Overview Objectives

The aim of this project was to empower small-scale and emerging farmers in South Africa to be self-sustaining by opening new markets for their beef products. The project work was designed specifically to:
develop South Africa’s resource-poor farmers and their networks
benchmark and develop the role of cattle from emerging farmer herds and improve their performance through the South African commercial beef system
increase knowledge of relationships between components of herd profitability in (sub-) tropical environments
provide the means for ongoing genetic and non-genetic improvement of tropically adapted beef cattle.

Project Background and Objectives

Since South Africa’s democratisation in 1994, agricultural development has been directed at previously disadvantaged farmers. These can be divided into small-scale farmers who run cattle on communal grazing land and emerging farmers who own or lease land and are striving to become commercially profitable.
The groups targeted in this project own over 4 million head of indigenous and crossbred cattle. To improve profitability these farmers need to enter well-defined commercial markets. The growth of the feedlot sector in South Africa has meant the commercial market now requires animals that are earlier maturing, are efficient converters of food and have superior carcase attributes.

Progress Reports (Year 1, 2, 3 etc)

Objective 1 ~ To enable individuals, groups and networks of beef farmers to achieve continuous improvement of profitable production and marketing of beef products.
Fourteen Farmer Teams (7 in Limpopo and North Western Provinces) now operate through the “Beef Profit Partnerships” (BPP) Project. These Farmer Teams meet with the Project’s Farmer Support Teams each 30-90 days to take focused action to achieve agreed objectives, outputs and outcomes designed to impact on profit. Profit is measured by use of gross margin kits specially designed for use by project farmers. Specific outcomes and outputs being targeted by the Farmer Teams are shown in Appendix 1. Each of these outcomes and outputs is matched with time-bound Key Performance Indicators that have been agreed by members of the Farmer and Farmer Support Teams.
Farmer Teams in both provinces initially chose to focus on achieving a 5% improvement in profit per annum by improving prices and marketing of their cattle. This focus was believed to potentially offer the quickest improvement in profitability. Over the past year, partnerships between the project’s Farmer and Farmer Support Teams were greatly strengthened. Common conceptual frameworks for profit were widely expanded to suggest action on different key drivers such as throughput, market and cost. The capacity of farmers to market and keep records is gradually improving, with noticeable impact on profits.
Development of marketing networks to work with the project’s Farmer Teams is an essential component of this strategy. Formation of the marketing networks commenced recently and will be strengthened over the coming year, with enhanced farmer-to-farmer capacity building activities planned. Additional funding provided by the ATSE (Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering) Crawford Fund will facilitate additional capacity building of both the project and farmer team leaders.
A very successful Farmer Day was held at Irene on 24 January 2003. More than 200 visitors, mostly resource-poor farmers participating in the BPP project, attended to observe first-hand the project’s progress. The Ministers of Agriculture for Limpopo and North-West Provinces were also in attendance and spoke enthusiastically of the project’s progress. Feedback was given to farmers on a customised basis to enable them to determine how well their animals performed relative to commercial animals in the feedlot. The project was able to provide very visible evidence that cattle from resource-poor farmer herds have the capacity to meet the specifications of commercial markets.
The Industry Advisory Council met in October 2002 to receive a report from the ACIAR-commissioned review team, which had examined the project’s strategic directions. The review report indicated minor problems in communication and differentiation by the farmers between this project and other projects undertaken by the collaborating partners, but was otherwise entirely favourable. The problems were addressed by adoption of a local name for the project (Beef Profit Partnerships) and a project logo. If anything, this project has been too successful, in that it has generated expectations amongst farmer stakeholders that the project will have difficulty meeting with its finite resources. This problem will be partially alleviated by additional funds for capacity building provided by the ATSE Crawford Fund. The Industry Advisory Council also met in the North-West Province in June 2003.
Objective 2 ~ To benchmark and develop the role of indigenous genotypes for profitable production and marketing of beef products
Representative steers were sourced from emerging and small-scale farmer herds after weaning in August 2002 and transferred to ARC’s Irene Campus for comparison with steers sourced from commercial herds. Breed (and herd) types included Brahman (emerging), Nguni (communal and emerging), non-descript crossbreds (emerging and commercial) and Bonsmara (emerging and commercial). Steers from commercial herds were used as controls to benchmark the suitability of steers from emerging and communal herds to meet specifications of commercial markets. All animals were finished under commercial conditions, during which time animals were fed a grain-based diet. Intensive data collection occurred between weaning and slaughter. Measurements included growth rate, feed intake, flight time as a potential indirect indicator of meat tenderness, real-time ultrasound scans for carcase attributes and commercial carcase characteristics at slaughter. In addition, full carcase and meat quality attributes were measured. The same measurements, including enzyme analyses (calpain, calpastatin and collagen parameters) in Nguni (emerging), Brahman (emerging), Tuli, Drakensberger and Bonsmara (commercial) groups, will be recorded in the second group of steers that were purchased in June 2003.
Preliminary results from Phase 1 steers show that growth rates and feed efficiencies of steers from emerging and communal farmer herds parallel those from commercial herds. The incidence of disease was low in all Phase 1 steers and was similar in commercial, emerging and communal herds. Meat quality analyses indicate small or no differences between herd types or breeds in carcase and meat quality attributes. Based on dentition, cattle from emerging and communal herds were slightly older at slaughter than cattle from commercial herds. It was concluded that cattle from emerging and commercial farmer herds can meet the specifications of South Africa’s commercial beef markets.
A summary of South African sires recently tested for GeneSTAR Marbling and Tenderness as part of the BPP project is shown below. The Sanga and Sanga-derived breeds have a high frequency of 2-star CAST3 (tenderness) but a very low frequency of 1- and 2-star TG5 (marbling), even though some of these breeds have been tested in Australia and the USA as being high marbling breeds. Thus far, only limited numbers of sires have been tested (~100 out of a total of 300 to be tested). Hence, the breeds have been grouped into 100% Sanga (represented by Afrikaner, Nguni and Tuli) and Sanga-derived (represented by Bonsmara and Drakensberger, the latter reflecting the possibility of some minor component of British genes, although the majority component is Sanga).

