by Lance Bruce
(Brandon Dubois also contributed to this post)
When the announcement was made that Class XIV would be traveling to South Africa I definitely had a preconceived idea of what we would be seeing. My ideas were so wrong. From the time we landed I have been so impressed with the people and the farms, especially the cattle operations.
My expectations were to see a few "scrub" cattle that would be used for food or milk for family needs. I was so wrong. The quality of the cattle has been outstanding. From the award winning Brahmans to the native Nguni cattle, similarities to the U.S. cattle operations are uncanny. The South African cattle operations are forage based production systems with native forages that would rival that of the Midwest prairie grasses. High protein and TDN content of the forages limits the need for additional supplements. Speaking with one producer he told me that he is a "grass manager" much like we consider ourselves in the Louisiana beef industry to manage quality forage.
Another area that has been impressive with the South African beef producers is their use of EPDs, breeding systems, and their record keeping. The use of EPDs were maybe not that surprising in the Brahman cattle, but is was very shocking that the native Nguni cattle have a complete breed association with EPD numbers.
As a beef producer I have been very impressed with the South African knowledge of how our production systems work and with the breeds that we use in the U.S. This just goes to show that preconceived expectations can be so wrong and that no matter what industry you are involved a common ground can be found even on a different continent. And no matter where you go in the world, agriculture can be a universal language.
Lance Bruce is a commercial lender/banker with Richland State Bank where he also serves as vice president. He is a third generation cattle producer on family land in Union Parish. He has a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness from University of Louisiana at Monroe and a master’s degree in agriculture and extension education from Mississippi State University.