Extensive growth testing

There will always be some debate on under what conditions the growth of cattle should be tested. At Hartebeestloop we have followed the advice from Tom Lasater who stated that:

“Livestock should be bred, born, raised, performance tested and sold under the conditions they will produce.”

There is also some debate on the merits of Growth Tests (Phase C tests under intensive conditions and Phase D tests on the farm), as prescribed by the National Beef Recording and Improvement Scheme of the Agricultural Research Centre or rather a Veld Bull test as recommended by Veld Bull Southern Africa (VBSA). There are surely good merits in both the testing systems and there are valuable data to obtain from both systems. It took us some time at Hartebeestloop to work out a proper method of running the 2 testing systems simultaneously and maximise the data obtained from the 2 systems.

Today we are in the position that we publish both the performances of the animals during the extensive Phase D Growth Test (270 days) and the Veld Bull Southern Africa test in our auction catalogue. Prospective buyers have different requirements and ideas on what they want in a bull. We provide them with the data from both tests and they can decide. We are available to help them with interpretation of the data and also our opinions on what bull will meet their requirements best. In our experience we have found that the extensive Growth test does measure some adaptability characteristics. The Veld Bull Southern Africa test, is however tops when it comes to measuring adaptability and hardiness.

Bulls tested under extensive conditions
Bulls tested under extensive conditions
  • It is imperative for the long term good of the beef cattle industry to subject all bulls to a growth test. A certain number of grams per day increase (average daily gain) in weight are necessary to farm economically viable. It makes no difference if it is pre-wean in a weaner production system or post- wean in an ox production system.
  • The bull genetics make up 50% of the progeny and it makes sense to have the bull growth tested.
  • Any method of growth testing is worth more than not doing a growth test at all.
  • It seems that growth testing under extensive veld conditions is more valuable for the Namibian farmer. The progeny of a bull should perform under normal veld conditions in Namibia – be it the heifers that are used as replacement female animals, cows with calves in a weaner production system or ox production straight from the veld.
  • Too few bulls from different breeds are growth tested in Namibia and it does not bode well for the commercial farmer that is dependent on a certain amount of growth of his animals to maximize profit
  • Our policy is never to sell a bull that was not officially growth tested under extensive farming conditions.

Through the years we have also culled all the heifers that have shown extremely poor growth during the pre-weaning and post-weaning periods. At Hartebeestloop we manage a unofficial extensive growth test on the veld for our heifers. All heifers that present with an average daily gain of less than 250 grams/day from weaning until 14 months (7 month period) are culled.

We believe that Hartebeestloop animals should growth on average 500 grams per day. Hartebeestloop bulls are medium framed with above average daily gain. If we do a simple calculation of “Hartebeestloop mid-parent BLUP values” for average daily gain and our worst performing females are 250 grams/day we need to mate them with bulls averaging 750 grams/day to reach the 500 grams average daily gain for the off-spring. We are very successful in breeding medium framed bulls that grow between 700 – 800 grams per day over a 9 month growth test period under extensive veld conditions. It will produce progeny that have the ability to average 500 grams per day from “middle of the road” average cows.

Experience has shown us that this is the exact right type of animal that performs well under Namibian conditions – from the veld with only strategic lick supplement.

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