Sires tested in this strategy were not from resource-poor herds because those sires were not widely used and characterised. However, these results provide an additional economic incentive to further genetically develop herds controlled by resource-poor farmers to develop a national and international seedstock market for these breeds. Semen from sires that have favourable allele(s) for GeneSTAR Tenderness and Marbling is available to the BPP Project for research purposes or for use in further development of resource-poor herds.

Objective 3 ~ To increase knowledge of relationships between components of herd profitability in tropical and sub-tropical environments, to improve efficiency and product quality without unduly compromising breeder herd performance or adaptability
In Australia, all breeding programs to generate experimental progeny are complete. Two steer crops have undergone complete data collection and measurement of the final two steer crops is underway. All data collection on experimental steers will be complete by December 2004. Data collection on heifer half-sibs is also well advanced, though reproductive data collection will not be finalised until early 2006. Preliminary analyses of project data provide evidence that if cattle breeders in tropical environments are to maintain or improve profitability of their herds, they cannot ignore female fertility and adaptation in their quest for guaranteed eating quality of beef. A more complete progress report of the Australian component is shown in Appendix 2.

Outstanding progress was achieved in all 3 sub-projects of the “Beef Profit Partnerships” (BPP) project, resulting in significant impacts on commercialisation of South Africa’s emerging farmers, as outlined below.
Objective 1 ~ To enable individuals, groups and networks of beef farmers to achieve continuous improvement of profitable production and marketing of beef products.
Over the past year, the number of farmer teams in Limpopo and North West Provinces operating through the BPP project has grown, with the number of farmers actively participating in project activities also increasing over that time. There are now 17 Farmer Teams participating in the BPP project and ~275 individual farmers actively participating in the project every 30 days, with numbers of farmers being resourced and trained in marketing skills, gross margins, weighing cattle and keeping farm records.

With the support of Project team members, 581 cattle were sold by the BPP farmers last year, through project-organised on-farm auction sales or sales where the farmers pre-weighed their cattle and knew in advance the market price for their sale animals. The sale price for these cattle totaled R1,028,620 (average R2,080 / head). The farmers are not yet receiving current market prices for their cattle, but prices are close to commercial values and have improved considerably since 2002.

