Agriculture, or more specifically livestock farming is one of the largest industries in Namibia with huge economic importance. It is therefore important that producers understand the type of animals that are most efficient and most valuable in production. Given Namibia›s arid condition, the challenges for this all-important sector are abundant. It is therefore wise to choose your farming breed carefully to avoid losses.
But what could be classified as a perfect breed? Or simply put, how does one choose such a breed given all these breeds that one has to choose from as a new farmer? Well, my formula is that the ideal breeding cow has to be one that can adapt to these harsh grazing areas of Namibia - or that of your farming area - and be able to reproduce effectively to make a genetic and economic impact on the herd.
The ability of a breeding cow to produce a healthy, live calf each year surpasses the value of all other selection objectives. In other words, it is worth more than growth potential, adaptability or carcass merit. Reproduction is five times more important economically than other production traits, and 10 times more than carcass quality.
Raising beef cattle for profit can be a satisfying enterprise. However, there are a number of management skills that each beef producer should have to be successful. Each livestock enterprise has different resources: land, labour, capital, feed, and management. To raise beef cattle sustainably, you must manage these resources.
In addition to managing resources, new producers must ask themselves, What do I need to get started? This question involves considerations for the type of animals a producer wishes to raise as well as where to find these animals, how to select them, and what equipment will be needed for the operation.
Producers also need to consider how they will feed their animals and what health care practices they will use to keep the animals healthy. Savvy producers will let markets identify the type of animals they should raise in order to generate a profit.
Another important step for a new cattle enterprise is choosing what type of animals to raise. This decision should directly reflect the markets a producer has available to sell beef cattle and consider the resources available on the farm and the producer’s individual goals.
Some farmers choose to breed females to produce calves to sell for breeding stock or market animals. Other producers may prefer to purchase weaned animals, also known as feeders, to raise to market weight.
Farmers should start by determining if they wish to raise purebred or commercial stock. A purebred operation, also referred to as stud farming, typically raises animals of one breed. Often a purebred operation will have all registered animals that can also be sold through purebred sales. A commercial operation may have unregistered purebred animals, or they may have crossbred animals.
Each livestock breed has different traits for which they are recognised. Breed associations can provide information on those traits and help you narrow your decision regarding what breed or breeds fit best with your operation. Beef cattle breeds are often divided into maternal (cow) and terminal (sire) breeds.
Maternal breeds are typically moderately sized and recognised for their ability to raise healthy calves. Terminal breeds are generally a bit larger in size and commonly used for meat production. In addition to these two classifications, composite breeds of cattle also exist.
Composite breeds are cattle breeds that are generally made up of maternal and terminal breeds and often combine genetics for specific environments or markets. While many producers use both maternal and terminal breeds in their systems, composite breeds have been established and are recognised by their pedigree.
More on this next week.