Jackie MHB 05-08 – Tribute to a Herd Matriarch

Jackie MHB 05-08 – Tribute to a Herd Matriarch

It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that I report that Jackie MHB 05-08 was stuck and killed by lightening last night. Jackie has had such a huge impact at Vastrap and her story reflects the journey that I have walked with the Boran.

Jackie MHB 05-08 (K6K 2228 x KPO 786)

It’s probably hard for new Boran breeders to really appreciate the hype and excitement of the heady early days of the establishment of the Boran breed in South Africa. Some of the stories that I’ve heard are stranger than fiction. Because of Jackie MHB 05-08, I have my own story to tell and I would like to share it with you as a tribute to the exceptional herd matriarch that she was.

Shortly after I purchased my first Boran bull at the 2010 National Boran auction, Stompie Olivier and I set off to Kenya in September 2010 to find out first hand about the Boran. I wanted to make sure that the hype of the breed had a concrete basis and wanted to see these animals in their original landscape and learn from the pioneers of the Boran breed in Kenya. We visited and were generously hosted by Giles Prettejohn (Ol Pejeta), Colin Tomlinson (Solio), Jackie Kenyan (Mogwooni), Sean Outram (Sosian) and the late Gilfrid Powys (Suyian, previously Kisima). I can honestly say it was one of the best trips of my life, combining travel, holiday, business, people and cattle in almost perfect balance in the most stunning setting. Marisa and I retraced my steps 5 months later on our honeymoon, which should say it all!

Upon our return, Stompie generously helped me with my first ever flush, with the Vastrap foundation cow, Eve TLM 02-43. This was in November 2010. Unfortunately, she only gave me 3 embryos so I had to buy another 8 embryos at a cost of R7’500 each and still didn’t have enough for my receivers. These embryos cost me R60’000. Our next flush was scheduled for February 2011, but I quickly decided I needed another foundation dam that flushed well in order to make the sums work.

I asked Adriaan Rall to help me find another cow as he had done with the stunning Eve TLM 02-43. He suggested I contact Jacques Moll in Ficksburg. I asked Stompie to go with me to select a suitable animal. Although Stompie had seen Jacques’ animals before, we were blown away by the quality and beauty of the Mollshoop herd. Jacques was a very reluctant seller though and didn’t want to part with any of his top heifers for R100’000.

We came back empty handed. I kept phoning Jacques every few days to ask him to reconsider and asked Adriaan to put in a good word for me. After about two weeks, Jacques came back with the following offer – for R500’000, I could pick any of his cows. What?? – R500’000!!! I was not sure I had heard right. He actually apologized profusely because even to him it sounded like a crazy price, but he honestly thought his top animal and genetics were worth that much. As you might imagine, I was blown away and very disappointed because at that price, I wasn’t going to be able to acquire a single Mollshoop animal.

Back at home, I was restless and agonized over my fate. The positivity of the Kenya trip and the exhilaration and disappointment of my first flush and newfound enthusiasm for the breed had me in twists and turns. I consulted many people, started doing calculations and extrapolations and slowly convinced myself there might be a possibility.

My sums were eventually something like this:

  1. Top cow in the country R250’000
  2. Heifer from top cow – R100’000 (in two years time)
  3. 40 embryos per annum (2 flushes per annum)– R300’000

Put that way, the deal didn’t seem that unrealistic, although comprehensive insurance for a R500’000 cow cost an extra R50’000! I just had one more hurdle to clear. Being very new to stud breeding and new to the Boran breed, I needed a knowledgeable partner particularly to help with decisions around flushing. I asked Stompie if he would consider being a 20% partner so that he could help with the selection of the best animal in the Mollshoop herd and help to maximize the return on my investment with his incredible eye for cattle, technical expertise, and great marketing ability. Fortunately, he agreed and we were in business.

We set a date and went to make our selection. What a tough choice! There were so many top cows to choose from, like Hope MHB 04-11, Kelly MHB 04-24, Cindy MHB 04-06, Jackie MHB 05-08, Jackie MHB 05-06, Ginger MHB 06-48, Ginger MHB 06-46 or Savanna TLM 00-03. Stompie and I eventually decided on Jackie MHB 05-08. Physically there was very little separating the top cows and one could argue this way or that. They all bred very well. In the end we chose Jackie MHB 05-08: she had incredible capacity, a deep feminine wedge and to top it off she was polled and had an excellent flushing record of 13 embryos as an open heifer and 40 on her first flush thereafter. She was also on the point of calving so she would fit into our February 2011 flush date. The deal was done, or so we thought.

Unfortunately, when Jacques had the pregnancy confirmed, she was not going to calf in December, but only in February. This meant that we wouldn’t be able to flush her in February. This almost scuppered the whole deal until we reached an agreement to include two of her daughters in our February flush as compensation for this set-back.

