Lukefahr tours South Africa lecturing on cattle genetics
KINGSVILLE - June 15, 2006
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Shown from left, are Stephan Welz, president of the Tuli Cattle
Breeders Society; Dr. Steven Lukefahr, Regents Professor of
Genetics at Texas A&M University-Kingsville;
Dr Machiel Scholtz, director of the Agriculture Research Council’s
Animal Improvement Institute; and Keith Ramsay retired registrar
of Livestock Improvement and Identification of the
Department of Agriculture and former president of Rare Breeds
International, now advisor to the Government on matters
Dr. Steven Lukefahr, Regents Professor of Genetics at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, has toured the globe speaking as an expert on rabbits and assisting residents in underdeveloped countries set up their own rabbit projects that provide sometimes the only source of meat for the family.
Lukefahr’s latest trip abroad took him to South Africa, but instead of rabbits, he spread the word about another one of his passions, the Tuli breed of cattle.
He presented three-part lectures on basic cattle genetics, coat color inheritance and breed selection and crossbreeding programs in the regions of Bloemfontein, Dordrecht and Pretoria, South Africa, with special reference to adaptable breeds, including the Tuli. His trip was by invitation of the Tuli Cattle Breeders Society of South Africa.
The lecture road tour covered about 1,500 miles. Along the road tour, Lukefahr was a guest at the homes of ranchers that owned Tuli cattle where he observed some of the finest beef cattle ranches in the country, and discussed with each rancher their own breeding and selection program. These personal visits also gave him an opportunity to learn more about the history and cultures of the people of South Africa.
In advance of his trip, his lectures were well publicized in several national and regional agriculture magazines and on websites. Lukefahr said the audiences were mostly cattle producers, university professors, students, extension and media.
“My lectures were well received and many practical questions were asked. We had a lot of good discussions about breed selection and commercial crossbreeding applications. It was a very educational and rewarding experience.”
Lukefahr has a special interest in the Tuli breed because he has a crossbred herd on his ranch near Kingsville. “They are easy-care cattle in that they require minimal management and feed supplementation,” he said of his herd, which numbers about 40 head. In addition to Tuli, he combines Red Angus and Senepol breeds into his crossbreeding program.
He said the rugged breed is a good fit for South Texas because the hot and humid climate with long droughts is similar to that of much of South Africa, where the Tuli have been adapting for about 5,000 years. They were brought to South Africa from Zimbabwe, where the breed actually originated. Tuli are descendents of Sanga cattle, which are more closely related genetically to Angus than to Brahman cattle, and have been in southern Africa since 700 AD. They have adapted to various ecological regions of the area and have become the basis of several of today’s new composite breeds.
“The Tuli cattle I observed were in excellent body condition, considering it was winter, the calves were still on their mommas and there was no feeding of hay or supplements, excluding minerals,” Lukefahr said.
Tuli cattle produce high quality beef, are highly disease-resistant, especially to tick-borne diseases and have few problems giving birth, Lukefahr said. They mature early and have a very docile nature. “Traditionally, the original African tribesmen could easily walk the cattle into their enclosed village camps in the evening to protect them from predators and the women could even walk right up to the cows for milking,” Lukefahr said. “Any animal that was too aggressive or nervous was butchered.”
Tuli have three basic coat colors: red, yellow and white. These colors enable them to adapt to intense sunlight.
The beef industry in South Africa is highly sophisticated, Lukefahr added, where there are approximately 14 million head of cattle, over 40 breeds, and a variety of production enterprises.
“Geneticists who work for the Agriculture Research Council have an excellent genetic evaluation program for cattle,” Lukefahr said. “They do performance tests, compare important traits and maintain large data bases which enables a rancher to easily access information on their own cattle from their home computer.”
Even Texans would have to think big in South Africa, as it is nearly twice the size of the Lone Star State. Lukefahr said the country is the home of many large ranches with vast grasslands used for cattle grazing. Some of these ranches are so large that they also may be home to thousands of sheep and wild animal species, such as wildebeest, zebra and ostrich.
Lukefahr said it was obvious that like South Texas, good care is taken of the land, including practices such as rotational grazing, promotion of native grass species, proper cattle stocking rates and brush control. Cattle are not generally allowed to continuously graze the same pasture for very long before being moved to a fresh pasture that has recovered from previous grazing.
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