In this section of the website we feature ALL the articles written by HARTEBEESTLOOP BONSMARAS, mainly from our Bonsmara stud breeding program. In most of the articles we refer to what works for us at Hartebeestloop and how we do things in our Bonsmara stud. We also have articles done by other authors. If we can learn from you, we certainly will publish your work! This is a very comprehensive part of this website and we hope you enjoy reading and learning here!

CONTACT US: JOGGIE BRIEDENHANN +264 81 231 6169 (jbried@joggie.com.na)

Publication selected in the Archive of 2019:
The Game Changer Breed
as we also know it – the “Bonsmara”!
May 2019

Author: Joggie Briedenhann: Hartebeestloop Bonsmaras

If you wonder why all Hartebeestloop animals have genomic profiles or you consider starting with this exciting technology in your herd, please continue reading!

I am in the fortunate position to have experienced the tremendous progress made in many herds, the national herd and the beef cattle industry in general, with the use of BLUP and Estimated Breeding Values.

The constant improvement in genetic prediction methodology has over many years, led to more accurate predictions in the inheritance of certain traits.

Using the latest modern methodology

Like all other farmers, I am constantly searching for methods to improve the profitability and efficiency of my animals. The aim is to more accurately predict the genetic merit of my animals in order to breed better cattle and also practise better cattle breeding.

As an orthodontist, I am not using the same techniques as 25 years ago and neither is the practice’s performance and the patient’s experience the same as 25 years ago. For the same reasons, I would not like my livestock clientele to have the same performance and experience with my cattle, as 25 years ago!


At Hartebeestloop we are well aware of the shortcomings of the current system of selecting animals for economic important traits. Below I have indicated some of the shortcomings and how animals with genomic profiles have positively influenced our business.

  • Accuracy is low on traits that are lowly heritable, but economically very important, like fertility and longevity. We were looking for a more accurate system to predict the potential of a young heifer to become a fertile and high performing cow. The rational is to identify the potential weak performers earlier and remove them from the herd before too much money is spent on them. By introduction genomic profiling and subsequently have more accurate data available on our herd, the majority of selection decisions are currently made at wean already.
  • One of the more significant issues, is the inability to determine, with reasonable accuracy the genetic merit of young animals especially 2 – 3year-old auction bulls with no performance tested progeny. We have, like most breeders experienced the disappointment when the new bull’s EBV’s negatively changed over a relatively short period of time, making it redundant in your herd. It is not just the financial implications but also the fate of the progeny of the bull that most probably do not fit your breeding objectives. As stud breeders, we have experienced both sides of the coin – we bought bulls and also sold bulls like this. We have minimized the risk with greater accuracy of the EBV’s brought about by genomics. We now have 12month old bulls with accuracies of breeding values at the same percentage or better than our 6year old bulls. This is one of the advantages of using animals with genomic profiles compared to animals without genomic profiles.
  • Low, “early” accuracy on traits that can only be accurately determined late in life, like the maternal values of an animal. Genetic progress with the current system of BLUP and EBV’s is slow. It is mainly because of the long generation intervals – just think how long it takes until a bull is regarded as a proven stud sire or a cow as proven exceptional. By using genomic profiled bulls with high accuracy of breeding values at a much younger age, the generation intervals have been shortened. We use younger animals that are better performers than their parents at a much faster rate than in the past.
  • Low, “early” accuracy on traits that can only be accurately determined once the animal is slaughtered like marbling, meat yield and dressing percentage. This is especially important in Namibia where the slaughter market through accredited export abattoirs, is a high premium market. This allows us to stay in the value chain for longer and not exit at weaning. Not every weaner will end up as a high yielding carcass with good meat qualities. Our previous system at Hartebeestloop, regarded all animals as good, unless proven otherwise later in life and, after a significant financial investment. Currently genomics allows us to select early, with high accuracy and proceed with only the best potential calves.
  • Certain traits are expensive to record, like residual feed intake, feed conversion rate and RealTime Ultrasound scanning and are measured by few breeders only. The volumes of performance testing data for these traits are thus limited. Animals must also be in a good to very good condition to obtain the maximum information with RTU. This is an extra expense at a time when we do not necessarily need the animals to be in such good condition. Genomics removes the restriction that you can only accurately predict the value of an animal, if the particular animal was measured for a specific trait. Inclusion of genomic information in breeding value predictions, means for us, accurate breeding values for traits that are not measured on an individual animal. This is a benefit without the expense.
  • EBV’s do not make provision for gender specific inheritance of different traits. The current inheritance estimation of 50% from mother and 50% from father which is used to determine mid-parent breeding values for young animals, is only an assumption. The majority of young bulls on sale catalogues presents with mid-parent values that are in most cases not accurate enough to influence your decision on the genetic merit of the animal. In short, low or average accuracies of breeding values discourage me from bidding on such an animal. For me, one of the most significant advantages of genomics is that it will be known what gene combination a young animal received from its parents, given that the genomic information of both parents is known.

Reference population

The biggest obstacle in the growth of genomics remains the establishment of a large enough reference population to match genotypic information with phenotypes. The Bonsmara will continue to lead, provided that the breeders embrace genomics as another powerful tool to better breeding.

start small (?)

Genomic testing of animals requires a significant financial outlay depending on the number of animals done. My suggestion to breeders is to start small and only do the most influential animals in your herd.

annual process

This is a process that must be repeated annually. This will give you time to study up on the use of genomics and its shortcomings and advantages.

There is no sense in just doing the profiling of your animals if you do not completely understand genomics and how you will use the information to better your herd.

genetic relationships

On a positive note, there will be many actual genetic relationships to your animals in the reference population and many other animals in many other herds will benefit from your participation in genomics and vice versa. We are not doing genomics for our herds only, but also for the benefit of the Bonsmara and all the breeders.

Breeders that introduce genomics into their herds may in future insist on animals with genomic profiles as a pre-requisite before purchase. It is purely a business decision and not a reflection of the quality of the non-genomic tested animals.

what will be the changes?

Breeders should not expect massive changes in the accuracies of the breeding values of the highly heritable traits, but should focus on the low heritable traits that are of high economic importance. The good news is that genomics does not replace performance testing – it enhances the accuracies of the data.

We must continue with performance testing and hopefully in the near future all Bonsmara animals will have Genomic Enriched Breeding values (GEBV’s).

Genomics will not do away with the Bonsmara system of visual inspection for structural correctness and phenotypic efficiency. We need the senior inspectors and the good stockman to maintain the high standards in the breed, continuous training of breeders and mentoring of the newcomers.

the powerful bull-tool!

Genomics is a powerful tool in the hands of the breeder.

Bonsmara is a powerful Breed.


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