The two years that followed the acquisition of Jackie MHB 05-08 can only be described as beginners luck and a dream come true. The two top quality daughters that we flushed instead of her – Jackie MHB 07-32 (flushed with Khan MHB 04-27) and Jackie MHB 08-08 (flushed with B 04-42) – did extremely well with each giving 16 embryos. At the time top quality embryos were going for R7’500 each, so this was worth R240’000 to us. It was also a golden opportunity to get slightly different genetics into our herd.

Jackie 07-32

Jackie MHB 08-08

On 26 February 2011, Jackie MHB 05-08 gave birth to a bull calf and we flushed her for the first time in July 2011. Picking the perfect match for our new herd matriarch was a process in itself. We visited several farms to look at bulls like Kaptein of Johannes Norval, Mr Million of Stephen Johnson, but eventually decided on Co-Jack CI 08-30 of Circle C. We bought 6 straws on auction at R6’000 per straw. At the same sale Circle C sold a total of 20 straws of Co-Jack semen for R120’000!

After all this we were over the moon when Jackie MHB 05-08 gave us 27 embryos using only 3 of our expensive Co-Jack straws. Two months later in September, we used the other 3 straws and she gave us 21 embryos and two months after that in December, she gave us 20 embryos with Rustin MHB 06-30. This was an incredible outcome beyond our wildest expectations: 68 embryos in her first year in addition to the 32 from her two daughters making it 100 embryos in total for the deal. At R5’000 per embryo, a conservative estimate at the time, we had almost a 100% return on our investment in the first year! We then got Jackie pregnant. She calved in October 2012 and was flushed 4 times in 2013 giving an incredible 99 embryos including 40 in one flush!!

Jackie MHB 05-08 was an embryo-producing machine. She gave us 200 embryos in 9 flushes at an average of 22 embryos per flush. Her greatest value, however, was the consistent quality of her offspring from several different sires.

  • Her full sister Jackie MHB 05-36 was sold for R270’000 at the 2013 Boran Nationals (the top priced female),
  • Her daughter Jackie MHB 08-08 was sold for R150’000 at the same National Auction.
  • Her second daughter Jackie MHB 07-32 was the top priced female at the 2014 Vastrap auction where she sold for R140’000.
  • Two of her daughters were sold for R65’000 each at the 2012 Showcase auction.
  • At the first Vastrap auction an open heifer sired by Co-Jack was sold for R110’000.

The quality of her male offspring was also impressive. She produced Jaguar VST 12-18, which was judged the best young bull at the 2015 Boran Expo and is currently one of the top Vastrap stud sires. His full brother Jester VST 12-20 was sold for R80’000 at the 2015 Vastrap Auction. Another full brother VST 12-06 has done extremely well for Keith Peinke and was the Peinke Ranch main stud sire from 2015 to earlier this year.

While it is very sad to have lost Jackie MHB 05-08, her offspring will continue to have a huge impact on the Vastrap herd. At the start of this year I included one direct daughter Jackie VST 12-04 (Co-Jack) and two granddaughters, namely Jackie VST 12-40 (Jackie MHB 07-32 x Khan MHB 04-27) and Jackie VST 11-33 (Jackie MHB 08-08 x B 04-42) in my annual flush. I only flush 5-8 cows a year so this really shows their quality.

Farewell Jackie, you will be sorely missed here at Vastrap. You have been with us since the very beginning and you helped to put us on the map as breeders of substance. You have left an indelible mark on the Vastrap herd and your spirit will live on through your sons and daughters who will continue to fly the Jackie flag high. May you rest in peace in lush green pastures.

Jackie VST 11-10 (Jackie 07-32 x Khan MHB 04-27)

Jackie HOT 11-14 (Jackie 07-32 x Khan MHB 04-27)

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

Jackie VST 12-40 (Jackie 07-32 x Khan MHB 04-27)

Jackie VST 12-44 (Jackie 08-08 x Griffen MHB 06-24)

Jaguar VST 12-18 (Jackie MHB 05-08 x Co-Jack CI 08-30)

Jester VST 12-20

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)

Introducing our new stud sire, Samurai SS 11-31!

Introducing our new stud sire, Samurai SS 11-31!

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.

Samurai SS 11-31

Samurai SS 11-31 (Dianna SS 06-03 x Kobra SS 08-61).

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.

Savanna TLM 00-03 (Savanna B96-09( ADC 8408) x HVT 95-03 (1603))

Savanna TLM 00-03 (Savanna B96-09( ADC 8408) x HVT 95-03 (1603))

Savanna MHB 07-16 (Savanna TLM 00-03 x Khan MHB 04-27) - The second highest priced cow at the 2014 Vastrap Auction (R130'000)

Savanna MHB 07-16 (Savanna TLM 00-03 x Khan MHB 04-27) – The second highest priced cow at the 2014 Vastrap Auction (R130’000)

Savanna MHB 09-13.(Savanna TLM 00-03 x Voorslag TLM 02-03) - On offer at the 2016 Vastrap Auction!

