The ability for the Brahman breed to be able to adapt to different climatic conditions has seen it being a dear to many farmers across the world including North and South America, Europe, Australia, Africa and Asia. Farmers in Botswana have not let themselves be left behind. One such farmer in Botswana who keeps this breed is Phenyo Nthase who runs his Letswere Brahman stud on communal land near Mahalapye.
Phenyo Nthase who started communal farming back in 1996 began farming Brahman in 2012 after he realized its hardiness and ability to adapt to the harsh communal farming conditions in the country. Initially, Nthase kept both the Brahman and European cattle breed but would later specialize on Brahman farming after the European cattle breed succumbed to the severe farming conditions.
Some of the conditions that the animals are exposed to include covering 15km distance between the grazing and watering points and low rainfall. The ability for the breed to survive under these stiff conditions has led Nthase to have a soft spot for the breed and to confidently declare it as an economical breed.
“The Brahman is a grazer and browser, and feeds on shrubs and trees when grazing is scarce. They also graze on unpalatable grasses. All these makes the Brahman a very economical breed,” said Nthase.
According to Nthase it is easy to manage the herd because the animals usually stay together in a group and tend to avoid straying, traits that help make kraaling easier. Although many breeds find it difficult to withstand the country’s extensive farming conditions as a reason of it being semi-arid, the Brahman seems to be able to endure the harsh conditions.
Nthase also say he is intrigued with the breed’s amazing mothering instinct. He says the Brahman cow has an exceptional and instinctive ability to protect her calf.
Many breeds barely survive tick-borne diseases but not so with the Brahman breed. Although the central district’s tick is relatively high, Nthase has argued that the breed’s smooth, oily, loose skin helps it to be less susceptible to tick-borne diseases such as heart-water, an addition to why he believes the breed is most suited to the country’s extensive farming conditions.
Meanwhile Nthase says his breeding objective is to breed medium-framed, short and thick animals with excellent walking abilities. This is mainly because he mostly depends on natural grazing for his animals and they graze in a 15km radius from his cattle post.
“Our Brahmans are not pampered and must be able to excel under all conditions. We hardly supply any supplemental feed, and we depend most part on natural grazing,’’ he said.
Nthase artificially inseminates 30% of the dams in order to be able to introduce new genetics from bulls that he may not be able to buy as they are expensive. He says that he gets the genetics from South Africa. Nthase also says that he makes sure that all artificially inseminated breeding cows come on heat in December.
To avoid stray bulls from rendering his non-artificially inseminated cows service, Nthase hand-mates them in both summer and winter breeding seasons. The summer breeding season lasts from December to March and the winter breeding season lasts from mid-June to July. Nthase separates herd bulls from the cows during the day but kraals them together in the evening. He checks the cows daily and as soon as he notices one cow on heat he leaves it behind with the bulls. While in the kraal, Nthase gives the bulls self-mixed feed rations, based on maize chop, concentrate, molasses meal, wheat, straw and buffalo grass.
“We make sure that there is plenty of roughage or grass,” explained Nthase. He vaccinates his bulls annually for trichomoniasis. He also deworms them and injects them with multi-min and Vitamin A quarterly and sheath-washed once a year.
Nthase has a grazing strategy to manage his animal’s graze. He has made a division between summer and winter grazing areas and moves his cattle accordingly. Nthase also provides his animals with both summer and winter licks. The summer licks include Molatek Master 20, P12 and salt while the winter protein licks include a mixture of maize or chop, sunflower oil cake, feed-grade urea, molasses meal and feed-grade sulphur.
On the health aspect, Nthase dips his animals every three weeks against ticks and vaccinates annually against botulism, anthrax and black quarter. To protect his animals from predators like leopards which are the main predator in the area, he keeps breeding cows in the kraals before calving. After calving, calves are separated from their mothers by kraaling them during the day but their mothers join them at night. Calves are allowed to graze with the herd only at six months the stage at which they are capable of looking after themselves.
Meanwhile, Nthase has set aside approximately 4ha to plant fodder sorghum for the pregnant and lactating cows. Nthase contends that the Brahman’s ability to withstand the country’s extreme conditions makes it the ideal beef cattle breed for the entire region. He also believes that commercial beef producers stand to gain from the breed’s longevity, calving ease and hybrid vigour. He strongly believes the Brahman is simply the best option for cross-breeding purposes. The Brahman Cattle Breeders’ Society of South Africa/FMB