Namibian farmers are currently not paid a higher fee for a better carcass. This should not prevent stud breeders from improving carcass quality and meat tenderness on a continuing basis. The market for our beef is the niche markets in South Africa and the high quality markets in Europe and Scandinavia. Meatco is competing in a high end market and our belief is that it is just a matter of time before they will have to compete for a high end product from the farmer as well. It surely is no sound business to pay the same for different quality products.
What are we doing on Hartebeestloop to improve carcass quality, meat tenderness and retail beef yield?
We are currently working very hard on improving retail beef yield as this is one of the more important aspects in increasing the profits for our commercial farmers. The farmer in Namibia is paid for kilograms delivered. The more Hartebeestloop can do to add on meat to the carcass, the better the farmer will do.
|Meat is our business!|
- At Hartebeestloop we use “Realtime” ultrasound scanning because the image can be seen live on the screen as the procedure is performed. Sound waves with frequencies above 20 000 Hertz (ossilations/second) are used to identify different tissues ( for example muscle and fat) based on the variation in tissue densities.
- Rib eye muscle area and fat deposition can be measured to a high degree of accuracy with RTU. These traits are economically important as they are both highly correlated with Retail Beef Yield . Both these traits are also moderately to highly heritable and may be transferred to progeny.
- Realtime Ultrasonic scanning is used at Hartebeestloop to identify those animals that are “better” for the above economic important traits. These animals are used to improve the genetic composition of the Hartebeestloop herd for rib eye muscle area and fat deposition.
- RTU may also be used to assessing marbling in the living animal. It is a subjective assessment only. It is used to estimate the real perfentage fat present in the rib eye muscle. Marbling is moderately heritable. There is a low genetic correlation between marbling and fat deposition – meaning that you can select for better marbling without the animal getting fatter (external fat). At Hartebeestloop we do not currently have selection for marbling high on our list of breeding objectives. There is still a lot of market research to be done before marbling will be added to our list of breeding objectives.
RTU is done when the young bulls are in a good condition (April – May). Usually their condition is so good then that there is enough variation in measurement to allow for proper selection. Bulls are 16 – 18 months old at the time and must be in one contemporary group as selection is very much based on performance in the contemporary group.
RTU’s at Hartebeestloop is part of an ongoing process to improve carcass qualities, meat tenderness and retail beef yield. There is no financial benefits at this stage to select for the aforementioned. We believe that it is important to already now select for and improve the genetic compostion of your herd for these traits. It makes no sense to disregard them now and only get involved once increased premiums are paid for these traits. As a stud breeder, you will miss the boat.
During my years in stud breeding, I have seen many changes in the "demands" of what we should breed. Feedlots may have greater affinity for a spesific breed - breeds may differ amongst the different feedlots. Sometimes they prefer the lighter weaners and other times the heavier weaners. Pure-bred or crossbred weaners. Lighter boned animals to have a more favourable meat-to-bone ratio. Longer animals as they weigh heavier - more meat in the areas of the expensive cuts.
From the Meat Cooperation of Namibia (Meatco)there has been different signals over the years. First was a drive for a heavier carcass at 24 months with a thin (2mm) layer of fat. Nowadays, Meatco does not differentiate in price between very lean (blue) carcassess and 2mm thickness fat covered carcassess.
The point is - do not change your breeding philosophies and objectives every time there is a cry from the "market". Stick to those breeding principles that have proven to you that it is working for your environment. There will always be a market for good quality meat and that is exactly what we must produce.