At Nature’s Mercy

At Nature’s Mercy

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.

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The approaching storm.

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Depleted grazing.

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Refilled dam after the rain.

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BOS 11-167 – a Caesar daughter which I bought from Burnie Staal at the 2014 Showcase Auction, out of the stunning white cow, TLM 03-17.

Savanna MHB 09-13

Savanna MHB 09-13 – a Voorslag daughter out of one of Mollshoop’s matriarch cows, Savanna TLM 00-03 (95-03).  Her sister Savanna MHB 07-16 (Khan) was sold for R130’000 at the 2014 Vastrap Auction.

Savanna MHB 11-57 and her calf.

Savanna MHB 11-57 and her calf. She is a Rustin daughter out of Savanna TLM 07-16 (Khan). One of my most promising 2011 cows. The heifer is by Zed DLV 10-17 (B 04-01).

Jackie MHB 10-07 and calf.

Jackie MHB 10-07 and calf. She is a Voorslag daughter from the Jackie MHB 05-08. Rustin has worked wonders on this combination. I am particularly excited about her current heifer calf (above).

Jackie MHB 09-22 (8)

Jackie MHB 09-22 is certainly one of the stand-out cows currently at Vastrap.  She is a Khan MHB 04-27 daughter and has amazing depth, a stunning feminine wedge and enormous capacity. She is on offer at the 2016 Vastrap Auction.

Jackie MHB 09-22 calf.

Wow, wow, wow – a really stunning heifer from Husky MHB 07-09 out of Jackie MHB 09-22. It would be silly not to flush her with Husky – just look at this result!!

Kelly MHB 09-33

Kelly MHB 09-33 – a natural Voorslag daughter out of the famous Mollshoop matriarch Kelly MHB 04-24 which was sold for R200’000 to B Hurwitz farming at the 2013 Vastrap Auction. The heifer with her is by Griffen MHB 06-24. The Kelly motherline consistently breeds top class animals.

Kelly VST 12-100

Kelly VST 12-100.  One of only two first time callers that I have decided to flush.  She is another natural daughter from the famous Mollshoop matriarch Kelly MHB 04-24, by Goliat. She was in the ring with her mother at the time of the auction and without a doubt my best 2012 heifer.  She is being mated to HVT 95-03.

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Kelly MHB 09-33 (Kelly MHB 04-24 x Voorslag TLM 02-03)

EM 11-127

Bella EM 11-127 – one of my better purchases. She goes back to 1383 & 494 on her motherline and 2738 on the sire side. I am very excited to try Husky, Celsius or Gunner on her. She has one of those fall-in-love temperaments.

3rd Vastrap Auction done and dusted!

3rd Vastrap Auction done and dusted!

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.

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Quentin's new Massey Ferguson tractor - the performance of the tractor and service from OVK their new agent in the Eastern Free State has been magnificent!

Quentin’s new Massey Ferguson tractor – the performance of the tractor and service from OVK their new agent in the Eastern Free State has been magnificent!

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Thank you to Fanie Els (Vleissentraal) and our auctioneer Johan van der Nest for their hard work and support.

Thank you to Fanie Els (Vleissentraal) and our auctioneer Johan van der Nest for their hard work and support.

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Our daughter Livia loving the attention from the Biewenga clan from Gobabis in Namibia!

Our daughter Livia loving the attention from the Biewenga clan from Gobabis in Namibia!

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Our boerboel puppy, Duma was also part of the action!

Our boerboel puppy, Duma was also part of the action!

Quentin in the ring with Beauty MHB 08-17.

Quentin in the ring with Beauty MHB 08-17.

Beautiful 'flowers' once again done by very talented Debbie Johnson!

Beautiful table arrangements once again done by very talented Debbie Johnson!

Hoof trimming demonstration by Jaco de Bruin and Renier from DairySmit.

Hoof trimming demonstration by Jaco de Bruin and Renier de Villiers from Dairy-Smid.

