News Article selected in the Archive of 2012: Hartebeestloop Bonsmara / Namibian Braunvieh UPGRADING SYSTEM
Date: November 2012
It is a fact that crossbreeding is part of the Namibian cattle culture. About 90% of all cattle traded in Namibia (weaners and oxen), are cross bred. Farmers have long ago recognized the advantages of heterosis and complementarity in crossbreeding.
Exactly the same can be done in an open upgrading system. The Bonsmara system is open and any cow from any breed can be used to eventually have full registered (Studbook Proper=SP) Bonsmara progeny.
The diagram below shows the Bonsmara upgrading breeding system. At Hartebeestloop we always encourage new breeders to use their own well adapted commercial herds to upgrade to full registered Bonsmara. It is not that we want to discourage them to buy registered Bonsmara animals, but we believe a combination of the 2 systems is in the best interest of the new breeder and the breed.
Bonsmara upgrading system
Why do we believe in an open upgrading system?
It allows you to make use of well known, excellent characteristics of other breeds to improve any characteristic in your herd, or for that matter, in the Bonsmara breed.
For example, we have a number of SP Braunviehs on the farm and we have noticed that they never show any claw problems. They have been in the Kalahari dunes for generations now and our records do not show any claw problem ever. Claw problems must be the single biggest rejection reason for animals in the sandy parts of Southern Africa. Secondly the Braunvieh is known for excellent maternal (milking) abilities. Compared with cross breeds, the Bonsmara can do with a bit of extra milk to hopefully moderately increase their weaning weights. Moderate is the word, as balance stays very important – we really do not want too much milk. Thirdly, the dual breed Braunvieh carcass is known for packing lots of meat. This could be an additional advantage as our Hartebeestloop bulls are used all over Namibia to produce slaughter oxen for Meatco.
All the above characteristics are important for Hartebeesloop Bonsmaras. More important though is that in a cross breed program, we bring in lots of unrelated genes to the existing Bonsmara gene pool. At Hartebeestloop we have noticed time and time again, that the B and SP female animals that come through the upgrading system, outperform the other animals when it comes to those characteristics that are complimented by heterosis and complementarity.
LEFT: Black Bonsmara/Braunvieh cross heifer RIGHT:Brindle Bonsmara/Braunvieh cross heifer
Hybrid vigor and Complementarity in the Bonsmara breed
There are currently (December 2012) about 151 000 00 Bonsmaras registered with SA Stud Book. With these huge numbers, there should be no problem when it comes to the principle of complementarity in cross breeding. You will always find Bonsmara animals amongst the national herd that will complement the features that you would like to improve.
Hybrid vigor is however a completely different story. During 2012 more than 86% of the active Namibian Bonsmara animals had an average inbreeding of 1,35%. In the South African Bonsmara population the inbreeding is significantly more.
More importantly, is that the percentage of inbreeding in both the Bonsmara populations is increasing every year since 1970 until present.
Inbreeding is the biggest enemy of hybrid vigor! There seems to be little hybrid vigor left in the Bonsmara breed. It is for exactly this reason why all Bonsmara breeders should be encouraged to promote and actively practice the upgrading of the Bonsmara system. It gives us a real opportunity to expand the gene pool and increase both complementarity and hybrid vigor amongst the Bonsmara.
Keeping track of the Bonsmara/Braunvieh upgrading system
The upgrading system works on exactly the same basis as stud breeding.
1. First generation
Start with the 2 best possible animals to mate.
At Hartebeestloop we use the following criteria in selecting the female Braunvieh animals for upgrading:
It must be Studbook Proper (SP) animals registered with the Braunvieh Cattle Breeding Society
All performance records must be up to date at the time of purchase and especially when you begin with the program
Pedigree information complete for the last 3 generations
Current annual Breeding Values available
It must have passed the Hartebeestloop visual appearance assessment which is mostly based on traits that are associated with production efficiency
We specifically use Bonsmara bulls that are unrelated to our current genetic lines. Usually it is a bull calf that we have spotted and bought with the mother. It is common knowledge that Hartebeesloop Bonsmaras only buy females at dispersal sales, national auctions or hand picked out-of-hand.
2. Second Generation
We mate the female off spring at 14 months. In the past, we have bought extensively at different auctions and have managed to use our “own” unrelated genetics on the “upgrade” female animals. Hartebeestloop is now in the market for strong bull calves or unrelated stud potential bulls on a yearly basis.
3. 12 YEARS:
We have estimated that it will take us 12 years with the Braunvieh to establish an “accredited” new Hartebeestloop genetic line. It may take shorter with other breeds but the first Bonsmara/Braunvieh cross has a strong potential to be black. Unfortunately black is a contraindication for acceptance as a basic animal (see photos). There is no rush or quick fix in breeding- you just have to wait it out.
Bonsmara cross cows - Johann Human Farming
Record-Keeping of the Process
At Hartebeestloop we photograph and record the upgrading system in detail – just like the scientific process done by Prof Bonsma with the establishment of the Bonsmara breed.
We let the male Bonsmara/Braunvieh cross breeds grow to 22 months before we ship them to Meatco. It is our plan to enter the Meatco Producer of the Month competition with the next group to see how they will compare with the other oxen slaughtered at Meatco. We are very positive about the Bonsmara/Braunvieh cross breeding and hope to make a statement at the competition.
Project "Upgrading to proper Bonsmara" has stimulated a lot of healthy debate on the farm. The supporters of the Project have a lot to prove! Cross breed animals are constantly compared to the proper Bonsmaras and the onus is always out on who the winner might be!
I believe that part of the huge success of the Bonsmara Breed is based on the open system that allows for upgrading. We should all be part of the future and continued success of the Bonsmara.