There are few things we get wrong as farmers, and we hardly admit to it. It is not surprising; farmers are - just like most of their animals and crops - hardy individuals that are staunch believers in systems and processes they are accustomed to. If they had not tried it themselves, then it probably doesn’t work.
The general rule in farming however - as in other forms of businesses - is that when one changes a product, a breed or mode of farming, it must be for the better. There is certainly no point in affecting change to your farming operation, yet things remain the same.
This begs the question; why do we crossbreed cattle? What is the point of crossing various breeds? Or aptly put, are indigenous breeds like the Sanga, Indigenous Veld Goat and others really that distasteful to the eye that we are ready to completely change them?
I for one am not a fan of crossbreeding indigenous cattle breeds. Let them be, they are the way they are for a reason. There are surely breeds out there that have been successfully crossed over the years and we have reaped good products from them. The Brahman and Simmental have given us the well rounded Simbra for instance and the latter has eventually come to be a breed on its own. Great move, I say.
But the overall emphasis here should be improvement and not fun. I know of people that are fond of crossbreeding; so fond of this practice that some of their crosses become immaterial as far as improvement of traits is concerned. One of the crosses that has become prominent of late is crossbreeding Nguni cows with Brahman bulls?
The Nguni is a hardy animal that has numerous characteristics that have made it stand the test of time. While you think you are improving the breed, be mindful not to end up diluting its traits that had worked for it over the years.
On the other hand, if you must crossbreed, my experience has taught me that the Brahman is undoubtedly the crossbreeding king. Brahman crossbreeds also perform very well in feedlots, thanks to their drought resistance, parasite resistance and heat tolerance characteristics. These traits enable them to require little effort in terms of keeping them healthy.
The Brahman’s first filial generation produced by different parental breeds is often sought-after as replacement females in herds, thanks to their increased milk yield and higher level of fertility. They also produce larger calves at weaning, have an increased conception rate and a longer reproductive lifespan, enabling her to raise more young.
The Brahman also has earlier sexual maturity, higher conception rates, and higher milk production in cows, increased muscle growth and earlier physical maturity.
So, it makes perfect sense to crossbreed these two, isn’t it? Well, the ball is in your court, or kraal in this case. You decide.
A farmer once remarked that despite their hardiness and excellent foraging and browsing ability, he would never farm with the Indigenous Veld Goat (IVG). His reason? They are not appealing physically. His solution - should he farm with them - was to crossbreed them with the Boergoat for that ‘beauty’ effect and for better carcass weight.
I disagree with such notion. While you might slightly enhance the weight, you will be; losing some vital traits that have made the IVG one of the best drought resistant domestic animal breed. You will be taking away part of its excellent maternal instinct. For what? Beauty? Well, I guess we all see ‘beauty’ differently.
If I had it my way, I would not touch indigenous breeds at all. Let them be. Leave them out of crossbreeding; they are made the way they are for a reason.