WINDHOEK - Namibia’s extended agricultural show calendar for 2019 could suffer due to the threatening drought, and with that the opportunities for stud breeders to exhibit and market their animals.
Namibian breeders have a long tradition of showing or exhibiting animals to determine the phenotypically ‘best’ animal. Apart from the huge financial implications to transport animals to shows and care for them, genetic values are becoming more prominent to improve the performance of herds, and the question arises whether there is still a place for cattle shows.
Registered animal scientist and South African Interbreed Judges Association examiner, Llewellyn Angus, says the Brahman breeders’ societies in Namibia and South Africa offer a good example of how breed societies can effectively combine the showing of animals with an equally important focus on genetics and scientific breeding. He says traditional showing does have its place in the industry, as long as participating breed societies and the commercial beef industry are aware that what is put on display at the show ring is only part of the whole story.
“Breed societies should consider limiting showing in the conventional way, and instead pursue new ways to promote their breeds, including open inspection days, young bull days or non-halter showing. If a society chooses to continue showing, participating breeders should try to select show animals only after a year old so that all traits and weights up to then would be directly comparable in big management groups. “When a society or breeders make showing their first priority, they are forgetting about balancing the breed and its objectives. No breed should be bred for the show ring, but for the farm,” he observes.
Animals must earn money for their breeders. Breeders and buyers put an economic value on animals for two main reasons: their genetic or breeding value (what they can bring in financially in terms of production), as well as their appearance. “An animal’s visual appeal is determined by its structural correctness and functional efficiency, as well as characteristics such as coat colour and shine, masculinity and muscle development, or femininity in the case of females,” says Angus.
“Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs), on the other hand, provide insight about an animal’s genetic value for certain genetic measurable traits such as birthweight, calving ease or weaning weight,” Angus observes.
A question that has long plagued the tradition of showing cattle is whether the best-looking animals, which are crowned winners at shows, are also economically the best to breed with. Phenotype, or what an animal looks like, is a combination of genotype and the environmental factors that the animal has been subjected to. “However, the ‘prettiest’ cow, economically speaking, is not necessarily the one with the most phenotypically correct appearance, but actually the one that weans a good calf each year under normal ranching conditions,” opines Angus, adding that there is no harm in participating in shows as a hobby, but if showing is part of any farmer’s business of breeding productive and efficient cattle, then she/he could be mixing up her/his objectives. A breeder should make use of all the tools at his or her disposal when assessing animals. “Visual assessment for structural correctness and other attributes will always be important, but stud breeders must remember that their bread and butter are the commercial breeders to whom they supply 90 percent or more of their stud bulls, and for these breeders, a bull must move the commercial herds forward in terms of performance,” he concludes.
2019-02-19 10:57:53 6 months ago