The cream of the Bloodline crop – a few of the bulls on Mynhardsrus.

Zippo Lamprecht of Mynhardsrus, south of Dewetsdorp in the Free State, is the fifth generation Lamprecht on this farm. In 2020 his Bloodline Boran stud was crowned ARC Beef Cattle Improvement Herd of the Year.

Zippo acquired his first cattle at the age of five and has been farming full time since 2011. “I’ve always wanted to be a cattle farmer. I was first introduced to the Boran when I was nine, when I saw Borans belonging to Schalk van Oudtshoorn near Ermelo in Mpumalanga. I bought my first Boran stud animals when I was 14.”

The Boran, he says, is an easy cow to farm due to its hardiness, fertility and milk production traits. Handling the Boran is extremely easy and its growth off the veld is astounding. 

Zippo Lamprecht.

In 2007 Zippo was part of a tour to Kenya to see what the breed has accomplished in its country of origin. Something that really impressed him was the extensive manner in which the Kenyans farmed their cattle. This confirmed the fact that the Boran does not need pampering.

No need for extra labour

Neither Zippo nor his father, Adriaan, employ permanent workers on their farms, as the Boran makes this unnecessary. Zippo has an arrangement with a neighbour that if any tasks requiring additional labour need doing, he would work both herds on the same day using the neighbour’s labourers.

“The Boran with its easy temperament has a strong herd instinct. This makes moving a group into the kraal very simple. I have a matriarch cow that helps me tremendously. If she moves in a certain direction or goes into the crush, the rest of the herd will follow. With her as a partner I really don’t need extra labour.”

First and foremost a grass farmer

Zippo believes in a low input approach and the Boran fits this philosophy perfectly. “We do not have any croplands, only natural veld. I therefore need a cow that will thrive in these conditions. Because the Boran is not a selective grazer, they clean up the camps pretty uniformly. This is beneficial when it comes to veld management. I also do not need to spend money on items such as internal and external parasite control. As for complementary licks, we use a little very strategically.”

Zippo believes in a holistic approach, aiming to mimic the natural rhythm of nature as closely as possible. Cattle are seen as factories that convert grass into a marketable, in-demand product. “This is why I do not like driving around in the veld in my bakkie. I would much rather walk and have an up-close look at the soil and grass. This gives me a better view of the veld’s condition, as well as when to move the animals to a different camp.

“We try to make our grazing camps smaller and to increase our herd size. This allows us to utilise a camp quickly and to move on to the next one, thereby creating a longer interval in which the camp can rest. Each season, however, has its own challenges. So, it is difficult to follow rigid guidelines.”

The low-down on handling

His cattle are not kraal-bound, says Zippo. They will only come to the kraal once a year for pregnancy testing. All the measurements required for stud breeding are recorded – calves and their mothers are measured at birth, at weaning, then at twelve months and again at 18 months.

“To make birthweight measurement easy, I position the water troughs next to the kraals in the camps where the cows calve. During the first day or two after she has given birth, the cow will visit the water trough. This is when I put her through the scale and weigh the calf.”

The way cattle are treated during handling, Zippo believes, will determine how easy they become. The lower the stress levels, the easier they handle; and the easier they handle, the lower the stress levels.

Selecting only the best

The underlying aim of his whole approach to selection is improving his herd’s economic traits. “I consider fertility the number one selection criterion. An intercalving period (ICP) exceeding 400 days is unacceptable. If one cow can maintain a good ICP, there is no excuse for the rest.”

Age at first calving is another key benchmark to identify early maturity. Bulls run with the heifers from as early as 14 months of age; heifers, however, should calve the first time before reaching three years of age.

It is not uncommon for Zippo’s stud to achieve a cow-calf weaning ratio of just under 60%.

The average weaning index, which reflects a cow’s milk production ability, is also critical. In terms of growth, the same applies to the twelve- and 18-month indices.

“I send bulls to Phase C tests and conduct Phase D and veld bull tests on the farm. In any growth test, it is not only growth that is important, but also feed conversion ability. I have had bulls with a feed conversion ratio of less than five to one, but I think anything less than six to one is acceptable. My herd average is around 5,5.”

Maximising profit per hectare

Although his aim as a stud breeder is to produce the best possible bulls and sell them at a premium, Zippo calculates his profit on a per-hectare basis. This implies keeping inputs per hectare as low as possible, while achieving maximum yield per hectare.

“Cows’ individual economic indices play a critical role on the yield side. If a cow has a weaning index of 105, implying that she is five index points above the average, her calf may wean as much as 13kg more than the average. At a price of R32/kg her yield could be R416 higher than the average. In a herd of 100 cows this could mean an income of R41 600 more than the average. It is possible to increase your income dramatically by culling the bottom 10% of your cow herd every year.”

Although he does not discriminate against cow weight, the average weight of his cows is between 400 and 420kg. Weaning weights, on the other hand, average between 220 and 230kg, although weights of 260kg and more are common. This puts the cow-calf weaning weight ratio at well over 50%, and in many cases just under 60%.

As a stud farmer, record-keeping and administration is a vital part of Zippo’s daily routine. After the cows’ morning check-up, he spends a good deal of time in the office to keep his admin up to date. He also serves on the board of the Boran Cattle Breeders’ Society.

Well-deserved accolades

Zippo has received various awards for his Bloodline Boran stud over the years, including ARC Young Stud Breeder of the Year in 2015. One award that meant a great deal to him was being crowned SA Stud Book’s Stud Breeder of the Year for the Free State. He also had cows that received the Elite Cow award from both SA Stud Book and the ARC more than once, as well as bulls that received the ARC’s Growth Test Class accolade several times.

And the absolute cherry on the cake last year, was when he was crowned the 2020 ARC National Commercial Beef Cattle Improvement Herd of the Year – certainly well-deserved, given what he has achieved with his stud.

But while it confirms that he is on the right track, awards are not something that this young farmer consciously chases. Zippo has a very specific vision for the stud and adheres to a very strict selection policy to achieve this. – Izak Hofmeyr, Stockfarm

For more information, contact Zippo Lamprecht on 082 396 9071.