We are always astonished on how much emphasis some potential buyers put on the breeding values as published in the sales catalogue. Bulls will be crossed out just because of one value that is under the breed average – even if it has an accuracy of 25% only! Cattle Breeder Societies should enforce a system where the accuracy of BLUP values and its practical application on the farm should be published in the catalogue. Potential buyers will then realize that any accuracy under 50% for a young bull is of little, if any, importance in practice.
Functional efficiency, hardiness and adaptability are not published in the sales catalogue and BLUP values do not directly reflect these characteristics. Tom Lasater, Beefmaster breeder made this statement many decades ago:
“Livestock should be bred, born, raised, performance tested and sold under the conditions they will produce”.
Under the harsh Namibian conditions it makes no sense to select animals under optimal conditions. Hartebeestloop animals are sold to farmers from all over Southern Africa – and they are expected to perform, reproduce and produce under veld conditions. At Hartebeestloop we learned very quickly that a bull good on paper but short on functional efficiency, hardiness and adaptability is a far bigger risk than a bull good on functional efficiency, hardiness and adaptability but short on paper!
All Hartebeestloop bulls are put through a Veld Bull test as prescribed by Veld Bull Southern Africa (VBSA) under the supervision and guidance of Dr Hannes Dreyer. We would like to think that the Hartebeestloop veld bull test is the “real deal”.
Bulls are kept in a camp of 4000 hectares with only 3 open waters and the test period is 9 months. There is an adaptation period of 3 months from 12 to 15 months. Usually the bulls will enter the test when they are about 15 months old and finish the test at about 24 months of age.
Namibian ox producers market their oxen at about 24 months old to qualify for the maximum premiums at the Meat Corporation of Namibia (Meatco). It is thus important to assess the performance of our bulls until 24 months because their male progeny will be expected to perform well until they are marketed at 24 months old.
We believe in the value of low input genetics. There is enough variation amongst our bulls for the Hartebeestloop veld bull test to act as a selection tool for low input genetics. There are some bulls that just perform much better than others under the exact same conditions. Even when the times are really getting tough,the tough bulls just keep on performing!
We measure the following during the Veld Bull test:
- Average daily gain (weigh the bulls every 2 weeks)
- Veld feed conversion rate (Kleiber index – at the end of test)
- Temperament (assess at the 2 –weekly weighing)
- Condition (3 monthly)
- Muscling (end of test)
- Scrotum size (end of test)
- Coat and skin (3 monthly)
An individual index is calculated for each of the above and are combined and summarized as a Hartebeestloop Veld Bull Economic Index. (ADG 25%, Kleiber 25%, Condition 30%, Muscling 30%, Scrotum 10% and a deduction of 10% each for temperament and coat).
A pelvic score for every bull is also calculated based on pelvic areas measured at the age of 12 months during adaptation period.
Hartebeestloop bulls are unique in the sense that we give a full guarantee on all bulls sold at the annual auction. We are forced to go through the most strenuous performance testing of our bulls to minimize the number of bulls to be refunded or replaced as part of the unconditional Hartebeestloop guarantee.
In all the years we have never replaced any bull that achieved more than a 100 Economic Index as part of the Hartebeestloop Veld Bull test. Veld Bull testing is the most important economic criterion that we base our unconditional Hartebeestloop guarantee on. It saves us money and keeps our clients happy.