In the Eastern Cape near Dordrecht the winters are cold and long. Combined with sour veld conditions, cattle need to be medium sized and easy doing in order to be productive. That is why the Hereford and Tuli studs of Russell Clark have so much to offer.
The herds are run under the same conditions as commercial herds in the area. Russell says: “Our aim is to breed productive, easy-care animals which calve easily and don’t need to be pampered to produce. Other traits considered by us to be important in order to minimize extra inputs of time include good udders with small teats, well developed eye banks and good pigmentation as well as sound feet and legs. The cattle must be able to finish on the veld but still have enough growth to be acceptable to the feedlots.”
Bulls being prepared for sale are fed a minimal amount of concentrates with the result that poor performers in the group are easily identified and culled.
This policy also simulates a situation where young steers could be finished off the veld or pasture before their first change of teeth to be sold for slaughter just under 2 years of age.
The bulls are put through an extensive phase D test during the summer, supplemented with 1,5 kg per head per day.
In autumn the nutrition is raised to increase their condition so as to ensure enough variation when the bulls are scanned for their carcass traits using RTU ultra sound scanning at 18 months of age. The scanning results are used to eliminate bulls with carcass traits below breed average, as well as in the selection process for new herd sires.
The Hereford herd’s outstanding fertility has been rewarded with numerous ARC/ABSA Herd of the Year awards and has won the Eastern Cape regional award since its inception in 1997.
The National Herd Award has been won in 2000 and 2006.
This year, the KRM Hereford herd had the best inter-calving period of the larger Hereford herds in the country with an average ICP of only 364 days.
The HBH Tuli herd has also been a regional finalist in the Eastern Cape since the herd qualified for the award five years ago. The average inter-calving period for this herd is 379 days.
Asked to sum up the outstanding traits of their Herefords, Russell answers quickly: “Reproduction, docility, finishing ability and carcass quality.”
And for the Tuli cattle: “Calving ease, low input costs, longevity and outstanding eye muscle area per 100 kg carcass mass.”