During the years prior to World War II a need
was felt for a beef breed which could produce economically in the
sub-tropical regions of the Transvaal and Natal. Notwithstanding
their adaptability to the climate, the indigenous Afrikaner-type
cattle did not have the desired growth potential, they were relatively
late in reaching sexual maturity and many of the cows did not calve
The exotic British beef breeds available
at the time performed well in the more temperate regions but could
not keep up the same production in the hotter environment. They
were also more susceptible to the tick-borne diseases which were
prevalent in the sub-tropics.
The Department of Agriculture consequently
decided to test the performance of various cross-breds between the
indigenous and exotic breeds on its experimental farms, Mara and
Messina. Bulls of five British Beef breeds were used on Afrikanner
cows and the progeny then performance tested.
After pilot trials it was decided to continue
only with the better performing Hereford and Shorthorn cross-breds.
Ultimately three-quarter Afrikaners were mated to half-breeds to
obtain progeny with 5/8 Afrikaner and 3/8 Hereford or Shorthorn
The first results were already encouraging.
Under the management circumstances prevailing at Mara in those days,
the weaning weights of the crossbred cows were on average 195kg
at 240 days (about 20% higher than those of the three parent breeds).
Likewise the calving percentages of the crossbred
cows were appreciably higher. The calf mortality was much lower
than in the British Beef breeds and close to that of the more resistant
Through strict selection of breeding animals
rapid progress was made. Within 20 years after the initial cross-breeding
trials a superior cattle breed, performing better than other breeds
in the bushveld of the Northern Transvaal, had been established.
The name "Bonsmara" was derived
from "Bonsma", the man who played a major role in the
development of the breed, and "Mara", the farm on which
the animals were bred.
More and more cattle breeders became impressed
by the productivity of this adaptable, functionally efficient breed.
The number of active breeders rapidly increased from only 37 in
1970 to 459 at present.
Likewise the number of registered Bonsmaras increased to considerably
more than 87 400 performance tested and approved cows at present.
Bonsmara calves now represent roughly 45%
of all birth notifications of Beef and Dual Purpose breeds. The
sustained use of Bonsmaras has led to constant improvements in weaning
weights (at 205 days of age) of cross-bred herds.
There have also been studies showing good
results for calving percentage, weights of heifers as well as veld
and feedlot adaptability.
In summary, use the Bonsmara because it
has been strictly selected for growth, fertility and functional
efficiency, being the economically important traits emphasized by
the master breeders of the cattle industry.
Brochure, Select Genes Ltd.