“The OP feedlot challenge was such a great experience and we learned so much from working with the cattle hands on. I am sure several future production animal veterinarians were created in the process.” This is what Mardi Nel, team leader of Group 5, High Steaks had to say after her team was announced the winners in the 2018 Onderstepoort Feedlot Challenge.

For 105 days eight groups of veterinary students, 176 students in total, fed and managed cattle in a simulated feedlot environment. The compulsory OP Feedlot challenge, responsible for 25% of the students’ final year mark, is aimed at exposing veterinary students to all aspects of working with production animals and spark their interest in production animal veterinary care. “The final goal is, of course, to train better production animal veterinarians in South Africa,” says Dr. Shaun Morris, who spearheads the challenge. A totally practical approach is chosen because it all happens out in the kraal and transferring practical knowledge in a theoretical way often proves difficult and unsuccessful. “Although it is a practical approach, it is supported by theory and the students also had to attend classes and write tests on feedlot ins and outs.”

The real deal

During the challenge the students were responsible for everything. This includes processing the animals, selecting and buying calves, financial planning and budgeting, feed formulation, complete health care, managing the feed store and mixing feed, managing the kraal and calves, planning the marketing strategy and more. To conclude the challenge, detailed reports on all these aspects had to be handed in, including numbers, lessons learnt and plans made. The challenge was concluded with presentations by each team. These presentations and the reports were judged by a team of judges made up of lecturers and sponsor representatives.

“We have been involved with this competition for three years now, and I have to say today’s presentations have certainly been the most creative we have seen,” said Gorette Moutinho of Zoetis, before announcing the winning teams. She explained that the numbers play a major role in deciding the winner, but that it is about much more than that. It is about learning and finding out what you could have done differently to achieve better results. “This is where the presentations are important as it gives the students the opportunity to share what they have learned, how they handled certain challenges and what they could have done differently.”

The team leaders with Isabella Erlank of Zoetis.

The winning teams

Group 4, from birth to large girth, achieved third placed and was especially lauded for the technical excellence of their presentation and the lessons learned that they shared during this presentation. “Amongst other things, we have learned that calf selection is a key factor in determining the profitability of a feedlot, that feedlots have a very narrow profit margin and that energy is the most important limiting factor in the feedlot ration,” the group said.

In the second place was group 3, The Red Bulls. Great teamwork was what stood out for this team and, from beginning to the end, how well they worked together was evident in their results. “Personally, one of the greatest lessons I have learned is trusting people with more technical knowledge about the situation than you have and actually asking these people for help. It is never a shame to ask for help,” said Thandekile Maseko, team leader of The Red Bulls.

Finally, group 5, High Steaks was announced as the winner. Also having an excellent presentation and evidently great teamwork, it was their tight management and the fact that they had the best financial performance that singled them out as the winner.


The full results will be published soon: http://www.opfeedlotchallenge.co.za/

On-the-hoof evaluation

Besides the final winners, another highlight was the on-the-hoof evaluation where the animals were judged before slaughter by Fatstock judge, Johan Odendaal. In his feedback, he placed the focus on good conformation, even fat spread, strong backs and more. “The Students did very well; overall I saw good confirmation and there was good competition among the students.”

The on-the-hoof results were as follows:


  • 1st: The Red Bulls
  • 2nd: Beefcakes


  • 1st: High Steaks
  • 2nd: Die Vetter Die Better

Group of bulls:

  • 1st: The Red Bulls
  • 2nd: Beefed-Up

Group of heifers:

  • 1st: Basically beef
  • 2nd: High steaks

“A project like this, of course, needs a lot of resources and we are thankful to say that everything, from the cattle to the feed, is sponsored by our loyal supporters.” The sponsors are the University of Pretoria, Zoetis, Sparta Beef, Fepro, Afgri, SA Premix, Tongaat Hulett Starch and Octavoscene.

The challenge team with the sponsors. From the left is Sr. Reinette Ludike, University of Pretoria; Henning Vermaak, Feedlot Nutritionist; Johan Odendaal, SA Fatstock Judging Association; Luzaan Beukes, SA Premix; Martin Botha, Tongaat Hulett Starch; Sunette Gildenhuys, SA Premix; Dr. Barry van Houten, Zoetis; Estelle van Reenen, Sparta Beef; Jaques de Jager, Zoetis; Isabel Erlank, Zoetis; Ryan Harrison, SA Premix; Gorette Moutinho, Zoetis; Stuart Crook, Tongaat Hulett Starch and Dr. Shaun Morris, University of Pretoria.

The students expressed massive gratitude to not only the sponsors, but also to Sr. Ludike and Dr. Morris for the time they invested in the challenge.

Sr. Ludike received a standing ovation.
To thank Estelle van Reenen of Sparta beef, team 4, From Birth to Large Girth, gifted her with a signed team shirt. With her is team captain, Jarred Morris.







The challenge teams were very active on social media and to stay up to date with the challenge progress you can follow it on facebook. Click here. – Marike Brits, AgriOrbit