Program 2: Global Competitiveness

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

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

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

Animal identification

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)

Nutrition

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

Elements / challenges

P2 Elements for competitiveness through improvement of livestock and forage
ELEMENTS/CHALLENGES OUTCOMES/OUTPUTS INDICATORS
1 Breeding and genetics (including genomics) Increased accuracy of performance testing methods (genomic EBV’s)

Breeding methods to identify adapted animals in different environments (landscape genomics)

Breeding aimed at polledness

Improving reproduction selection methods

Identification of genes or genetic markers related to economically important traits or adaptation

Marker identification and quantitative trait loci (QTL) detection for identification of internal and external parasite resistance/tolerance

Development of affordable genomics technologies to accelerate genetic gain for more profitable production

Increased profitability and sustainability

Properly accepted selection criteria and breeding objectives to accelerate selection response for profitable production

Increased accuracy of performance-testing methods

Liaison with genomics working groups to identify research projects

2 Reproduction efficiency Bull/ram/fertility improvement practices

Maximising weaning percentage practices

Maximising calving/lambing intervals and lifetime production

Behavioural and physiological understanding of climate-related effects such as heat stress on livestock reproductive efficiency and overall productivity

Health and welfare practices to maximise growth and reproductive rates

Increased enterprise profitability and sustainability as a result of improved reproduction
3 Nutrient intake and utilisation Natural veld improvement and cultivated pasture schemes to increase animal production

Feeding practices for grass-fed production systems

Identifying and rectifying mineral imbalances in veld and pastures and evaluate feed additives

Development and evaluation of cost-effective supplement feeding practices

Methods to maximise the use of crop residues

Development of sustainable feedlot feeding practices

Increased enterprise profitability and sustainability
4 Animal identification and traceability Development of an affordable animal identification system

Implementation of a national traceability system

Traceability of animals and animal products
5 Systems approach to livestock production Studies of the whole enterprise and production cycle of animals

Understanding of species’ interaction (including wildlife) in the farming enterprise

Understanding of integrated crop/animal production systems

Decision support systems to assess the impact of selection decisions on the efficiency of the production systems because of the interaction of many economically relevant traits

Sustainable production enterprise through the best allocation of limited resources, fulfilling an important coordination function between the different disciplines of animal production
6. Unlocking the potential of livestock production through technology transfer and training Evaluation and development of technological methods to transfer information to producers Well-planned, accessible, and managed information databases; production manuals; and educational material

Assistance programmes and training for emerging and commercial producers