Significant cost savings were also achieved by organising on-farm sales that also provide farmers with additional flexibility, because they no longer have to consider whether or not to accept a low price to avoid the extra transport cost of taking their cattle home if the prices are below existing market values.
In summary, the prices and marketing skills improved in all farmer teams. Organisation of on-farm sales and auctions also reduced sale costs. The partnerships formed amongst and external to the farmer teams greatly increased and strengthened over the past year. It is very clear there are no short cuts to achieving farmer improvement and profitability. A systematic approach must be used, focusing on very clear economic development. But over the past year, there have been very clear economic improvements made in the participating farmer herds, with noticeable impacts in the farmer communities and in other provinces (with the BPP partnerships and networks now extended to also include farmer teams in Mpumalanga, Gauteng and Eastern Cape Provinces, although they are not included in reporting for the BPP Project). Farmers are now starting to take responsibility for their own actions to improve their profitability.
An additional, very evident benefit is the clear increase in skills and confidence of the project’s Farmer Support Teams, who are now very capably training other technical and extension officers in the CI&I approaches used by the BPP project to target increased profitability in emerging farmers. These approaches have yielded such significant outcomes that they have inspired the BPP team to believe the CI&I approach can now be successfully used to target improved food security and quality of life for subsistence farmers (not previously targeted by the project), with the aim of also making entrepreneurs of them.
Objective 2 ~ To benchmark and develop the role of indigenous genotypes for profitable production and marketing of beef products
Representative steers were sourced from emerging and communal farmer herds after weaning in August 2002 (Phase 1) or July 2003 (Phase 2) and transferred to ARC’s Irene Campus for comparison with steers sourced from commercial herds. Breed (and herd) types in Phase 1 included Brahman (emerging), Nguni (communal and emerging), non-descript crossbreds (emerging and commercial) and Bonsmara (emerging and commercial). Bonsmara and non-descript crossbred steers from commercial herds were used as controls to benchmark the suitability of steers from emerging and communal herds to meet specifications of commercial markets. In Phase 2, two additional indigenous breeds from commercial farmers (Drakensberger and Tuli both donated by their Breed Societies) and Bonsmaras from emerging farmers were included, while non-descript commercial steers were excluded. All animals were finished on a grain-based diet. Intensive data collection occurred between weaning and slaughter. Measurements on all steers included growth, feed intake, flight time as a potential indirect indicator of meat tenderness, ultrasound scans for carcase attributes, commercial carcase characteristics and full meat quality attributes. In Phase 2, enzyme analyses (calpain, calpastatin and collagen parameters) were also included to better examine meat quality attributes.
Results from Phase 1 steers showed that growth rates and feed efficiencies of steers from emerging and communal farmer herds paralleled those from commercial herds (i.e. they entered the feedlot at a lighter weight but grew as well, with similar feed efficiencies, to achieve acceptable albeit lighter carcase weights). The incidence of disease was low in all steers and was similar in commercial, emerging and communal herds. Meat quality analyses indicated small or no differences between herd types or breeds in carcase and meat quality attributes. Based on dentition, cattle from emerging and communal herds were slightly older at slaughter than cattle from commercial herds.
Results from Phase 2 steers confirm that growth rates and feed efficiencies of steers from emerging and communal farmer herds parallel those from commercial herds. Weight gains were significantly higher for Bonsmara (emerging and commercial), Drakensberger, Tuli and emerging crossbreds than the Brahman and both Nguni groups. The Nguni communal was very light at feedlot entry (149 kg). Brahmans had the lowest feed intake per body weight unit, in accord with recognized breed standards. There were only small differences between breeds in meat yield. Beef tenderness was measured by Warner Bratzler shear force values at 2 and 21 days post-slaughter, with higher values indicating tougher beef. Generally, consumers complain about tough meat at shear force values of 4.5 - 5.0 kg. At 2 days post mortem, meat from the Bonsmara emerging group was ~1.4 kg more tender than that of the Bonsmara (commercial and emerging), Tuli and Drakensberger (both commercial) and Nguni (emerging). Crossbred (emerging) and Nguni (communal) groups had meat that was intermediate in toughness between those breed groups and the Brahmans. After 21 days ageing, meat from the Brahman (emerging) group was still at the lower end of tough shear force values.

All emerging and communal groups performed well relative to their commercial counterparts, confirming that indigenous cattle derived from emerging and communal farmer herds have the capacity to meet the specifications of South Africa’s commercial markets, providing a genuine opportunity for import substitution, whereby the >5 million cattle in emerging and communal herds could replace up to 48,000 tonnes of beef and 300,000 weaners that are imported annually to South Africa to overcome a shortfall in domestic market demand.
Objective 3 ~ To increase knowledge of relationships between components of herd profitability in tropical and sub-tropical environments, to improve efficiency and product quality without unduly compromising breeder herd performance or adaptability
In Australia, all breeding programs to generate experimental progeny are complete. Three steer crops have undergone complete data collection and measurement of the final steer crop will be complete by December 2004. Data collection on heifer half-sibs is also well advanced, though reproductive data collection will not be finalised until early 2006. Preliminary analyses of project data provide evidence that if cattle breeders in tropical environments are to maintain or improve profitability of their herds, they cannot ignore female fertility and adaptation in their quest for guaranteed eating quality of beef.

