The feedlot industry is an important part of the South African meat industry, with about 85% of all meat in the South African value chain coming through feedlots. Unhealthy animals are not productive and well-managed animal health in feedlots forms a crucial part of feedlot management. Feedlot veterinarians need to know about feedlot diseases and to understand feedlot systems and economics.

The Onderstepoort faculty of veterinary science has made the annual Onderstepoort Feedlot Challenge a compulsory part of the curriculum. The challenge makes up 25% of the students’ final year mark in the bovine health and production module.

The greater purpose is to stimulate self-learning, encouraging students to stay curious and interested in new learning. The challenge also aims to promote interest in production animal veterinary science.

Prof Dietmar Holm, deputy dean for teaching and learning at the faculty, says the project is educational and enjoyable. “The students get into groups and compete against each other to try and get the best productivity out of a simulated cattle feedlot,” says Prof Holm. The cattle and raw materials for the feed have been sponsored by Beefcor. Students have to ‘buy’ the cattle at a mock auction and then formulate and mix their own feed. Animals are fed for 105 days before they are judged on the hoof, slaughtered and processed.

During the challenge, the students are responsible for the entire feedlot system. This includes processing the animals, selecting and buying calves, financial planning and budgeting, feed formulation, complete health care, managing the feed store, mixing feed, managing the kraal and calves, planning the marketing strategy and more. Every team must delegate work and specific tasks to individual team members.

According to Prof Holm, the faculty has several external experts participating in the challenge to guide the students.

The main purpose is for students to get some hands-on experience with cattle and a glimpse into the working life of a vet. “I think the challenge is a great concept to expose the students to the life of a vet and open their minds to the different opportunities in veterinary science,” said Dr Andy Hentzen, feedlot consultant and animal health mentor at the challenge.

“We need well-trained vets in the feedlot industry, as feedlots cannot be profitable without a good vet. I think this challenge is the perfect breeding ground for new potential that will benefit the feedlot industry,” said Dewald Olivier, executive manager of the South African Feedlot Association.


There are seven palpably excited student groups, each group with an exciting name to help build team spirit.

The teams are:

Every team member has a different responsibility, ranging from marketing to managing respiratory diseases. Although the feedlot challenge is a practical exercise it is supported by theory and students have had to attend classes and write tests on feedlot procedures. Detailed reports must be handed in at the end of the challenge and each group must present its final data to the student group and the judges.

Good luck teams!

Challenge timeline

The cattle are currently in the feedlot on the Onderstepoort campus; the feed has been formulated and mixed and the students must maintain a strict feeding schedule and monitor the health of the animals.

Feedlot challenge events will take place on the following dates:

On the hoof evaluation: 23 May

Slaughter: 25 May

Presentations and prize-giving: 28 May

The Feedlot challenge is supported by Zoetis, Beefcor, Vleissentraal, Barnlab the SA Feedlot Association and Plaas Media.

Stay up to date with and Stockfarm’s facebook page and look out for #OPfeedlotchallenge2019 on social media. – Marike Brits, AgriOrbit.

Hear from everyone involved in the video below:


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