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Brahman cattle



Origin of the Breed

The first and formal adoption of the world Brahman originated with the inception of the American Brahman Breeders Association (ABBA) in 1924. Cattlemen attending their organizational meeting wrestled with the question of what to name this American Bos Indicus breed that Mr JW Startwelle called “… an entirely new breed of beef cattle”. Mr Startwelle, however the first Secretary of ABBA and early driving force of their association, was indeed historically instrumental, when he suggested the word Brahman.

The Early History in Southern Africa

The introduction of the Brahman to the South African beef cattle scene originated back in 1954 when Mr Jurgen Crantz, of Windhoek, in South West Africa as they knew it in those days, initially imported eight males and ten females from Texas, USA, to be landed at Cape Town harbour.

Five of these bulls originated from Mr JD Hudgins, Texas, while one came from Mr Albert B Fay, Texas, another one from Mr VW Frost, Texas, as one from Laxy 3 Ranch, Texas. All ten females were from the famous JD Hudgins Ranch. We today salute the inspirations and motivations of Mr Jurgen Crantz of Namibië as the pioneer who unknowingly laid the foundation of what would have become a major breed in the production of red meat in Southern Africa.

Mr W Woker of Windhoek, South West Africa, Nuanetzi Ranch Ltd., the Normar stud of Mr AI Marais and Mr C Scheepers, all from South Africa made other early imports in 1954. Breeders who were particularly prominent by importing many animals between 1954 and 1971 were, among others, JFW Herbst and son, JB Orpen of the Bar Circle Stud, Sisal Brahmans of Mr Eric Bilse, Ban Cattle Co. of Mr Louis Bosman, D Terblanche, RELH Hunt, the Code Brahman Stud of Mr AJ Coetzer and Mr BJ Maritz.

The remarkable growth and demand for the breed

The contribution Brahmans have made towards the South African stud and commercial industry can be described as remarkable, especially during the first three decades starting in 1960. The distinctive appearance of the Brahman during the coming decade sets them apart from any other traditional beef breed in South Africa. The hump on top of its shoulders, large pendulous ears, abundant folds of skin and distinctive colour has contributed towards the phenomenal growth being recorded in those days.

The membership of 41 in 1960 increased by 465.85 % within the first ten years, births during the same period by 1 296.64 %, registrations 581.63 % and transfers by 1 542,64 %. This brought the Brahman into the limelight after only 10 years and remarks by the press such as the “Brahman is like a Chameleon because he adapts everywhere” were made in those days. The use of the Brahman as a maternal line has become significant due to the dramatic changes in the composition of our national beef population in South Africa.

Official figures show that where the Afrikaner represented almost 45 % of the market share in 1965, the situation changed dramatically in 1985 to retain only 7.0 % of the registrations at the SA Stud Book and Livestock Improvement Association. Brahman registrations on the other hand increased from 4.4 % to almost 57.0 % during the same period. Currently there are 572 members with a total number of +60 000 enrolled animals.

Breed strongpoints

Hybrid Vigour

The genetic ability of the breed to complement and add value to any other breed by means of crossbreeding due to its biological uniqueness.


To sustain it’s achievements and the continuation to reproduce under extreme circumstances. Studies have demonstrated that Brahmans have a greater reproductive response to improved levels of nutrition than other breeds because of their ability to close down their reproductive system as a survival mechanism when under stress. Under adequate levels of nutrition Brahman's fertility will equal that of other breeds.


It’s ability to maintain optimal condition in varying surroundings

  • Heat Tolerance

Tolerance to heat is a major economic factor in tropical beef production. When the body temperature rises cattle become stressed, resulting in reduced feeding time and feed intake, increased water consumption, wasted energy panting, poor quality meat and even death.

The Brahman's heat tolerance is controlled by, dark pigmented skin that dissipates internal heat, efficiency and size of sweat glands, sleek coat which reflects sun, increased area of loose skin and slower metabolic rate which means less heat generated

  • Inbuilt Drought Survival

A low maintenance requirement coupled with high feed conversion efficiency gives Brahman cattle a greater ability to survive droughts and extended feed storage. Even when feed is scarce, they can maintain higher feed intake compared with other breeds thanks to their inbuilt environmental stress tolerance. Research has revealed Brahmans have a very effective internal recycling mechanism for nitrogen, sulphur and other minerals. Therefore they do not need to be supplemented as early in dry seasons as other breeds. With their low maintenance needs they can maintain the same live weight as other breeds on a smaller amount of feed.

Maternal Qualities

Exceptional instinctive ability to protect a calf and to wean an above average calf with sufficient milk. High milk yield is a characteristic of the purebred Brahman and this milk production exerts a powerful influence on pre-weaning growth.

Ease of Calving

An inherent ability of the female animal to limit pre-natal growth which leads to low birth mass. The characteristic sloping rump formation also facilitates the birth process. Brahman females and their crosses have far less calving problems and are renowned for their mothering instinct and protecting their calves from predators.

Resistance to illness

Because of it’s smooth coat, loose moving skin, black pigmentation and oil gland discharge (sebum), it is able to effectively withstand parasites. The Brahman's resistance to cattle tick is also related to it’s immune response that prevents ticks developing and the sleek coat that does not favour attachment of tick larvae. Furthermore the chemicals in the sweat glands, act as a repellent.

Effective digestive system

The Brahman's improved efficiency of production over breeds is closely linked to its unique digestive system attributes:

  • The ability to recycle nutrients through the blood stream and saliva help digestion
  • Reduced water intake means less urination resulting in less nitrogen loss and higher blood nitrogen levels
  • Brahmans have demonstrated an ability to achieve high growth rates and excellent feed conversion, through the maintenance of higher intake levels of low quality feed.
  • Slower rate of protein turnover enables muscle and body tissue development to continue on low feed intake
  • Reduced sulphur demand for hair growth means more available for amino acids associated with growth and production

Resistance to bloat

There are claims that Brahman cattle and their crosses are relatively resistant to bloat. The value of such an attribute is greatly appreciated when cattle have to be grazed on bloat producing pastures.

Life expectancy

The ability to continue a productive life up to a high age – 15 to 18 years

Market ability

Scientific findings prove that pure Brahman steers and crossbreeds reach earlier market readiness in comparison to other breeds.

High Yielding Carcass

The Brahman's impressive production performance on the hoof is backed up by an equally impressive performance as a carcass.

Superior yield of saleable meat is a result of:

  • Excellent muscle development
  • Uniform even fat cover
  • Less intra-muscular fat which means less waste

Late cutting of permanent teeth

The later marketing of premium carcasses is possible due to the fact that Brahmans only cuts permanent teeth after 24 months.