Outstanding progress was achieved in all 3 sub-projects of the “Beef Profit Partnerships” (BPP) project, resulting in significant impacts on commercialisation of South Africa’s emerging farmers, as outlined below.
Objective 1 ~ To enable individuals, groups and networks of beef farmers to achieve continuous improvement of profitable production and marketing of beef products.
The number of farmer teams in North West remained relatively constant over the past years, with 3 teams withdrawing from the project and 5 new teams joining (picking up new members from the disbanded teams). There are currently 9 farmer teams ranging from 7-47 members, with an average size of 10 members per team. In total the number of partners in North West increased by 21% from 92 in 2003-04 to 116 in 2004-05.
The number of farmer teams in Limpopo increased tremendously with only one team withdrawing and seven new teams joining. There are currently 14 relatively large farmer teams in Limpopo ranging from 7-100 members in size. This is because the farmer support teams remain constant even though new farmers were recruited to the project. In total the number of farmer partners has increased by 41% from 183 in 2003-2004 to 314 in 2004-2005.
In 2004-05, the focus of many of the farmer teams changed from a marketing emphasis to production aspects and herd throughput, with significant improvements achieved in reproductive performance of the BPP herds. With the exception of the Huiningvlei and Kromspruit teams in North West, which had a poor bull: cow ratio, all farmer teams achieved appropriate cow to bull ratios with corresponding improvements in calving rates. Current calving rates range from 43% to 98% (Figure 3) with an average of 67%, which is considerably higher than the recorded national average for emerging farmers. The low calving rates at Kalkpan and Kromspruit resulted from the occurrence of Contagious Abortion in the herds. Owners of the affected herds are currently implementing a disease eradication programme.
Another important outcome was the increase in stock off-take, which has reached an average of 14% compared to the national average for emerging farmers of 5%.
Objective 2 ~ To benchmark and develop the role of indigenous genotypes for profitable production and marketing of beef products
This strategy evaluated a number of tropically adapted indigenous Southern African breeds and cattle from resource-poor farmer herds to determine their value in replacing a proportion of the 300,000 weaner steers or 35,000 tonnes of beef imported each year to satisfy South Africa’s domestic demand for beef. Because of their known productive attributes (fertility, carcass and beef quality) in the presence of stressors of tropical environments, it is believed these indigenous Bos taurus (Sanga) breeds may also potentially replace a component of Australia’s northern high grade Bos indicus herd to improve productivity without losing tropical adaptation. A summary of South African sires recently tested for GeneSTAR Marbling and Tenderness as part of the ACIAR-funded project (see following tables) shows that Sanga and Sanga-derived breeds have a high frequency of favourable (1- or 2-star) Calpastatin genes and a moderate frequency of favourable Calpain genes (both genes associated with tenderness) but a very low frequency of 1- and 2-star thyroglobulin genes associated with marbling, even though some of these breeds have been tested in Australia and the USA as being high marbling breeds. Sires tested in this strategy were not from resource-poor herds because those sires were not widely used and characterised. However these results provide an additional economic incentive to further genetically develop herds controlled by resource-poor farmers to develop a national and international seedstock market for these breeds. Semen from sires that have favourable allele(s) for GeneSTAR Tenderness and Marbling is available to the BPP project for research purposes or for use in further development of resource-poor herds.
Objective 3 ~ To increase knowledge of relationships between components of herd profitability in tropical and sub-tropical environments, to improve efficiency and product quality without unduly compromising breeder herd performance or adaptability
In Australia, data collection is complete with the exception of the final year’s reproductive measurements, which are underway. This component of the project is well on track to achieve all objectives outlined in the original contract, as well as many additional objectives. Some important data analyses are now underway with initial results available at July 2005, up to 12 months ahead of schedule. Additional analyses are well planned and data collation for those analyses is nearing completion, prior to commencement of data analysis in July 2005. Planning is underway for the widespread release of results to the Australian beef industry and their integration into education and delivery packages for use by “delivery” specialists throughout Australia. A more complete progress report of the Australian component is shown in Appendix 2

Over the life of the “Beef Profit Partnerships” (BPP) project, outstanding progress has been achieved in all 3 sub-projects, greatly exceeding the originally-planned outputs and resulting in very significant impacts on the commercialisation and profitability of the project’s emerging farmers and providing them with significant new opportunities to enter South Africa’s commercial beef markets.
Sub-Program 1 ~ To enable individuals, groups and networks of beef farmers to achieve continuous improvement of profitable production and marketing of beef products.

