Objective selection criteria and mating strategy of indigenous Nguni cattle under low-input in-situ conservation programs
Participatory Rural Appraisal techniques were employed to determine the breeding objectives of Nguni cattle under community-based management of indigenous livestock genetic resources. Six groups each composed of nine representative farmers from communal and small-scale conservation enterprises participated in deriving the objective selection criteria of breeding animals using data on economic weights of preferential traits. The shuffled focus groups brainstormed on the mating strategy and management of breeding animals within low-input conservation enterprises. An economic-weight dependent culling method (EWCM) and two-tier open nucleus breeding scheme were conceptualized. The Nguni breeding animals ideally need to maintain optimum body condition score (4 - 6) and low tick counts across seasons under low-input production system. The indigenous breeding bulls need to have high reproductive efficiency while breeding cows must have calved before reaching 27 month age. The farmers set a two-and-half-year service period of breeding bulls in the in-situ conservation enterprise before culling. Farmers are recommended to objectively assess breeding animals and maintain an updated performance data and information recording system.
Keywords: economic weight-dependent culling, focus group discussion, preferred traits, two-tier open nucleus breeding