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Drakensberger cattle

Out of Africa for Africa Template:Cattle

The exceptional reproductive drive, virile pre-potency, effortless adaptability to all environments and rugged hardiness of the Drakensberger have combined to make it an ideal motherline breed for maximum and effective beef production and high economic returns. This medium sized breed is indigenous to South Africa and was developed over a period of several centuries. After Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape in 1497 he briefly went ashore to acquire a black ox from the local native people in exchange for three bracelets.

Da Gama subsequently paid tribute to the excellent quality of its meat. This is historys first recording of the black cattle of the Cape. Nearly four hundred years later, at the time of the Great Trek, several voortrekker families left the Cape to travel north with teams of the same black oxen then known by the name of Vaderland cattle.Most of these trekkers settled along the Drakensberg range, among them the Uys family who began farming in the present-day Volksrust area.

The latter's dedicated contribution to the improvement and maintenance of the breed's purity was universally acknowledged, and in due course the name of the breed was changed to Uys cattle. This name remained unchanged until 1947 when the Drakensberger Cattle Breeders Society of South Africa was formed to receive immediate official recognition. By that time the black cattle had become known as

Drakensbergers because of their widespread concentration in the mainly sourveld Drakensberg region, beginning at Dordrecht in the Cape and stretching east and north over a distance of more than a thousand kilometres. Today the breed has spread throughout the country, from Humansdorp in the south, through the eastern

Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and eastern Mpumalanga to Messina in the Northern Province.

Although the Drakensberger has always thrived extremely well on sourveld grazing, of late it has been found to do even better in the sweetveld areas, as a result of which the breed has been moving in substantial numbers into the North-West Province and north western Free State and into the mountainous areas of the Karoo.

Even the rest of the world seems to have taken note of the merits of the Drakensberger, and there have already been steady inquiries about the breed from as far afield as the United States, Canada, Brazil and Mozambique, with exports to Zimbabwe, Namibia and Swaziland"


The declared mission of Drakensberger farmers is to propagate the traditional black animals carrying a maximum amount of high quality beef without sacrifice of the breeds inherent qualities.

These include its ability to adapt to all conditions, its good milk production, the average 35 kg birth weight of calves, its high 90% fertility, its low mortality (in official tests 49% lower than most breeds from birth to wean), the impressive weight reached by weaner calves (heifers 210 kg and bullcalves 240 kg + on average 25 kg more in sweetveld), its even temperament that makes for easy handling, and the outstanding mothering ability of the cows.

Visual and performance testing of animals for registration is compulsory, and many breeders have testified that this requirement has not only brought about a marked improvement in the weaning weight and calving percentage of their herds but has also proven with the further help of BLUP analyses to be the best guide for the selection of animals.

At present about 14 000 purebred Drakensberger females and 5 300 males are registered, and on average new registrations made annually number 2 700 females and 2 800 males. All registered Drakensbergers carry a capital 'D' on the left shoulder. The society issue certificates of purity to breeders of commercial Drakensberger cattle that meet the breed's standards of excellence. This certification enables the owners of the animals to demand a premium price from buyers of their stock. To date the record price paid for a Drakensberger bull at a public auction is R65 000, while the top price paid for a female is R32 000.

On average Drakensberger bulls now realise R19 000 and females R11 000. Attendances to auctions often include African farmers who favour the breed for draught and milking purposes. The demand for females is so great at present that it is difficult to satisfy. Breeders emphasise that one of the biggest attributes of Drakensberger cattle is their ability to make maximum use of natural grazing, which is the cheapest asset available to any livestock breeder."
Off the veld at 30 months they weigh about 550 kg each, while purebred Drakensberger weaner calves finished at a feedlot weighs about 440 kg at as early an age as 11 months. Another special merit of the breed is its ability to cross well with both Bos indicus and Bos taurus breeds, making it exceptionally suitable as a motherline breed in crossbreeding systems.

Mature bulls weigh from 820 kg to 1 100 kg, and cows from 550 kg to 720 kg. Cows remain in production for up to 20 years.


FERTILITY: conception rates over a 12 year period on sourveld: Cows/92% Heifers/100% Reconception of heifers/90% = an ICP of 394 days.

IMPORTANT! 92% of the cows/heifers calved down within the first third of the calving season after a mating season of 75 days only.

The Drakensberger is Primarily a dam Line

  • Early to medium maturity
  • Medium frame size
  • Low maintenance requirements
  • Fertile - ICP to 353 days/92 cows
  • Milk - 240 kg weaning weight (205 days)is common in stud
  • Long productive life of 14 years and more

Feedlot Growth:

The following results were published by Johan Bloem of Kanhym Feedlot where 1015 Drakensbergers were tested:

Days in feedlot=109 Starting mass=199kg Final mass=357kg ADG=1446g FCR=4.72:1 Morbidity=7.5 Mortality=0.89%