By Lorna Joubert
When considering what breed of cattle to buy, farmers should always ask themselves the following questions:
- What am I expecting to do with my cattle when I have built up my herd?
- Am I a stud breeder or a commercial cattleman?
- Am I selling breeding stock, weaners or fat stock?
- Who is my market?
- Am I going to feedlot my youngstock myself or am I selling them on to feed lotters?
- Do I have to supplement my cattle or do I have sufficient grazing?
- Where is my grazing – hard country, communal areas, sweet veld or pastures?
Answers to these questions lead to the breed that you will require. Brahmans are extremely popular throughout Zimbabwe and have made great inroads into the National Herd, either in their pure form or as a cross breeding animal. Traveling through the country, almost every herd viewed from the roadside will either have purebred animals or “brahman-type” crossbreeds within the herd. Every year, the National Bull sale comprises a majority of Brahmans. The question to this is, Why? Besides their beauty and grace, and distinctive appearance, the advantages of a Brahman are varied and briefly covered by the following points:
Adaptable: the Brahman adapts easily to change and will maintain itself in a new environment. Brahmans will move long distances to graze daily, not tiring and walking easily. They are not fussy and will browse on vines, shrubs, leaves and coarse vegetation, even when grass is available. Because Brahmans feed often but lightly, they very seldom get bloat.
Hardy: the Brahman will do its best to take care of itself and is able to perform and reproduce under extreme conditions.
Tolarant to eather conditions: Brahmans adapt to temperatures above 40 degrees. They will maintain their milk production and appetite. They have a dewlap, which is covered in sweat glands, which secrete constantly as the dewlap sways and cools with movement, cooling the animal down. This is their built-in “air conditioning”. While Brahmans can stand the heat, they can also tolerate very cold conditions, with their loose skin contracting to generate heat.
Mothering: the Brahman has the strongest mothering instinct of any breed. They are famous for their ability to protect a calf. They stay with their calves and are on the constant lookout for danger. They often gather their calves in a “crèche”, with one or two dams specifically tasked to care for the youngsters while the other dams graze.
Good calving: Brahmans have small calves, 25-35kg on average. They have a sloping rump and a very large pelvic area, which allows them to calve without problems. This is important for the rancher.
Milk production: Milk from Brahman has a very high butterfat content. Cows produce plenty of good quality milk and will pour most of their energy into their calves, to produce good weaners.
Resistance to parasites: the Brahman has a smooth and sensitive coat. The coat is loose and moves easily, and is also oily. The short hair is very dense and upright. The muscle layer just under the skin is very well developed. This means that when parasites settle on a Brahman, the animal feels them easily and shakes them off effectively. If they remain on the animal, the dense hair layer makes it difficult for the parasite to sting or attach. This means that the Brahman breed has less disease caused by parasites. P
Pigment: Brahmans have a dark skin pigment and are virtually free of eye cancers and sun-related problems.
Life expectancy: the Brahman cow will breed to a high age (15-18 years old), and will still mother calves well. The Brahman has the ability to produce a calf annually. Stud bulls have been known to breed naturally and successfully in a herd up to 12 years of age.
Excellent crossbreeder: this breed complements and adds value to any other breed by means of crossbreeding. Crossbred Brahmans (F1) are efficient, grow well and convert their feed well. They are an excellent choice for feedlots.
Ranching: Brahmans are clever! They will easily adapt to a routine and have a good temperament when handled well and often from a young age. They do best with gentle, quiet herding.
Late shedding of teeth: Brahmans only shed teeth after 24 months, and until as late as 32 months. This means they are classified as “supers”
for a much longer period than other breeds, so the farmer gets better prices for their beef.
Economics: because Brahmans are very disease resistant, farmers have lower veterinary costs and because Brahmans can utilise natural grazing very well, the farmer can have fewer inputs than with other breeds. All in all, the Brahman is an economical, robust, adapted, all-rounder, built for Zimbabwe and Zimbabwean conditions.
Images provided by Lorna Joubert.
© ZiMunda farming magazine issue 1. https://zimunda.co.zw/why-you-should-be-breeding-brahmans/