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22 September 2019
PLATFORM2013: Nguni cattle enter the South African beef market: a project underscored by numerous development goals by University of Limpopo Print
Tuesday, 10 December 2013 11:12

University of Limpopo’s article in PLATFORM2013 gives us insight into cross breeding of Nguni cows with angus bulls as a means to increase the ouput of beef cattle in South Africa, highlighting the important role that indigenous livestock can play in Africa.

Researcher: Prof. J W Ng’ambi
Professor of Animal Nutrition | University of Limpopo | South Africa

(Portrait: Vice-Chancellor Prof. N.M. Mokgalong)

“The University of Limpopo’s goal is to become a preeminent university for research, innovation and scholarship with a primary focus on ‘finding solutions for Africa,’” said Vice-Chancellor Prof. N.M. Mokgalong, while discussing Research Uptake at the University of Limpopo. The University commits itself to the research capacity development principles and goals of the Government Research Development Strategy. The four priority areas in the University’s strategic plan are directly aligned and linked to the five existing national priorities. The Nguni project and related research respond directly to national priorities, namely those of rural development, improved food security and land reform, and creation of jobs and sustainable livelihoods.

Cattle in context
Cattle are economically, nutritionally and culturally very important in South Africa. They play a vital role in ensuring food security of households in rural areas. In times of trouble, such as crop failure or family illness, cattle can be sold and food or medicine purchased. However, there are many physical, economic, social and political constraints to developing cattle in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Africa in particular. The majority of cattle in rural areas of South Africa rely on communal grazing systems, and increasing population pressure is limiting free grazing, making feed availability and quality major constraints to livestock production. Other issues for cattle farmers include access to reliable and affordable support services that offer knowledge, credit and other financial services. Thus, developing cattle potential requires a coordinated and multi-functional approach. Strategies must aim at increasing livestock productivity through nutrition, management and breeding improvements, and adding value to livestock products. They should also include linking beef producers to domestic and international markets. In such strategies, government must play an effective facilitating role, providing both supportive legislation and investment in rural infrastructure.

Limpopo IDC Nguni Cattle Development Trust
One such strategy is an initiative to upgrade cattle in rural areas of Limpopo province to Nguni cattle-breed status through the reintroduction of the indigenous Nguni bloodlines. Indigenous Nguni cattle have been recognised as being particularly well-suited to the conditions prevalent in the larger areas of South Africa due to their adaptability to environmental conditions, tolerance of tick-borne diseases and parasites, as well as their traditional role in the local history and culture.

This Nguni cattle initiative, based at University of Limpopo and begun in 2007, is a partnership between the Industrial Development Cooperation (IDC), the Limpopo Department of Agriculture and the University of Limpopo, and is implemented through the Limpopo IDC Nguni Cattle Development Trust (Trust). It involves a cattle loan scheme project whereby 30 pregnant Nguni cows and one bull are loaned to a farmer or farming community on the terms that the cattle loan recipient shall return the same number of pregnant heifers and a bull as progenies of the initial herd to the Trust within a five-year period.

The project has been largely successful, with many farmers benefiting from the scheme. However, a major and anticipated problem was that the farmers were not going to be able to sell their steers to feedlot companies as Nguni steers don’t do well under feedlot conditions. A number of studies were initiated to try and find a solution to this barrier.

Terminal cross-breeding to improve Nguni cattle production
Terminal cross-breeding of Angus bulls with small indigenous Nguni cows has the potential to improve the outputs of beef cattle farming. Two-thirds of the herd can be utilised for terminal cross- breeding (all cross-bred progenies are slaughtered) whereas one-third is reserved for maintaining the purebred population. The current research is a collaboration of the University of Limpopo, Agricultural Research Council, Northern Cape Department of Agriculture, Limpopo Department of Agriculture and the Department of Land Reform and Rural Development. The aim of the research was to evaluate the 205-day adjusted weaning weight, and post-weaning daily gain and feed conversion ratio of cross-breeds of Nguni cows with Angus bulls. The female Nguni cattle, the smallest beef breed in South Africa, were inseminated with Angus semen. The same semen was also used to produce the pure-bred Angus cattle. The cross-bred progeny were compared to pure-breds sired by the same bull and to pure-bred Nguni cattle from the same herd. Results indicated that calving difficulties were limited and birth weights were restricted to the mid-parent value or below. Cross-breeding did not have a negative effect on cow performance (such as weight change and fertility), and cow productivity actually increased. In most cases the weaning weight of cross-bred calves was the same, or exceeded that, of the pure sire breed, and the feed conversion ratio was better than either of the two parent breeds. This made the feedlot performance of the cross-breds highly desirable. These results are not yet published, but are an early indication that terminal cross-breeding with indigenous Nguni cattle deserves more attention as a means of increasing the output of beef cattle in South Africa. An added advantage of terminal cross-breeding is that the conservation and utilisation of the Nguni breed is ensured, because a constant stream of pure-bred females will be required.

Commercial sustainability
Based on the initial breeding results, Pick n Pay (a large retail company) agreed to sell the terminal cross-breeds as certified Angus beef. The first cross-breeds were sold to the feedlot companies in June 2013. The performance of the animals and their meat characteristics are being monitored by the Trust and the results so far are encouraging. It is hoped that these results will be published in 2014. The most important milestone of the Nguni/Angus cattle research is that the farmers have now been granted access to the South African beef market. This is a previously unimaginable opportunity for the rural Nguni cattle farmer.

Join the Research Uptake Conversation

If this piece of evidence-based development research from SSA is of use to you, please continue the Research Uptake Conversation by contacting the University of Limpopo.

Website: www.ul.ac.za

DRUSSA Research Uptake Leader at University of Limpopo
Prof. Mbudzeni Sibara
Deputy Vice-Chancellor
Academic and Research
mbudzeni.sibara@ul.ac.za

DRUSSA Research Uptake Champion at University of Limpopo
Prof. Naftali Medoti Mollel
Professor and Director
Rural Development and Innovation Hub
naftali.mollel@ul.ac.za

Researcher and article writer:
Prof. J W Ng’ambi
Professor of Animal Nutrition
jones.ngambi@ul.ac.za

 

Read this article on pages 30 and 31 of PLATFORM2013 – a print and digital publication from the DRUSSA Universities in Sub-Saharan Africa [SSA] – aimed at accessibly communicating evidence-based development research with the goal of deepening its reach and impact in the region. 

Follow the PLATFORM2013 blog campaign daily until 16 January 2014. You’ll find the blog schedule on PLATFORM2013 articles from the DRUSSA Universities here

 

Twitter @DRUSSAfrica #PLATFORM2013 #ResearchUptake (Tweet about this on your twitter account)

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