Sub-Program 2 ~ To benchmark and develop the role of indigenous genotypes for profitable production and marketing of beef products
Results from the two-phase steer experiments clearly show that cattle from emerging farmers have the ability to meet the specifications of South Africa’s domestic beef markets, although there are also actions which the farmers can take to improve the value of their cattle and their suitability for the commercial feedlot sector. These results were communicated to both industry and the scientific community.
Sub-Program 3 ~ To increase knowledge of relationships between components of herd profitability in tropical and sub-tropical environments, to improve efficiency and product quality without unduly compromising breeder herd performance or adaptability
In Australia, the project is well on track to achieve all objectives outlined in the original contract, as well as many additional objectives. Initial results have been published and additional analyses are underway. In total, 10 journal papers, 21 conference papers, 5 popular press articles and numerous scientific and industry presentations arising from the project were published or presented by project members over the past year. The widespread release of results to the Australian beef industry and their integration into education and delivery packages for use by extension specialists throughout Australia has begun. Work is underway between scientists in ARC (led by Dr Norman Maiwashe) and the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit in Australia (led by Dr David Johnston) to complete the international genetic evaluation for the Bonsmara and Belmont Red breeds

Project Outcomes

Over the life of the ‘Beef Profit Partnerships’ (BPP) project outstanding progress was achieved against all objectives, greatly exceeding the originally planned outputs. This resulted in very significant impacts for commercialisation and profitability by the project’s emerging farmers, providing them with significant new opportunities to enter South Africa’s commercial beef markets.
Based on data recorded by the BPP farmers, the project increased revenue to the project’s emerging farmers by >1.95 million Rand (R) over the period 2001-06. About 40% of this should translate into additional profit for the participating farmers.
Evaluation of a number of tropically adapted indigenous southern African breeds and cattle from emerging farmer herds, to determine their value as replacement for part of the several hundred thousand weaner steers (or tens of thousands of tonnes of beef) imported each year to satisfy South Africa’s domestic demand for beef, revealed that growth rates and feed efficiencies of steers from emerging and communal farmer herds paralleled those from commercial herds. They entered the feedlot at a lighter weight than commercial cattle, but grew as well in the feedlot and had similar feed conversion ratios, to achieve acceptable, albeit lighter carcase weights.
The incidence of disease was low in all steers and was no different between commercial, emerging and communal herds. There were small or no differences between herd types or breeds in carcase and meat quality attributes. Thus cattle from emerging and communal farmer herds have the ability to meet the specifications of South Africa’s commercial beef markets, indicating a genuine opportunity for import substitution, whereby the >5 million cattle in emerging and communal herds could be used to overcome the significant shortfall in South Africa’s domestic beef market demand.
At the end of the project, BPP networks had expanded to five new South African provinces (Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Eastern Cape, Free State and Kwa-Zulu Natal) and remained in the Limpopo and North West provinces. In South Africa, there is now very strong commitment to the Project’s ‘Continuous Improvement and Innovation’ (CI&I) process, which is used for decision-making at almost every level of the cattle industry managed by emerging farmers.
Those farmers use the process to choose between new production or marketing opportunities or new technologies. The extension and technical staff use it to choose how and where to allocate their efforts for greatest impact. And the project leaders and managers use it to choose how and where to focus staff and financial resources for greatest impact. The National Department of Agriculture uses CI&I as a policy framework and has funded a number of positions to ensure more cattle farmers and more regions use the process in future.

Project ID
LPS/1999/036
Project Country
Inactive project countries
Commissioned Organisation
Cooperative Research Centre for the Cattle and Beef Industry, Australia
Project Leader
Dr Heather Burrow
Email
Heather.Burrow@une.edu.au
Phone
02 6773 3512
Fax
02 6773 3500
Collaborating Institutions
Agricultural Research Council, South Africa
Animal Improvement Institute, South Africa
Animal Nutrition and Animal Products Institute, South Africa
Meat and Livestock Australia/Livecorp Joint Program, Australia
The Northern Pastoral Group of Companies, Australia
Project Budget
$1,451,916.00
Start Date
01/07/2001
Finish Date
30/06/2006
Extension Start Date
01/07/2006
Extension Finish Date
31/03/2008
ACIAR Research Program Manager
Dr Bill Winter