The Simbra Breed
Cattle breeding began in the
18th century when Robert Bakewell (1725 - 1795) from England was the
first to select animals to breed a desired type (breed). His students
established the foundation of the Shorthorn in the late 1700’s, the first
recognised breed of cattle.
established by the identification of a type regarded as more useful than the
ordinary, selection of a few superior animals for a limited number of herds who
practised inbreeding to establish a uniform type which could be regarded as a
breed. If successful, more herds were established and a breed society formed to
keep the herdbook and ensure the purity of the breed. It is of interest to note
that breeds were greatly influenced by a few sires. For instance, nearly a
quarter of the Angus breed is related to one bull namely “Prince of Tillyfour”
(Nichols, 1949). The main sire of the grey Brahman breed is “Manso”.
In the mid seventies 60% of all registered grey Brahman were “Manso”
descendants (Perkins, 1987). “Monkey”, born in 1920, a 3/8
Brahman X 5/8 Shorthorn is the foundation sire of the entire Santa Gertrudis
breed (Seyfferdt, 1999).
Modern breed development
Does the development of breeds
in the past differ from today’s Simbra breeding program? Yes, we do not believe
in the closed Herd Book concept, dominance of a few sires or inbreeding and
selection based on visual evaluation alone.
Closed Herd Books restrict
migration of favourable genes. Due to the large environmental variation under
which Simbra breeders farm as well as differing bull buyer preferences, we
believe in the maintenance of a sound variation within the breed enabling
breeders to develop a type which performs in their environment. Any form of
inbreeding results in the loss of within-breed heterosis and should be avoided.
evolutionary development of the Simbra’s parent-breeds differs greatly. The
Simmental from central Europe, adapted to long cold winters and used for both
milk and beef. Zebu cattle, the genetic pool from which the Brahman breed
derived, originate in India in an environment of heat, humidity, diseases and
When Simmental semen was
imported for the first time into the USA in the 60’s, breeders in Texas used it
on the Brahman and the performance of the half-blood cross was without
parallel. (Groomes, 1998). That was the birth of the Simbrah (with a
“h”) and the first animal was registered by the American Simmental Association
The outstanding performance of
Simmental/Brahman crosses was also the reason why the Simmentaler Association of
Southern Africa decided in the 80’s to change their constitution in order to
facilitate the Simbra. The first F1’s were registered in 1986 (bull Nestau 851
and heifer Lichtenstein L135 – both ľ X Ľ ).
The Simbra, which is
classified as a synthetic breed, has shown the highest percentage increase in
females of all breeds for a few years already and the annual growth for
the last 5 years is 15% p.a. Its share within the group of nine synthetic
breeds (Beefmaster, Bonsmara, Brangus, Braford, Charbray, Huguenot, Sanganer and
Santa Gertrudis) has increased from 5% five years ago to almost 15% today.
testing and administration of Simbra in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana are
managed by the Simmentaler/Simbra Cattle Breeders’ Society of Southern Africa
which is recognized by the World Federation as the sole registering authority
for Simbra in South Africa. Simbra did not experience the teething problems of a
new organisation since its parent organisation, provided the necessary
experience, financial strength as well as an established infrastructure.
The Society’s main objective
is to provide its members with a comprehensive service comparable to the best in
the world at local-market related prices. Besides consulting services, annual
farm visits, the Society handles its own modern registration and world renowned
Breedplan performance testing services.
The Breed Association believes
that through its direct involvement in shows (formulating classes, training
judges, supplying production data) it has a valuable tool in applying its
national breeding aim. A quarter of a century ago the Society was the first to
move away from the subjective method of judging by combining reproduction and
appearance in the show ring. It is the only Society in Southern Africa where
judges, in terms of the Constitution, are compelled to consider reproduction
data in the placing of cows. The world known Simbradex system (SIMBRA
reproduction inDEX), which combines intercalfing period, age at first calving,
number of calvings and even embryo flushings, was established with the origin of
the breed. It was also the first breed to create Blup breeding value show
classes in 1999.
How do they perform?
Based on performance testing breed averages (Beef
Breeding South Africa 1993-98) the Simbra compares
favourably with the other important (more than 2 500 tested females p.a.)
synthetic Sanga and Zebu breeds. Averages for Simbra and, in brackets, for
Afrikaner, Bonsmara, Beefmaster, Brahman, Drakensberger, Nguni, Santa Gertrudis:
reproduction index (ICP and age 1st calving): 91 (88);
weaning weight: 232 kg (206);
yearling weight heifers on farm:
275 kg (244);
feedlot growth (intensive bull
growth testing) 1594g (1458g).
Flexibility is allowed in
breeding Simbra and a wide range of Simmentaler-Brahman crosses are allowed in
the first or F1 Register. A breeder can dictate the optimum combination best
suited to his environment, management and customers. Animals eligible for
recording as F1 are:
the progeny of registered
Simmentaler, Brahman or Simbra bulls and registered or foundation Simmentaler,
Brahman or “Simbra type” cows;
direct F1 entry, the so
called “cum system”, of Simmentaler/Brahman cross type females approved
by the breed improvement officer.
Stabilisation occurs via the
F1 to F4 breeding programme where the animal’s F-grading is always one higher
than the lowest grading of its parents (e.g. F3 bull X F1 cow = F2 calf).
Group matings are permissible
for the breeding of F1 and F2 calves, whereafter single mating must be applied.