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(Top) Stompie & Elri Olivier, Makena & Mona Scheepers, Werner Steinhobel. (Bottom) Quentin Oosthuizen, Stephen Johnson & Henry Stretton.

(Top) Stompie & Elri Olivier, Makena & Mona Scheepers, Werner Steinhobel. (Bottom) Quentin Oosthuizen, Stephen Johnson & Henry Stretton.

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Guest sellers Wilco du Toit, Nils & Annerie Pieterse from Pratos Borane.

Guest sellers Wilco du Toit, Nils & Annerie Pieterse from Pratos Borane.

Tinus Bessinger, Evan de Jager & Lou de Jager from Groenland Borane.

Tinus Bessinger, Evan de Jager & Lou de Jager from Groenland Borane.

 

Jackie-Khan: the foundation of the Vastrap herd

The two most prominent bloodlines in the Vastrap Boran herd are the Jackie motherline and the Khan sireline. The Jackie’s have been prolific breeders because of their enormous flushing capabilities and excellent fertility. The Jackie’s are obviously close to our hearts, because the very first investment we made in the Boran was the purchase of Jackie MHB 05-08 for R500’000, the year before we acquired the entire Mollshoop herd.

Khan MHB 04-27 (from the Kelly bloodline) is the bull that has made the greatest impact on the Vastrap herd in terms of sheer numbers and quality of his offspring. He was used as the primary sire from 2006 until he was sold in 2013. Khan is a bull with “X-factor” – incredible length of body, depth, muscling and most importantly, he breeds quality. A year after Burnie Staal bought him, he confided that the purchase of Khan made him feel like he had bought 50% of the Vastrap herd. Burnie showed further faith in this combination by purchasing a Khan son out of Jackie MHB 09-20, VST 13-84 for R160’000, the top priced animal at the 2016 Vastrap Auction!

Khan MHB 04-27 (2012)

Khan MHB 04-27 (KPO 786 x ADC 5761).

KHAN MHB 04-27 (Back)

Here you can see the incredible muscling and width on his back.

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The Jackie-Khan combination creates the foundation on which the Vastrap herd is built. Not only is this a combination that yields eye catching and beautiful progeny, but these offspring have themselves gone on to breed fantastically well with a range of different bulls (Rustin, Griffen, Goliat & Ollie). Below are some examples of the quality and impact that the Jackie-Khan offspring have made on the Vastrap herd. What is remarkable is that not one of the Jackie’s shown below is from same Dam, which demonstrates the amazing consistency of this motherline.

Jackie MHB 07-31 (Jackie MHB 05-06 x Khan MHB 04-27).

Jackie MHB 07-31 (Jackie MHB 05-06 x Khan MHB 04-27) – Judged “Champion of the Yard” at the 2015 Boran Expo.

Jackie MHB 08-07 (Jackie MHB 05-12 x Khan MHB 04-27).

Jackie MHB 08-07 (Jackie MHB 05-12 x Khan MHB 04-27) – mother to Jazz MHB 11-15. 

Jackie MHB 09-22 (Jackie MHB 05-10 x Khan MHB 04-27)

Jackie MHB 09-22 (Jackie MHB 05-10 x Khan MHB 04-27) – simply stunning!!

Jackie MHB 12-40 (Jackie MHB 07-32 x Khan MHB 04-27) - granddaughter of Jackie MHB 05-08.

Jackie MHB 12-40 (Jackie MHB 07-32 x Khan MHB 04-27) – granddaughter of Jackie MHB 05-08.

Jazz MHB 11-15 at weaning (MHB 08-07 x Rustin MHB 06-30).

Jazz MHB 11-15 (MHB 08-07 x Rustin MHB 06-30) – looking beautiful at weaning!

Jazz MHB 11-15 (Jackie MHB 08-07 x Rustin MHB 06-30).

