In today’s time and age we are a bunch of technology junkies and we constantly try to get answers from the internet, Facebook and social media. So that’s exactly where I started to search for the right answer to a very difficult question that I’ve asked myself a couple of times in the past: Is the Bonsmara cow indeed the most efficient cow to breed with, are there some concrete facts to back this decision or are we as Bonsmara breeders just arrogant by saying it is the most efficient breed?
So I started out by Googling: What exactly defines the most efficient cow? The answer that I got from Dr. Google: Beef cow efficiency is defined as the ratio of output (kilograms of calf weaned) to input (the amount of feed eaten).
So practically what that means is that the most efficient cow herd is determined by the number of calves and the weight of calves weaned, these in turn are influenced by the pregnancy rate of the herd, the calf survival rate to weaning, the milk production of the herd and the calf’s growth potential. The major input driving these characteristics of an efficient cow is feed. So it makes sense to say that the cow herd that can effectively convert the least feed into the most kilograms of calves is the most effective cow herd.
Taking in mind what the definition of an efficient cow is, brings me to the point that I realised that a cow herd in Namibia, under our extensive farming environment and conditions, cannot be an efficient cow herd if it is not functionally efficient.
Functional efficiency in cattle means animals that are capable of producing and reproducing from the veld, with the minimum effort, input cost and physical day to day work.
Still I ask myself: Is the Bonsmara cow the most effective cow to farm with?
Let’s look at a few characteristics of a Bonsmara cow:
- An average Bonsmara cow in Namibia weighs between 450kg to 500kg, which classifies the Bonsmara cow into the frame of being a medium framed cow.
- A Bonsmara cow must have an inter-calving period of no more than 730 days and should rear at least two of any three consecutive calves. In practice this means that a cow can be given one chance to skip bearing and rearing a calf and no more. Currently the Namibian inter-calving period for the average Bonsmara cow is 411 days, which means that even in tough, dry years our cows still managed to produce a calf each year.
- The average Bonsmara cow is highly fertile and this trait is being
- advanced and maintained through strict selection standards.
- An average Bonsmara cow weans a calf at 45% of her own body weight at the age of 7 months. Milk production is widely known to play a large role in the weaning weight of a calf which means that a Bonsmara cow
- has good milk abilities under extensive conditions.
- A Bonsmara cow is energy efficient and has a good feed conversion
- ratio. She is therefore able to convert poor pastures and sometimes not adequately available pastures into good milk for her calf while maintaining her condition.
- An average Bonsmara cow reaches puberty at the early age of 12 -18 months. In Namibia the average age for first calf is 32 months. A heifer that has not produced her first calf by the age of 39 months is deemed not fit and inefficient.
- On average Bonsmara cows are known for their ease of calving meaning low mortality rates due to not being able to calve on its own.
- A Bonsmara cow has very good mothering abilities and looks after her calves under extensive conditions. She is good tempered which makes it easier to handle them as well as dehorn and castrate the calf.
- The Bonsmara cow is well adapted and one can find breeders all over Namibia who all farm under different extensive conditions. While every condition is unique, you will find that the Bonsmara cow adapts to her environment and produces under these extensive conditions.
Keeping the definition of an effective cow in mind and all the characteristics that a Bonsmara cow has, can we say that it is the most effective cow to breed with?