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Energy Becoming an Important Factor in SA Beef

15 April 2009

SOUTH AFRICA - International economic recession, high energy prices and global warming are increasingly important factors in beef-cattle breeding.

Stud breeders and commercial cattlemen will be forced to reconsider the merits of large, grain-fed, feedlot or "diesel bulls" against smaller, veld-adapted "solar bulls" such as Afrikaners. So says Albert de Villiers, Afrikaner breeder from Koopmansfontein in the Northern Cape. Annelie Coleman writes.

According to the report, published by FarmingUK, the efficiency of producing beef will play an increasingly important role in South Africa, says Afrikaner breeder Albert de Villiers from Koopmansfontein. "Energy from fossil fuel is becoming scarce and expensive and apart from contributing to global warming, the effect of its rising price will undoubtedly also affect beef production," says De Villiers. "Eventually it will influence the type of bull commercial farmers will use to survive economically."

He explains the choice will be between so-called "diesel bulls" and "solar bulls". Bulls heavy on grain don’t graze a lot and the production cycle from farm to slaughter includes fossil fuel-intensive grain production, hence the term "diesel bulls".

Developments in the global economy no longer make it economically and ecologically sustainable to round off 80% of slaughter cattle in feedlots.

The feedlot industry is based on a centrally concentrated mass-production approach in which value is added in feedlots. For this purpose, the price of raw material inputs must be kept as low as possible, whether for diesel fuel, grain or weaner calves.

In his view, the Afrikaner breed probably has the best genetic potential to produce red meat on veld, especially in drier parts of southern and South Africa.

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