Learned Behaviour and NoseRings® by Abbey Kingdon
The Brahman breed has been an integral part of cattle breeding in South Africa since the 1950’s. The tell-tale Brahman traits are well established in the commercial beef industry, even if sometimes the signs are subtle: a little extra length in the ear, an extra fold of dewlap, a slight hump, hybrid vigor, adaptability, hardiness. Especially through maternal lines, Brahman blood circulates through South African herds. But intertwined with desirable traits in the strands of Brahman DNA is the highly heritable trait of temperament. The stain on the breed’s reputation. But top breeders and society officials say today’s Brahman is improved. From the inside out.
Gustav Botes, a stud Manso Brahman breeder with a farm near Piet Plessis, selects heavily for good temperament.
Botes said his cattle are worked in a kraal, if they are aggressive or flighty they are culled. When gathering, if some run away, those are culled too. Botes uses the NoseRing® low-stress weaning product sold in the co-op, Wesmark, he manages in Vryburg. He said he doesn’t use a low stress management system, he simply selects for low-stress animals. The NoseRing® allows weaned calves to learn herd behaviour as they stay with their mothers and the herd instead of being grouped with other calves at weaning time.
“(Staying with the herd) is very important in the development of learned behaviours such as some aspects of temperament, plant selection and adaptation,” said Judy Richardson of Whole Concepts, who designed the NoseRing®.
In Botes experience, the NoseRing® also allows the calf to gain weight through weaning, instead of losing weight due to the stress of weaning. And it has eliminated a need for fence repairs due to desperate cows and calves at weaning time, he said.