A critical look at the use of exotic bulls in traditional beef farming in Botswana

Author: S.J. Nsoso and T.G. Morake
Year: 1999
Issue: 2
Volume: 29
Page: 100 - 104

Data of indigenous and exotic bull breeds used between 1987 and 1995 were available from Ramatlabama Bull Stud and Artificial Insemination Laboratory. The bull breeds include indigenous breeds: Tswana, Tuli, Bonsmara and Africander and exotic breeds: Brahman, Simmental, Hereford, South Devon, Santa Gertrudis, Friesian, Charolais, Pinzgauer, Sussex, Gilbviech and Jersey. These bulls were used in natural service (n = 6352 ± 3047 bulls per year) and artificial insemination (n = 5261 ± 1410 semen straws per year). Analyses of the data revealed that throughout the study period significantly (p < 0.05) more exotic bull breeds were used in natural service (94.9 ± 2.2% vs 5.1 ± 2.2% per year) and as semen (94.1 ± 3.2% vs 5.9 ± 3.2% per year) than indigenous bull breeds. Brahman bulls (56.5 ± 5.4% per year in natural service, 54.4 ± 6.6% per year in artificial insemination) were the highest in demand compared to other exotic (38.4 ± 6.6% per year in natural service; 39.7 ± 8.6% per year in artificial insemination) and indigenous bull breeds (5.9 ± 2.2% per year in natural service; 5.1 ± 2.2% per year in artificial insemination). The demands for Brahman and other exotic bull breeds were significantly (p < 0.05) higher than those of indigenous bull breeds in both natural service and semen collection. Such results are consistent with the promotion of the use of exotic bulls over this period through the government bull subsidy scheme and artificial insemination. This promotion was carried out after research showed that crossbred progeny sired by exotic bull breeds had higher productivity than progeny sired by indigenous bull breeds. Crossbreeding should not be practised under the traditional farming system. Under this system paddocks are not fenced hence breeding is not controlled, management expertise is mediocre in most cases, farmers can not afford to supplementary feed animals and farmers can not also afford high veterinary care for their crossbred animals. Comparatively, farming the pure Tswana under the traditional system is advantageous since this breed is acclimatised to the harsh climatic conditions of Botswana and thrives under conditions where crossbreds would produce far below their genetic potential.

Keywords: Beef farming, bulls and traditional farming, crossbreeding
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