Riana de Beer, a Beefmaster breeder in the Senekal district in the Free State, runs the the Quardsen Beefmaster stud on veld and says that selecting for the Six Essentials makes the breed profitable under any farming conditions.
Riana de Beer, a Beefmaster breeder in the Senekal district in the Free State, manages the the Quardsen Beefmaster stud and says that stud farmers should manage their herds as if they were commercial herds. “Focus attention on traits that are directly linked to herd profitability for future success, and apply strict selection for the traits that are needed in an extensive veld based system,” she says. “The breeding objectives of the breed and your stud, in particular, can ensure that the required genetics are kept in the herd and also included in the breeding stock sold from the herd.” De Beer explains that many stud breeding programmes are packed with ambitious objectives.
‘BY ELIMINATING POOR PERFORMING COWS, THE CALF GROWTH RATE IS CONSTANTLY BEING IMPROVED ACROSS THE HERD’
However, the more objectives included in a breeding programme, the slower the progress made in any particular trait. “All too often, visual appearance as a breed objective clouds progress in the profitable traits. Simple and accurate pursuance of the profit drivers over an extended period of time brings true progress,” she says. De Beer started farming Beefmasters in 1999 and officially registered her stud in 2003. The name Quardsen is derived from the locality of the farm on the border of the magisterial districts of Marquard and Senekal. She says that Quardsen Beefmasters is totally committed to Beefmaster founder Tom Lasater’s philosophy on cattle raising, and is also committed to accurate scientific record keeping. “Quardsen’s breeding practices have proven to be successful over the years, with the inter-calving period [ICP] of the herd being an average 369 days, with a conception percentage of 95%. The cow-to-calf ratio is approaching 50%,” she says. According to Lasater, ‘A good cow is a cow that weans a good calf every year’.
This is one of the principles applied in the Quardsen stud. “If a cow doesn’t produce a calf, she gets culled. There are no second chances; if more than 95% of the herd can produce, a cow has no excuse not to. I believe that this practice increases the fertility and adaptability of the herd. “In addition to this prerequisite, the cow must wean a good calf. By eliminating the poor performers, the calf growth rate is constantly improved. Good growers out of fertile female animals makes perfect economic sense,” De Beer says. All of De Beer’s stud animals are run on natural veld. “We use a rotational grazing programme, where the grazing is split into three. One third is utilised during the growing season, one third during winter and one third during spring. During winter, the animals receive a maintenance protein lick, and a phosphate lick during summer. The herd is run on extensive conditions to ensure that genetics for favourable production are identified and selected for.”
The focused selection of Beefmaster breeders over the past 80 years ensures that the Beefmaster is very competitive compared with other beef breeds, says De Beer. “Birthweight, excellent weaning weights, and other economic relevant points such as average daily gain, ICP and exceptional cow-to-calf ratios have earned the Beefmaster true legendary status. The use of Beefmaster genetics for any commercial herd makes good long-term sense,” she says.
The Beefmaster is a dual-purpose breed, which means that the breed blends strong maternal traits with excellent growth and carcass abilities. The cattle demonstrate heat-, cold-, drought- and insect-resistance. They are moderate in size. “The female animals are excellent mothers, raising a heavy calf each year, and the bulls are aggressive breeders. Beefmasters are calm, gentle cattle that are truly a pleasure to work with,” says De Beer.
Lasater’s Six Essentials, the founding selection principles on which the breed was formed, differentiates the Beefmaster from other breeds, explains De Beer. These essentials include disposition, fertility, weight, conformation, hardiness and milk production. Lasater said that you should select for cattle based on these six traits of economic relevance only, to the exclusion of many other traits that other breeds have expended genetic energy on, such as colour pattern, horns and height, amongst others. “This unique approach is why Beefmasters are known by the slogan ‘the profit breed’,” says De Beer.
Beef expert Dr Robert Wells lists 10 fundamentals to secure profitability in a beef herd:
These fundamentals are also applied in Quardsen Beefmasters’ breeding philosophy.
The herd has been subjected to full reporting for years, and selection in the herd is based on performance. The herd’s indices are exceptional. Even considering drought years, the long-term averages of the Quardsen herd are as follows: average birthweight of 36kg; average weaning weight of 252kg (up to 285kg for bull calves); average age at first calving of 31 months; and an average ICP of 369 days. These figures are particularly impressive as the stud is run on veld.
Quardsen Beefmaster will hold its 13th annual production sale on 22 July 2021.
Phone Riana de Beer on 082 770 2757, or the Beefmaster Cattle Breeders’ Society of South Africa on 083 417 7047.