Small Stock Farming: The Imperatives

Nichlas Mbingeneeko

The previous article focused on small stock dosing or drenching and dipping. This article will focus on genetic value creation in small stock farming, i.e. the significance of quality in small stock farming. In understanding genetic value creation, understanding of some related concepts is a prerequisite. The terms ‘gene’, ‘genetic value’, and ‘genetic value creation’ will be explained in brief so as to ease understanding. Simply put, a gene is a unit of heredity passed on from the parent to the offspring. Genes control the morphology or phenotype of animals. Genetic value relates to the effects that the genes of an animal have on its production. Genetic value creation can, therefore, be defined as the act of producing livestock that have some level of quality and usefulness for the commercial farmer or stud breeder and the entire farming fraternity. It goes, therefore, without saying that genetic superiority is the pivot on which the success of genetic value creation hinges.

For purposes of this article, a commercial farmer is any farmer who is not a stud breeder. It is imperative for the commercial farmer to focus primarily on quality versus quantity when embarking on the journey of small stock farming. Genotype and phenotype must be the overarching considerations when sourcing small stock for farming or breeding. The term ‘genotype’ refers to the genetic makeup of an animal or the set of genes that an animal carries, whereas ‘phenotype’ refers to the physical appearance of an animal or a set of observable characteristics of an animal. As a matter of fact, the phenotype of a goat or sheep is determined by its genotype. Genotype and phenotype define quality.

The genealogy of rams and ewes must at all times be critical considerations particularly for stud breeders when sourcing breeding material. Similarly, a commercial farmer (who is not a stud breeder) needs to be guided by the genealogy of the ram (or buck) that he or she intends to buy. The term ‘genealogy’ refers to the pedigree of the particular goat or sheep. The Namibian Stud Breeders Association (NSBA) keeps records of all goats and sheep registered with them, i.e. livestock of stud breeders who are members of the NSBA. Stud goats and sheep that are registered with the NSBA have individual ID numbers and registration certificates. The individual ID numbers and registration certificates serve as vital sources for tracing the genealogy of all registered stud goats and sheep.

As a matter of fact, not all farmers can be stud breeders. However, quality must be the overriding consideration for both the commercial farmer and the stud breeder. Quantity must at all times be pegged on quality. By implication, a goat is not just a goat and a sheep is not just a sheep – quality matters. In embracing quality, a commercial farmer may buy commercial goat ewes or commercial sheep ewes, but the rams he or she buys must always be stud rams. A stud ram is one that is produced by a stud breeder, is registered, has been inspected by a qualified inspector and has a registration certificate. In pursuit of genealogical excellence, the buyer is advised to establish the herd book classification of a stud ram or ewe by NSBA, i.e, whether is it Appendix A or Appendix B or Stud Book Proper in terms of genealogical classification. The genealogy or pedigree of stud rams and ewes that are classified as Appendix A and B lacks sufficient depth, i.e. the maternal and paternal family tree does not go far. Therefo
re, farmers are advised to give preference to rams and ewes that are classified as Stud Book Proper when making a purchasing decision. Stud book proper represents traceable genetic superiority.

As alluded to earlier, genotype and phenotype determine quality. Improved livestock quality is ordinarily aesthetically pleasing to the buyers and consequently leads to increased revenue from the sale of commercial livestock and stud livestock alike. Stud livestock must not only be aesthetically pleasing, but must also be genealogically pleasing. It is thus imperative for the commercial farmer and the stud breeder to improve the quality of their flock in terms of phenotype and genotype. Quality improvement is continuous.

The next article will focus on phenotypical and other key considerations for the farmer or breeder when selecting or buying a goat ram and/or sheep ram.

Nichlas Mbingeneeko is a renowned small stock farmer and a stud breeder of repute. His stud known as Skuilhoek Stud (in Aranos district, Hardap Region) consists of the Boer Goat, Damara Sheep and the Veldmaster Sheep. If you subscribe to genetic superiority, make Skuilhoek Stud your supplier of choice. His next production auction will be on 13 June 2024 @ 18h00, in Windhoek, Agra/Bank Windhoek Ring, Namibia, onsite & online auction. Nichlas Mbingeneeko wrote this article in his personal capacity.

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