Visual appraisal for functional efficiency by breed improvement officers is a
prerequisite for registration as F1 to F4. Animals that do not meet the
requirements, regardless of their ancestors or performance, do not qualify for
registration. The policy adopted by some of the other synthetic breeds, viz. to
use any type of cow as a basis to start with, does not apply to the Simbra.
Foundation stock must be Simmentaler, Brahman or a combination of the two
Blood composition and colour
The environment determines the
ideal blood composition. In temperate regions, where weaner production is
important, we will see a higher percentage of Simmentaler and the higher the
environmental stress level the “more ear” or Brahman. In determining the
optimum proportion of Brahman we must consider that too high percentage Brahman
cattle tend to have a delayed age at puberty (Plasse, 1968 and Cartwright,
1980) decreased growth performance (Holroyd, 1990) and reduced beef
quality (Marschall, 1994).
Regarding the colour of
the breed we believe that the most profitable cow on the farm has the desired
colour. In a developing breed we have too many production related
characteristics to worry about that we cannot waste time on colour. Eyelid
pigmentation is a prerequisite for registration of F3 and F4 females as well as
all bulls. Dehorning of Simbra is obligatory and some of the breeders are in
the process of developing naturally polled lines.
A Breeders’ Association
without a defined breeding policy is without purpose. However, an objective on
paper is meaningless if not implemented by compulsory classification for
registration system. The overall goal we strive for is to breed an animal which
is a profitable producer and for which there is a demand in the industry. The
Simbra breeding aim consist of (i) a
Standard of Excellence
and (ii) a balanced set of
values for the ideal Simbra.
(fertility) enjoys the highest priority at all levels and at Simbra it is the
best barometer of the correct constitution (appearance of an animal), hardiness
(reaction to environmental stressors) and adaptability (to thrive and produce in
a certain environment). The cow which calves yearly in her natural environment
and weans a heavy calf relative to her weight (>50%), has the correct size.
Seeing that there are good
performers with a poor appearance as well as champions with poor performance,
Simbra breeders select according to the eye and the scale. Inspection on ground
of structural correctness (appearance) is compulsory for registration and
currently approximately ľ of the Simbra population is under BLUP performance
The Simbra’s measurable
breeding aims are defined in a set of ideal EBV’s.
Modern performance testing technology
information of thousands of animals together with extensive pedigree links
coupled with modern computer technology has enabled the Society to express
performance in a valuable figure called BLUP breeding value (EBV). Environment
(feed) and genes determine the appearance of an animal. BLUP separates
environment from genetics and only the genetic transmissible traits are
estimated. Relationships between animals play a key-role in estimating EBV’s
and pedigree record keeping is essential for determination of BLUP EBV’s.
The Society makes use of the
world’s most advanced beef cattle genetic evaluation system viz. Breedplan, to
estimate breeding values (EBV’s) for a range of important characteristics.
These traits cover areas of vital importance to bull buyers viz. weight, milk,
reproduction and carcass. EBV’s are 5 to 9 times more accurate than performance
indices. Selection according to weights and/or indices is history and no longer
The eye and the scale
Failure to read the future
correctly with regard to performance testing is the reason why Britain lost its
position as major stud farm of the world. BLUP breeding values are published on
all five generation pedigrees, sale catalogues and www.simbra.org.
Since the foundation of the
breed, visual appraisal or inspection by highly qualified breed experts is a
prerequisite for registration. In this system emphasis is placed on
characteristics with functional merit. Research has shown that cattle with
certain visual observable characteristics don’t perform under extensive ranching
regions where heat and parasites are problematic. Let’s look at a few.
Walking ability is very important in our low carrying capacity grazing
areas. We look at the hooves (large, closed, deep and uniform), pastern
(elastic), hocks (broad, dry with correct angle), bone structure (not coarse)
and stride (comfortable). We eliminate woolly or curly coated animals
because studies have shown that they perform poor in stressful, hot, dry or wet
tropical environment and are more susceptible to ticks and therefore tick borne
We discriminate against
flat rumps and prefer a rump sloping from hip to pin. Since scrotal
circumference is related to semen production and daughter’s puberty age, we
have minimum scrotum circumference measurements for registration. We also check
the prepuce and sheath before registration. The sheath should not extend
below an imaginary line from knee to hocks and we do not want a prolapse
or so called lazy prepuce.
The bull buyer’s best friend
To continually accomplish
genetic improvement in any cow herd, each new sire should be superior to the
previous one. The only way to accomplish this is by looking at the breeding
values (EBV’s) because they allow you to compare bulls over years and
herds. EBV’s are published on each certificate, official sale catalogues
and the web page because it is the best estimate of the genetics merit that the
animal will pass on to its offspring.
Inspection by independent
breed experts has been a prerequisite for registration and animals that do not
meet the requirements are not issued with a certificate. The certificate of a
Simbra is therefore the proof that the animal as well as its ancestors has been
inspected according to stringent standards.
The bull is the most important
investment the farmer makes in his herd. An unapproved bull without EBV’s could
cost him dearly. Utilization of the Simbra EBV’s and pedigree certificate
reduces this investment risk. ALWAYS insist on the certificate.
(CP Massmann, Breed
Director, Simmentaler/Simbra Cattle Breeders’ Society of Southern Africa - July
“The Simbra is a hardy,
smooth-coated, well adapted breed, with virile, hard-muscled, growthy bulls and
feminine, fertile, highly functional cows. A breed possessing the best of the
Simmentaler and the Brahman, a breed that has all the potential to produce beef
efficiency, especially in extensive cattle breeding areas.” (Dave Morley,
Senior Judge of Brahman, Simbra and Simmentaler).