Jazz MHB 11-15 (Jackie MHB 08-07 x Rustin MHB 06-30) – a stunning young bull now flying the Boran flag in Zimbabwe. 

VST 13-84: The highest priced animal at the 2016 Vastrap Auction (R160'000).

VST 13-84: The highest priced animal at the 2016 Vastrap Auction sold to Burnie Staal for R160’000.

Blessed by the Boran

Blessed by the Boran

We had a fantastic time at the 2015 National Boran Auction last weekend that was held at the Afridome in Parys. It is always a real pleasure to catch up and socialise with our fellow breeders from around the country and to meet new people interested in the breed. The auction itself went very well. The top priced bull, Rupert LW 09-13, was sold for R230’000 to a Namibian breeder. Several females, both cows and heifers went for between R60’000 and R85’000 with average prices in the range of R35’000 (see Latest Auction Results). We were thrilled to purchase two great animals to join the Vastrap herd. A prospective stud sire, DVB 08-16, whose grandfather is 2738 and on the dam side has 494 and HVT 95-03 (R70’000). We also bought, JH 07-08, which has HVT 95-03 as her grandfather and KPO 791 on her dam side (R35’000).

The biggest surprise for us, was that Vastrap was awarded the Dave Green Memorial trophy for the best managed medium-sized Boran herd in South Africa! We really weren’t expecting any prizes, but it is fantastic to be acknowledged and to know that our work is paying dividends. The award not only celebrates the animals, but also gives credit for good administration and data capturing, which is one of the things we focus a lot of effort on.

The award is based on performance in a number of quantitative indicators. A third of the scoring is for data capturing (birth, weaning, 12 & 18 month weights) and the percentage of bulls that participate in phase D performance tests. Vastrap bulls account for a third of all Boran bulls in Studbook’s official performance tests each year. This data plays a very important role in our selection of bulls for the annual Vastrap Auction, which will be held on 14 August (see 2015 Vastrap Boran Auction).

The rest of the scoring is based on the size of the herd, inter-calving performance, age of first calf of herd and days since last calving. We have been very blessed to have exceptional fertility in our herd over the past year. There are many things one can do to improve performance in this area to achieve consistently good results, but a lot of it is also down to weather and grazing conditions. There is no doubt that we have been blessed and we are extremely grateful to have these wonderful animals in our daily lives.

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Touched by Mother Love

We were so touched by this gentle and loving interaction between Hope MHB 04-11 and her calf by Griffen MHB 06-24, Hope VST 14-92. It’s such a treat when we get to spend some quiet time with our Boran herd taking photos and generally bonding with the cows. Every-day farming is so hectic and Quentin is either rushing to get through working the cattle or bogged down with paper work behind his computer. Being up close with the cows in the veld and seeing their personalities come out is what makes this job really special. Wouldn’t it be nice if we just had more time to relax and enjoy them!

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Learning from the Best

Learning from the Best

Vastrap Boran was very proud to be a part of the inaugural Boran Expo held on 13 March 2015 at Kroonboma. We had such a great time and really believe that this is a fantastic initiative set to become a highlight on the Boran calendar. Not only was it great to network and chat to other breeders in an informal and relaxed setting without the usual nerves and jitters brought on by an auction, but we also learned so much from the judging of the animals by Burnie Staal from Bos Blanco, who is a qualified cattle judge and a cattleman of huge experience and stature. The way he methodically assessed each animal on a set list of criteria was extremely enlightening and it just shows that there is always something new to learn. Some of the animals that we picked as our top three had weaknesses that we initially missed, while others like the cow who was eventually named Champion of the Yard, Jackie MHB 07-31, were significantly underrated by the general audience. Burnie has been a judge at the World Brahman Congress so he certainly knows a good animal when he sees one and we were honoured to have our animals judged by him.

