efficient grazers and browsers

What makes Nguni Cattle so desirable?





Why Nguni cattle?

History of Ngunis

Cattle and culture

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It is the Nguni's resistance to parasites and disease that is most appealing to farmers and is currently the subject pf research.  It seems that Nguni cattle possess antibodies that cause the animal to itch when a tick bites, the resultant scratching removing the parasite.  Also, it has recently been found that remaining ticks take longer to fully engorge and therefore may not reach egg-laying stage.  Nguni cattle are also largely resistant to redwater, hartwater and gallsickness.  Most Nguni breeders do not dip their cattle in order to retain the resistance.

For many years, after the beginning of the 20th Century and well into the 1980s, Nguni cattle were persecuted almost as much as their black owners.  Racist attitudes carried over onto the livestock and Nguni cattle were thought of as inferior to the "purer" European breeds.  The wide variety of colour, horn size and shape and even conformation of the animal flew in the face of Eurocentric ideals of breed conformity and racial purity.

Recent work has shown that Nguni cattle have the following advantages, they:

  • are relatively long-lived with a long calf-bearing life

  • are heat tolerant

  • have a very short Inter-Calving Period (even under sub-optimal conditions)

  • are resistant to ticks and tick-borne diseases

  • have an even and calm temperament

  • calve well and are good parents

  • become sexually mature early

  • are able to thrive on low quality grazing

A nguni cow and her calf

Traits and uses

Although smaller in stature than many European breed the Nguni is still useful as a beef producer because of its efficiency at utilising food to produce bulk.  Nguni cattle will both graze and browse and instinctively identify the most nutritious resources available.  Furthermore, because of this efficiency, the impact of Ngunis on vegetation is less then that of some of the larger breeds.  It has been found that stocking rates with Ngunis can be up to twice that of European breeds.

Why so tough?

Nguni cattle were developed by the ancestors of the Khoisan speaking people and later the Nguni-speaking people that migrated down from east-central Africa 1000's of years ago.  The harsh climatic conditions, presence of disease and deliberate selective breeding have ensured that only the strongest have survived to pass on their genes.

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