From the performance records the following calculations are made:
- Cow Fertility Ranking (F)
Although all cows may be phenotypically equally fertile (calved every year) they are not genetically equally fertile. This is due to the fact that much of the variation that is observed or measured is the result of environmental differences, in particular, date of calving relative to the nutritional status of veld (calving season). It is essential to make mathematical corrections for ICP (PPAP) so that each individual can be compared to the average ICP (PPAP) for a particular calving date and a Ranking calculated. Accordingly, two cows that have calved annually from the same age may have a Fertility Ranking of 10 (top 10%) or 1 (bottom 10%).
These comparisons are only valid for contemporary groups and within a season.
Therefore, Fertility Ranking should be calculated on the basis of ICP (PPAP) between the first two calvings.
- 12 Month Scrotal Circumference Ranking (S)
It is necessary to measure scrotal circumference at 6 months, in addition to 12 months, in order to calculate a meaningful ranking (accounts for calves that are culled and castrated before the age of 12 months). A ranking of 1 – 10 is done for all remaining bulls.
- Breeding Ability
The best yearling bulls selected on the basis of their dam’s fertility, cow efficiency, 12 month maturity, 12 month scrotal circumference, muscling and temperament are further tested for breeding ability. This is done by multi-siring these yearling bulls with similar age heifers (ratio of 1:10 ?). With DNA testing the most prolific breeder/s can be identified. These are the bulls with the most desirable Hormonal Balance which must be used for breed improvement. It is incumbent on individual breeders to use them extensively via AI.
Fertility Ranking (and Maturity Ranking) as well as the designation of animals into SELECTED and SUPERIOR SELECTED categories is what differentiates Veldmasters from all other cattle and elevates them to a class of their own. No breed society, stud book or any other registering authority has such a practically meaningful STANDARD of EXCELLENCE. This will prove to be Veldmasters main unfair advantage. The simplicity of it will not appeal to academics. There will be no recognition from those in the “know”. But, the majority of commercial producers will recognize the value of such a classification system and will acknowledge this in bull prices.
- 12 Month Maturity Rating (Y)
It is clear that efficiency of grass conversion as it relates to body condition and practical fertility and as it reflects overall adaptation is the most important trait required by cattle. Daily growth rate is extremely important, because the faster an animal grows the greater the efficiency of growth. Also, when comparing animals of varying frame size (as occurs in all herds) on the basis of growth rate, size has to be considered. This is due to the fact that animals of different sizes have to grow in proportion to their size in order to be equally efficient. 12 Month Maturity is an appropriate measure. This overcomes the problem of conventional measures of growth that are positively related to size and negatively related to body condition.
Calculation of 12 Month Maturity is made within contemporary groups by expressing 12 month weight as a percentage of predicted mature frame size (kg) using the graph developed from the Missouri frame score tables. From this a 1 – 10 ranking is calculated. The actual maturity figure is not important, but the ranking which denotes the degree of maturity and relative genetic value. It is important to appreciate that no claim is made regarding the accuracy of the figure as an absolute value, but rather as a relative value. In other words, it is believed that the rankings accurately reflect degree of physiological maturity / body condition / grass conversion efficiency.
- 6/8 Month Maturity Ranking (W)
This is calculated on the same basis as 12 Month Maturity. This figure is used in preference to Calf weight / Cow weight, calculated at weaning, for two reasons. Firstly, a cow losing more weight after calving (lower weight at weaning) will inflate the figure. A calf sired by a bull with a larger frame than the cow will also inflate the figure. A figure calculated on the basis described is a better reflection of Cow Efficiency.
- Meat : Bone Ratio
The best definition of an animal with the highest meat : bone ratio is the one that is heaviest relative to its frame size – the “pony type” as opposed to the “draadkar” type. Such a conformation is positively related to early maturity (physiologically and sexually) and body condition. Since the late 1960s there has been a bias towards these so-called pony cattle as a result of an overreaction to the extremely small and overfed show winners of the previous two decades that resulted in dwarfism. A contributing factor was the demand for the lean types by the American feedlot industry based on cheap grain. Fat became a dirty word and early maturing cattle became undesirable.
It will be argued by some that selection on the basis of 12 Month Maturity will result in dwarfism. This is not true. Selection in terms of maturity rate identifies the fastest growing animals within a frame size. Selection is for the heaviest animals within a frame size where nature determines the optimum frame size.
Animals with a poor temperament (nervous, vicious, fence-creepers) can be identified relatively easily by observation. They should be culled. A more objective method is that used by the Lasaters of Beefmaster fame. At weaning calves are moved to a small pen where they are gentled and physical contact attempted on an individual basis. Those calves that can be fed by hand or touched are removed to another pen. The length of the period for human contact to occur is an indication of temperament. On this basis a simple, but effective, score for temperament (1 – 3) can be made. It is important not to confuse the masculine behaviour of a sexually mature bull or the maternal instincts of a cow with poor temperament.
There is probably no single aspect of cattle ranching (apart from diseases) that causes breeders as much stress as calving difficulty. Appropriate breed (bull) selection in forming a foundation will go a long way in reducing the chance of future calving difficulty. Two year calving will eliminate any possibility of major calving problems.
Pigment around the eyes is important (not a problem in African breeds). Dark (hard) hoofs are an advantage.
A tight sheath (no preputal prolapse) in bulls is essential. This is of particular importance in polled breeds which are inclined to the problem of preputal prolapse. Apart from the obvious reason (infection) there is also a correlation between sheath type and body structure. A tight sheath is associated with finer bone (high meat: bone ratio; high dressing percentage) as well as a neat udder with small teats and a straight cervix in cows.
Although not a requirement, this factor will become more important in the future due to the trauma and labour involved in dehorning.