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The day also brought unexpected success for Vastrap, with the winners in each category – best heifer, best young bull, best bull over 3 years old and best cow – all from our genetics! Groenland Borane, who were huge supporters of the 2014 Vastrap Auction, were well rewarded for their support by winning best older bull with Goliat MHB 06-47, best cow and Champion of the Yard with Jackie MHB 07-31 (Jackie MHB 05-06 x Khan MHB 04-27). We could not be prouder of this achievement especially since that Jackie was our personal pick of last year’s auction (see The Jackie Bloodline).

Jackie MHB 07-31 – Judged Best Cow and Champion of the Yard at the 2015 Boran Expo

Goliat MHB 06-47 – Judged Best Bull over 3 years old.

The happy team from Groenland Borane!

The happy team from Groenland Borane!

The winner of the best young bull was Jaguar VST 12-18 (Jackie MHB 05-08 x Co-Jack CI 08-30) who is definitely a rising star at Vastrap! His mother was one of the first cows that we bought for R500’000, a huge gamble that has certainly paid off many fold. The best heifer was Ginger TZ  13-05 (Ginger MHB 06-48 x Khan MHB 04-27) who is the result of an embryo that our neighbour Theo van Zyl (Faurzyl) bought from us. We are extremely proud that our young animals are doing so well!

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Jaguar VST 12-18 (Jackie MHB 05-08 x Co-Jack CI 08-30) – Judged Best Young Bull

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Ginger TZ 13-05 (Faurzyl) – Judged Best Heifer

What one learns very quickly in this game is that there is always something to learn and the best way to do so it to have as much input as possible from outsiders with fresh eyes. It is so easy to overlook mistakes, especially in animals that one has a soft spot for. We are so privileged to have two exceptional stockmen in Stompie Olivier (Hotspot) and Theo van Zyl (Faurzyl) who are part of the team we call in to help us every year with our cattle selection. Oom Theo certainly has a great eye because he picked Ginger TZ 13-05 as his best heifer and personally chose Jaguar VST 12-18 out of a group of 50 bulls as his favourite. He and Stompie have also had huge success in the animals they have bred and selected together, like HOT 13-01 (Bianca HOT 07-08 x Buffel TLM 02-01) who was judged the second best young bull by the breeders at the Expo. The heifer that was placed second, BUL 13-01 (Bullseye Borane), was also Hotspot genetics.

We feel truly blessed and the Expo could not have gone better for us personally. It’s great to know that we’re on the right track and we have renewed energy to keep on improving!

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Burnie Staal with Theo van Zyl from Faurzyl Borane.

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Honoured to be judged by Burnie Staal!

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Burnie Staal with Elrie and Stompie Olivier (Hotspot)

Busy, busy, Boran!

It’s been an incredibly busy two weeks here at Vastrap with non-stop cattle work on the go. We were notified very late that our 2013 heifers and 2012 bulls would be inspected by the Boran Society yesterday. Before animals can be inspected they need to be branded so Quentin took a full three days working 60 bulls and 100 heifers in heatwave conditions! On Friday, Gideon Botha came to do our inspections, which all went very well.

In the meantime, we had booked the vet to do pregnancy tests on all our stud animals, which took a whole morning. Fortunately, we have been blessed with a very good year and a conception rate of 94%, which is well above last year. Nothing has changed in our cattle management so it’s amazing to see how sensitive fertility can be to weather and grazing conditions.

Another morning was taken up by the annual evaluation and grading of our pregnant heifers and 3-year old bulls by our panel of independent breeders: Stompie Olivier, Theo van Zyl and Rikus Stander. They also helped us chose the animals we will take to the Boran Expo at Kroon Boma on 13 March. The selection process for the bulls that will be sold at the 2015 Vastrap Auction is now complete since all the performance testing was done last year. We are very excited to see which bulls make the final cut, with only 15-20 out of an original group of 50 going on sale.

