The 2020 Onderstepoort Feedlot Challenge is creating quite a stir at the Onderstepoort veterinary campus of the University of Pretoria. This annual competition offers fifth-year veterinary students a chance to manage and care for their own cattle in a simulated feedlot environment, thereby giving them the chance to gain invaluable experience when it comes to bunk management, production monitoring and biosecurity.

A hands-on learning approach

Since the the feedlot industry plays such a vital role in the South African meat industry, the Onderstepoort Feedlot Challenge provides the perfect opportunity for students to learn more about this sector.

Through hands-on learning and collaborating with experienced veterinarians and experts in the feedlot industry, all 180 veterinary students participating in this year’s challenge will get the chance to design feed formulations, determine their production budget and decide on a marketing and processing strategy.

As part of the challenge, the students divide into groups and all the different feedlot tasks are equally distributed. Each student then chooses a specific task to research and report on. This research assignment counts 50% towards the student’s feedlot mark, with the other 50% consisting of a peer evaluation process. The Onderstepoort Feedlot Challenge will account for 25% of the students’ final year mark in the Bovine Health and Production module.

The first event

Eight Feedlot Challenge student groups gathered at the Onderstepoort veterinary campus on 31 January to purchase calves at a mock auction, courtesy of Vleissentraal Auctioneers. Each group bought 15 to 25 calves.

The students are now responsible for mixing the feed and making sure that their animals are getting the right amount of nutrition to ensure optimal growth. Each group’s progress will be monitored on a weekly basis through the analyses of calf growth data and by keeping tabs on various production parameters.

Click here to view each group’s progress.

The project mentor

Dr Andy Hentzen is well acquainted with the Feedlot Challenge and aided students as a feedlot consultant and animal health mentor in 2019. This year he is spearheading the project.

“The students already have all the knowledge and resources available to them to take on this challenge. This project gives them an opportunity to learn more about larger production animals and the feedlot industry. We are very grateful to our sponsors, who make it possible for us to provide our students with interactive learning opportunities such as this,” he commented.

Dr Andy Hentzen is spearheading the 2020 Onderstepoort Feedlot Challenge.

The 2020 Onderstepoort Feedlot Challenge groups:

Group 1: Forrest Rump

Photo credit: Forrest Rump.

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Group 2: Beefcakes

Photo credit: Beefcakes.

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Group 3: Cowabunga

Photo credit: Cowabunga.

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Group 4: Risk It For The Brisket

Photo credit: Risk It For The Brisket.

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Group 5: Heifin’ Big Steaks

Photo credit: Heifin’ Big Steaks.

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Group 6: Farmer’s Beefly

Photo credit: Farmer’s Beefly.

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Group 7: The Beefy Bunch

Photo credit: The Beefy Bunch.

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Group 8: Hakuna Mootata

Photo credit: Hakuna Mootata.

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Important dates on the Feedlot Challenge calendar are:

  • 11 to 13 February: Students will visit Beefcor for some practical experience.
  • 27 May: On the hoof evaluation.
  • 28 May: Slaughter at Chamdor Meat Market abattoir.
  • 17 June: Prize-giving.

The sponsors of this year’s Onderstepoort Feedlot Challenge are Plaas Media, Zoetis, Beefcor, Vleissentraal Auctioneers and the SA Feedlot Association. – Claudi Nortjé, Plaas Media