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Genetics to boost beef production

High quality bulls are important (© Busani Bafana)
High quality bulls are important
© Busani Bafana

Artificial insemination and embryo transfer techniques are being used to boost beef production among South Africa's smallholder cattle farmers, who cannot break into the commercial market because of poor quality bulls and a low calving rate. The US$3 million project also hopes to save South Africa millions of dollars by reducing beef imports. Agricultural Research Council (ARC) president, Dr. Shadrack Moephuli, says that the project is breaking new ground in helping expand the revenue base of small farmers as well as increasing food security and jobs.

The Nguni Cattle Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) project* will identify fertile cows and stimulate production of eggs in a process called 'super-ovulation'. The cows will then be artificially inseminated and the embryos flushed out from the cow's uterus after a week and frozen before being transported to farms. Farmers will also be trained to observe the cows so that when they are on heat the embryos can be thawed and transplanted.

Cattle from poor communities currently make up 40 per cent of the national herd but contribute only 5 per cent of South Africa's beef production. Furthermore, smallholder farmers have a calving rate of just 40 per cent, compared to 65-85 per cent in the commercial and stud sectors because half of the calves die before they are weaned, compared to just 2 per cent in commercial herds.

Initially launched in Limpopo Province, the project will ultimately cover all of the country's nine provinces. According to ART, 400 bull calves will be produced per province annually, which should lead to roughly 1,275 calves being produced over three years. If these bulls were to be bought on the open market, they would cost about US$6.3 million but the project expects to breed them for less than US$2.5 million over three years.

* ART is a collaboration between the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA)

Written by: Busani Bafana

Date published: February 2012

 

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This is a very good and cost effective method of introducing... (posted by: Grace Jokthan)

 

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