In between all of this we’ve been visited by three different groups of breeders interested in seeing our animals. This is the part of cattle breeding that we love, meeting new people and sharing our passion for the Boran. We were particularly happy to meet CJ van Rhyn and Christo Germishuys of Luca Boran in Mpumalanga for the first time. They came to buy six pregnant 2012 heifers and left with a beautiful parcel of animals. The selection process was open and transparent. We took all of our 2012 heifers and sorted them into age groups and breeding lines. Quentin then removed ten of his favourite heifers that were not for sale. CJ and Christo then had the pick of the rest and in all honesty, there was very little separating the six that they finally chose and the ten that we kept. After spending some quality time with our herds and staying the night with us at Vastrap, they left very happy and satisfied customers.

One of the other visits, by Tinus Bessinger and Evan de Jager of Groenland Borane culminated in the sale of one of our stud sires, Goliat MHB 06-47. It was great to have them visit for two days so that they could thoroughly inspect Goliat’s offspring and the impact he has had on the Vastrap Boran herd. Farewell Goliat, we hope you will work very hard and make a big impression at your new home!

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Six stunning 2012 heifers chosen by Luca Borane.

Six stunning 2012 heifers chosen by Luca Borane.

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Ginger VST 12-31 (Ginger MHB 04-07 x Khan)

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Heading back to Mpumalanga!

Calf rescue!

This is the story of a little Boran bull calf who fell down an aardvark hole and was very lucky to be rescued by Quentin. We’re not sure if other Boran farmers have experienced this too, but we’ve had quite a few incidents of calves falling down holes that they couldn’t get out of, much more than with our other cattle. We have no idea why!

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On this particular day, Quentin went to visit a herd in one of the furthest camps on our farm. It was a beautiful clear afternoon, perfect for taking photos. When he got out the car he could hear an animal bellowing in the distance away from the main herd. He couldn’t see any animals so he ignored it at first, but when the sounds didn’t stop he went to investigate. Eventually he found a very deep aardvark hole in which a calf had got stuck. He had to pull with all his strength to get the calf out and then tried for half an hour to get it to stand. By then the whole herd, including the calf’s mother was crowding round. It was late afternoon so he couldn’t leave the calf in such a state because the jackals would surely get hold of it in the night. In fact, only a week earlier we had seen a jackal calling on the cliff above that camp in broad daylight!

He drove back to get some help and then loaded the calf onto the bakkie and chased the whole herd and their bull, Zed DLV 10-17, closer to home. The calf and its mother were put in a small camp next to our house, but it took a few hours the next morning to get it to stand again. Fortunately this story has a good ending and the calf is now looking much better and drinking greedily from its mother. But it’s scary to think that if Quentin hadn’t driven out to take photos that afternoon it could’ve all ended very differently. Please let us know if anyone else has had similar experiences with Boran calves.

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Daddy’s little cow girl!

Quentin had an opportunity to give our little almost-one-year-old Livia, a proper introduction to our Boran cows today. She’s often seen our herds from the safety of the bakkie and passed them on our daily walks, but today she got up close with her daddy. Boy did she love it! Some of our best cows were together for our annual IVF programme, which is a way to get more offspring from our top animals. We couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity for Livia to meet our herd matriarch Hope MHB 04-11 and her beautiful little heifer calf by our former stud sire Rustin MHB 06-30, who was sold earlier this year. If her shrieks were anything to go by, Livia thought it was all very impressive and entertaining, much to her daddy’s delight!

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Breeding season has begun!

The first rain of the season heralds the start of our cattle breeding season here in the Eastern Free State. After a good long rest over winter, our bulls have all been tested for fertility and STDs and now they are being put to work with the ladies. Here is group of young heifers, mainly from our previous herd sire Rustin MHB 06-30, who have been joined for the first time by one of our stunning young bulls, Zambuca VST 11-01 (Khan MHB 04-27 x Zelma). He is a very exciting prospect who is a strong contender to take over the role of herd sire at Vastrap. He is already on the job – any of you girls keen for a body slammer?!

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