muscling, meat yield and marbling to name a few (see Bull Selection and Performance Testing). Vastrap alone has contributed over 35% of all the recorded phase-D bulls tested in the Boran stud industry.

We can therefore assure you that the EBVs of Vastrap animals, even those older ones where their individual performance data was not measured, is as accurate as it can be. You can rely on the EBVs of Vastrap animals published in the Vastrap Auction sale catalogue and these EBV will provide you with an extra tool to assess the animals you like, over and above build, looks and parentage. This should help you to make a more informed decision about which animals will fit into your herd.

Below are examples of the production data and EVBs drawn from Logix for Jackie VST 12-04, and one of our three-year old bulls that went through performance testing VST 14-84. The first column of data shows all the data on the animal that has actually been measured. This data is important for the animal’s parents and their progeny, who will have EBVs based on the performance of their parents until they get their own data.

Jackie VST 12-04 (Jackie MHB 05-08 x Co-Jack CI 08-30)

Vastrap Auction Bulls

Vastrap Auction Bulls

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.

Gumboots and raincoats at the 2016 Vastrap Auction!

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.

2016-08-21_0001 2016-08-21_0002 2016-08-21_0003 2016-08-21_0004 2016-08-21_0005 2016-08-21_0006 2016-08-21_0007 2016-08-21_0008 2016-08-21_0009 2016-08-21_0010 2016-08-21_0011 2016-08-21_0012 2016-08-21_0013 2016-08-21_0014 2016-08-21_0015 2016-08-21_0016 2016-08-21_0017 2016-08-21_0018 2016-08-21_0019 2016-08-21_0020 2016-08-21_0021 2016-08-21_0022 2016-08-21_0023 2016-08-21_0024 2016-08-21_0025 2016-08-21_0026 2016-08-21_0027 2016-08-21_0028 2016-08-21_0029 2016-08-21_0030 2016-08-21_0031 2016-08-21_0032 2016-08-21_0033 2016-08-21_0034 2016-08-21_0035 2016-08-21_0036 2016-08-21_0037 2016-08-21_0038 2016-08-21_0039 2016-08-21_0040

 

The importance of parentage verification through DNA testing

The importance of parentage verification through DNA testing

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.

VST 13-102

Sale check listScreen Shot 2016-08-13 at 5.39.14 PM DNA bulls