Gelykfontein, Nguni Cattle
Gelykfontein’s biggest operation are the Nguni Cattle Stud off an average of 600 cattle. Schalk were the first farmer in the region to acquire Nguni Cattle 36 years ago, establishing his herd in 1983. He was tired of struggling with breeds that are not suited for the region, especially in droughts and had to be fed!
At that stage no Nguni Association existed. Schalk bought eight cows and a bull in KwaZulu-Natal from Keppie Moolman, who bought it from Zulu Farmers. In the next five years Keppie helped Schalk to select and buy more Nguni Cattle from the Makhathini Region in KwaZulu-Natal. The cattle were tested for diseases and transported to the Karoo. In the meantime the Nguni Association were formed in 1986, and Schalk could start registering his cattle.
CHARACTERISTICS OF OUR NGUNI CATTLE:
- Exceptional fertility under harsh conditions
- Early sexual maturity, particularly in heifers
- Good foraging ability
- Browse and Graze
- Good walking abilities
- Resistance to ticks and tick-borne diseases
- Heat Tolerance
- Ease of Calving and good Mother ability
- Placid Temperament
He was the first Karoo farmer to start breeding Nguni Cattle, because they can produce meat straight of the veld at the lowest cost. Feeding lots are impressed with the Nguni Cattle’s performance. Bulls and heifers are bred in the stud itself, but occasionally bulls are bought from other breeders for different breeding lines. Only 30% of the bull calves are selected and kept for stud purposes, the remaining 70% are sold as weanlings straight off the veld.
The cattle with the best skins are kept until 18 months old, to acquire the optimum hide quality. That means a double income, for meat at an average of R3000 per carcass and a treated skin at an average of R3000 each. The better quality hide and more sought after colour patters, the prices go far beyond the average! Exceptional skins are used by Schalk’s wife, Christa, to make furniture specializing in ottomans, as well as handbags, cushions and waist coats. Skins are also available.
The 30% bulls selected by Schalk, consists of stud bulls used in his own herd, bulls for auctions and bulls sold directly to breeders. They are 24 months and older, never selling a bull younger than two years old. The stud bulls used in the herd, breed for two to three years and later sold as proven breeders producing quality calves.
Heifers are selected at weaning, sound heifers could be sold as breeders in an upgrading breeding system. The selected heifers are graded at 12 months and only the very best are registered of which 30% are kept for the herd and the others sold at auction. Because Nguni Cattle could live for many years, every three years ALL the heifers are sold, in order to keep the herd a manageable size.
Heifers start conceiving at 14 months of age or even earlier, first calves arriving from average 27 months of heifer’s age. They are bred to produce a calf each year after that. Schalk do not believe in running the bulls with cows for only a short period of the year, a bull are left with the herd all the time, keeping it as natural as possible. Part of the success lies in the fact that the cows calve earlier each year, from six weeks to a month. Calving percentage are 90% and higher, even with an inconsistent rainfall. Weaned heifers at seven months, however, are kept separately from a bull until 14 months of age, leaving them with a couple of older cows (not their mothers) to reduce weaning stress to the least.
All the Nguni Cattle graze in the veld, without major supplements. In winter the cattle are supplied with a salt lick and calcium. They hardly ever become sick, meaning that in the last 26 years, they have never been dipped, dosed or vaccinated for anything else but Brucellosis!
Cope in the Karoo
Schalk believes that the smaller the animal are, but with good constitution, the better they cope on the Karoo veld. He has been doing, performance testing and on average cows wean calves at a weight of at least half their own. The majority of cows weigh approximately 360kg and wean a calf at seven months, weighing about 180kg, 50%+ of their own weight. Rand per hectare, these cattle are the most profitable of all breeds, marketed straight of the veld.
Different cattle breed’s farmers, often use a Nguni bull to their heifers, to deliver the first calf without any hassles. Ngunis have overall good temperaments and use their horns warding off problem animals like jackal and caracal (rooikat), especially to protect their calves!