COMPETITIVENESS THROUGH IMPROVEMENT OF LIVESTOCK AND FORAGE
(TO IMPROVE SUSTAINABILITY, FOOD SECURITY AND EFFICIENCY OF RESOURCE USE)
It is important that the needs of red meat producers be identified and that research programmes maximise financial gain for the producer. At the same time, scientific advancement must be considered and take place in the whole process.
Efficient cattle and sheep management, reproductive efficiency, animal welfare, parasite control, pasture management and effective use of genetic technologies to increase profitability are the key issues facing producers in South Africa.
This research programme can therefore be defined by the utilisation of the principles of animal nutrition, reproduction efficiency, livestock improvement, disease control, forage and veld management, and economics in order to support profitable animal production by integrating research into farming practice.
It means there is a need for livestock research and development, to think holistically and consider the economic outcome of the research for the producer. The possible focus areas are indicated and described below.
Reproduction is an important basis affecting the economics and profitability of cattle enterprises. It forms the basis of genetic herd improvement, transferring genes from one generation to the next and is central to weaning more calves.
The following aspects must be taken into consideration in cattle and sheep reproduction programmes:
- Bull/ram management - to sire viable progenies in each mating season (including feeding and health practices)
- Cow/ewe management practices to conceive and rear calves/lambs to weaning each season after puberty and rear calves/lambs every year for the rest of her productive life
- Practices for heifers/replacement ewes to achieve target mating weight and condition scores to help realise acceptable calving/lambing intervals and lifetime productivity
- Maximising survival rates and growing weaner calves/lambs and to reach profitable weaning weights
- Health and welfare practices to maximise growth and reproductive rate (developing holistic environment-friendly animal health practices)
Genetics determines the production potential of cattle and sheep. Using the best available genetics allows producers to potentially improve the contribution that cattle/sheep make to enterprise profit. Important profit drivers that are related to animal performance are influenced by the ’genetic makeup’ of a herd.
Consideration in cattle and sheep breeding and genomics technologies programmes should include the following:
- Development of methods to select animals adopted to their environment to improve profitability
- Development of more accurate and affordable genomics technologies to enhance the accuracy of breeding values and accelerate genetic gain for producers to more profitable beef farming enterprises
- Improvement in reproduction breeding values
- Development of affordable DNA and genomics testing methods for breeders and producers to accelerate genetic gain
- Breeding towards poll herds with the use of genomics
- Methods to increase accuracy of performance testing
- Maximising genetic improvement in a beef/sheep breeding enterprise for profitable production
- Development of relevant breeding objectives for cattle, sheep and goats
The following two developments are important:
- Robust and affordable electronic identification and recording technology to allow producers to manage their herds more economically and practically
- A sustainable national animal identification system (integrating the unique stud breeding section’s official identification system with the current general brands identification system, in order to prevent duplication)
In respect of nutrition, the following aspects are important:
- Practices to maximise the use of natural veld in different ecological regions in South Africa within the climate-changing challenge
- Development of grass-fed production systems for cattle and sheep
- Identifying the mineral imbalances in pastures and natural veld and rectifying such imbalances with supplements
- Development of additional feeding systems for seasonal and drought conditions
- Development of practices to maximise the use of crop residues in the different ecological regions
- Development of drought (periods of feed shortages) management practices
- Development of sustainable feedlot practices