Alzu Beefmasters

Chosen for their hardiness under the tough African conditions and for their profitable production reputation, the Beefmaster cattle, is the selected choice for the Alzu Stud.

Beefmaster cattle are used as a mother line in the breeding program for reasons of survival, fertility and longevity, with a 90% conception rate contributing to the success of the breed.

“Alzu Beefmasters’ Bulls have higher weaning weight and more profit”

Buying a bull isn’t all that difficult. The secret lies in buying a bull that can add real value to your business. And value addition is indeed what Alzu Beesmasters focuse on.

Leon du Toit, a member of the well-known Du Toit family from the Alzu Group near Middelburg in Mpumalanga and manager of Alzu Beefmasters, says: “We take the guesswork out of buying a bull and provide a performance-tested, commercially orientated Beefmaster packed with the desired genetics that can take your business to another level.”

Alzu Beefmasters originated in 2005 from a Tuli X Angus cow herd base. They then used Beefmaster bulls to optimise weaning weight and to increase the profitability of the Alzu Farm’s cattle branch. “The Beefmasters achieved this objective and our weaning weights improved by 30%. These results gave rise to increased profits.”

High weaning weights

Leon says the most important trait in their selection is high weaning weight, but coupled with low birth weight. The herd’s average birth weight is 33kg and the average weaning weight, including heifers and bulls, is 265kg. “The Beefmaster is an exciting new breed that has not yet been discovered by commercial farmers. However, if I look at what the Beefmaster has done for Alzu, the profitability aspect is amazing.”

Together with the weaning weight trait the breed’s other inherent traits are hardiness and adaptability, as well as good milk production.

Leon manages Alzu Beefmasters according to his so-called “five commands”

    1. Only select according to Tom Lasater’s six essential traits on which the breed was originally built. They are temperament, fertility, weight, conformation, milk production and hardiness.

    2. Strive for reproduction efficiency.

    3. Do performance testing in a controlled environment.

    4. Use direct selection. In other words, select for the desired trait. Don’t play with combinations that could end up highlighting only certain traits.

    5. Utilise nature’s adaptability traits.

The ideal Alzu Beefmaster

According to Leon, the ideal Alzu Beefmaster bull is precocious and well-muscled, with a loose skin, a smooth coat and a medium sheath. The bulls must be able to walk strongly and show vibrancy, which is a good indication of high libido. “When it comes to type, I prefer a bull that is more inclined towards Indicus, with a smooth coat, but complemented by Taurus muscling. We have a bull for every taste. Some of our bulls are more inclined to Indicus and some to Taurus. “The cows in the Alzu herd are medium framed animals, but they easily wean calves weighing more than 50% of their own body weight.

When you think about Alzu Beefmasters, you think of better weaning weights that lead to added profits. This is what we stand for.

Beefmasters breed history

The breeding and management program which we follow has often been described as survival of the fittest where we define fit. – TOM LASATER
Tom Lasater started to develop the Beefmaster in America in the 1940’s and the United States Department of Agriculture accepted it as a breed in 1954. The origin of the breed, however dated back to the beginning of the 1900’s when Mr. Edward C. Lasater, a prominent cattleman, of the Falfurrias in southern Texas, and the father of Tom, at that time kept a large commercial herd of 20 000 Herefords and Shorthorns on 162 000 hectares of land. He also had a Hereford stud where he concentrated on breeding for pigment around the eyes. The cows were good milk producers, which was an important characteristic in the herd. He saw its value in meat production.

In 1908, Lasater Sr. used the first Brahman bulls on his Herefords and Shorthorns. Although he preferred Gir bulls, he also used Nellorre and Guzarath bulls. The Shorthorns were of Durham origin. He returned the best Hereford-Brahman and Brahman-Shorthorn heifers to the herd and again used Brahman bulls. A predominantly Brahman herd was therefore developed.

When he died in 1930, Lasater Jr. took over the farming management. The herd consisted of approximately 350 cows and a few Brahman bulls, as well as about 150 registered Hereford cows and a few registered Hereford bulls. Later, he also purchased a few registered Shorthorn bulls.

The Beefmaster was thus created by an intensive program of crossbreeding between:

  • Brahman cows and Hereford bulls
  • Hereford cows and Brahman bulls
  • Shorthorn cows and Brahman bulls

The best crossbred animals were selected for further breeding, using the Six Essentials. The descendants of the above were bred in a three way cross, to different bulls (multiple sire), maintaining a closed herd. This led to a new cattle breed known as the Beefmaster. From the outset, selection was based on economically important traits only.

Some South African Breeders realized the potential of the breed and imported semen and cattle into South Africa and it developed into a cattle breed to be reckoned with. The Beefmaster Cattle Breeders Society celebrates 24 years since it was accepted as a breed in South Africa in 1987. With the growth during recent years, the future of the breed looks bright and the Breeders’ Society has great expectations, especially with regard to the production characteristics of the breed.

Herd improvement

Where lies the crux of a successful cattle-farming enterprise? In the salable product, of course. Everyone knows that fertility is the most important factor, but the weight of the calf crop determines the amount of gross income.

The Beefmaster boasts a weaning weight ratio of just over 47%. This makes the breed most popular in a weaner production system, because a larger number of salable weaners (in kilograms) are produced with the same number of cows. If calculated with a large number of cows over few years, the figures get impressive. Replacement heifers carry the trademarks of the breed and upgrading a commercial herd by using Beefmaster bulls is a profitable endeavor. These traits includes fertility, small calves at birth (something Beefmasters are known for) a shorter interval before re-conception, early maturity, hardiness, longevity and excellent growth (weaning weight).

By using Beefmaster bulls, farmers can replace an existing herd over time with the breed that the Breeders Society believes has become one of the dam line breeds in the country.

The Beefmaster in South Africa

The South African Beefmaster is handmade by selection for the tough Southern African conditions. Each animal is the product of dedicated breeder’s selection and performance testing, with emphasis on functional efficiency. It is still good practice to buy bulls from a breeder in one’s own environment in order to avoid adaption difficulties.

At this year’s Nampo Harvest Day outside Bothaville the Breeders Society was surprised by the spontaneous way in which farmers talked of the success that they achieved by putting Beefmaster bulls to their commercial cows.

Farmers talked about their first calf crop, the excellent replacement heifers, increased weaning weight of the entire calf crop, the affordability of the bulls and the docile calves.

Second and third crosses with Beefmaster bulls resulted in even better weaning weight. Farmers, who used to cross back and forth with different breeds, said that they have found the solution. They are now using only Beefmaster bulls and they can see the progress made in their herds.

The past two years the Society’s breeders experienced an unprecedented demand for good bulls. Informed and serious cattlemen knows what they are looking for and finds it in Beefmaster. For peace of mind of the bull buyer, the trademark of an inspected and approved Beefmaster bull is the brand (Rocking B) behind the right shoulder.