Ninety bull calves of five Bonsmara strains, viz. Edelheer (E), T-49 (T), Wesselsvlei (W), Roodebos (R) and Belmont Red (BR), and two Nguni sub-populations, viz. Bartlow (B) and non-Bartlow (NB), were fattened under intensive feeding conditions and serially slaughtered at four different slaughter weights. Phylogenetic relationships between the five Bonsmara strains and between the two Nguni subpopulations were determined by means of blood typing. Growth performance, carcass characteristics and meat quality characteristics were compared between the sub-populations of each breed. Genetic distances between the Bonsmara animals confirmed the existence of five genetic subpopulations with variation in genetic distances between them. The genetic distance between the two Nguni subpopulations was very small, indicating genetic similarity. Means for production and product characteristics were adjusted for mean subcutaneous fat percentage by means of analysis of covariance. T gained weight faster and more efficiently on a live and carcass weight basis than the other Bonsmara groups, while B gained carcass and muscle weight more efficiently than NB. T had proportionally more meat in the high-priced cuts of the carcass than W. Muscle of the W line had a higher ageing potential (measured as myofibrillar fragmentation; MFI) than T, resulting in higher tenderness scores for W. Similarly, B had higher MFI for muscle aged for one or seven days, coupled with more tender meat than NB. Pairwise correlations between growth and muscle characteristics indicated that fast growing animals tend to produce less tender meat.
"Experientia docet" - Experience is the best teacher