Savanna MHB 09-13.(Savanna TLM 00-03 x Voorslag TLM 02-03) – On offer at the 2016 Vastrap Auction!

Savanna VST 15-91 (Savanna MHB 09-13 x Griffen MHB 06-24)

Savanna VST 15-91 (Savanna MHB 09-13 x Griffen MHB 06-24)

Savanna MHB 11-57 (Savanna MHB 07-16 X Rustin MHB 06-30).

Savanna MHB 11-57 (Savanna MHB 07-16 X Rustin MHB 06-30).

Savanna VST 15-98 (Savanna MHB 11-57 x Zed DLV 10-17).

Savanna VST 15-98 (Savanna MHB 11-57 x Zed DLV 10-17).

Savanna VST 12-58 (Savanna TLM 00-03 x Rustin MHB 06-30)

Savanna VST 12-58 (Savanna TLM 00-03 x Rustin MHB 06-30)

Savanna VST 15-80 (Savanna VST 12-58 x Zed DLV 10-17).

Savanna VST 15-80 (Savanna VST 12-58 x Zed DLV 10-17).

Savanna VST 12-60 (Savanna MHB 09-13 x Rustin MHB 06-30)

Savanna VST 12-60 (Savanna MHB 09-13 x Rustin MHB 06-30)

Savanna VST 15-54 (Savanna VST 12-60 x Zed DLV 10-17)

Savanna VST 15-54 (Savanna VST 12-60 x Zed DLV 10-17)

Savanna VST 13-124 (Savanna TLM 00-03 x Rustin MHB 06-30)

Savanna VST 13-124 (Savanna TLM 00-03 x Rustin MHB 06-30)

Savanna VST 13-126 (Savanna TLM 00-03 x Rustin MHB 06-30)

Savanna VST 13-126 (Savanna TLM 00-03 x Rustin MHB 06-30)

Savanna VST 13-129 (Savanna TLM 00-03 x Rustin MHB 06-30) - highest priced heifer at the 2016 Showcase Auction (R47'000).

Savanna VST 13-129 (Savanna TLM 00-03 x Rustin MHB 06-30) – highest priced heifer at the 2016 Showcase Auction (R47’000).

Boran resilient through extreme drought

Boran resilient through extreme drought

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.

Vastrap rain

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!
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Group of 2015 weaner calves.

Group of 2015 calves weaned on 29 March 2016.

Jackie VST 12-44 with bull calf by Husky MHB 07-09 (248kg & 64%!)

Jackie VST 12-44 with bull calf by Husky MHB 07-09 (248kg & 64% wean ratio!)

VST 15-58 (Jackie VST 12-40 x Husky MHB 07-09). He was the heaviest bull calf at 261kg on 29 March and a wean ratio of 64%!

VST 15-58 (Jackie VST 12-40 x Husky MHB 07-09). He was the heaviest bull calf at 261kg on 29 March and a wean ratio of 64%!

Jackie MHB 07-09 with bull calf by

Jackie MHB 09-07 with her bull calf (not weaned yet).

Savanna MHB 09-13 with heifer calf by Jazz MHB 11-15.

Savanna MHB 09-13 with heifer calf by Jazz MHB 11-15.

Kelly VST 12-113 with heifer calf (228kg & wean ratio of 58%).

Kelly VST 12-113 with heifer calf (228kg & wean ratio of 58%).

Jackie VST 12-59 with her heifer calf by Zambucca VST 11-01 (230kg & wean ratio of 63%!)

Jackie VST 12-59 with her heifer calf by Zambucca VST 11-01 (230kg & wean ratio of 63%!)

Weaned heifer calves.

Weaned heifer calves.

Crossbred Boran Feedlot Trial with Sparta

Crossbred Boran Feedlot Trial with Sparta

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.

SPARTA Boran weaner feedlot results

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!

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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.

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The white F2 animal (above right) had a particularly good ADG of 1.55 kg/day during backgrounding, 2.44 in the first 55 days and a final of 2.05. The brindle animal (above left) is an example of a F1 that performed well with a final ADG of 1.89 kg/day.

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The Boran crossbred pen at 55 days.

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!

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The two top animals are the same two animals pictured previously at 55 days. The animal facing the camera bottom left, was the best performing animal with a final ADG of 2.35 kg/day. Interestingly, this is a Khan grandson out of a pure Angus cow.

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The Boran crossbred pen at 118 days. Notice the nice width of this particular group.

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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!

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.

Khan MHB 0427

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.