By: Dave Osborn
We started using Santa bulls on Brahman type heifers in 1992. We decided to use the Santa because it is well known to be an animal with ample weight. Part of our policy is to grow our oxen on the veld that is unsuitable for cows and calves. We take them to approximately 3-5 years of age and they dress out about 400-420kg at 5 years of age. These animals are of the veld. They are not Santa oxen; they came from Santa mothers with a Hereford bull as sire. After that, they get bred to a Brahman bull. We keep the Brahman oxen.
There are three breeds on the sweet veld farms – Santa Gertrudis, Brahman and Hereford. Basically, what happens is this. The Hereford cow is bred to the Brahman bull. The Brahman cross Hereford cow is then bred to a Santa Gertrudis bull. The Santa Gertrudis mother is then bred to Hereford bull, which take you back to the Hereford cow that is bred to the Brahman bull. The heifer and tollie calves from the Brahman are kept and are grown out in the mountain camps.
Why do we use Santas? The Santa Gertrudis calves from the Brahman cross mothers weigh in excessive 260kg that is very good. The mothers that are bred to Hereford bulls also give us calves in the 260kg bracket. The lighter calves are the Brahman crosses. We are prepared to sacrifice the weight because of the value of the Brahman bullock to grow out in the hills. We constantly have good testing results from these crosses.
This year the Santa Gertrudis would be in the 90% – without feeding or any other supplementary feeding. They only produce off the veld. No pastures or maize residues are used in the winter. They must produce off the veld, and that is the basis of all our animals.
I am not going to say that the Santa is better than the Brahman and vice versa. What I can say is that in our breeding program, the Santa is crucial; it is an important link between the three breeds. Would we change it? NO, we are very happy with the Santas in the breeding program as it is.
I can recommend the Santas for its attributes in our crossbreeding program, which are heavy calves, mothers with lots of milk, and in our crossbreeding system, they are fertile cows. That is in short our system and if you want to use the Santa attributes for what I use them for, then I can highly recommend Santas as it is a good solid breed.
My concerns? I am a little bit concerned that the Santa is losing bone and weight of the breed. I am promoting a big strong heavy cow that got good bone and capacity. The Santa cow has the capacity. She has the ability to utilize roughage and to put on weight and function efficiently as ‘n breeding animal. Our Hereford cross Santa calves are renown in the area. They are incredible and they make fantastic mothers. The combination of the three breeds in our system works fantastically. This is not a little operation. We are talking about as a group that we run 5500 breeding cows.
Overall, I can give the Santas a thumbs up.