The Skietlaagte Farms Sussex Stud was established in the mid-1970s under the acronym ARE. In 2019 the stud was repositioned under the brand SF and the decision was made to convert the entire Skietlaagte Commercial herd to a pure Sussex Appendix herd over time. Thorough livestock management practices, an intensive vaccination program and rigorous selection processes, done in consultation with esteemed national and international cattle inspectors, have ensured that the blood lines of the herd have continued to excel over time.
Sussex cattle originated some 2000 years ago in the South of England when the area was ruled by the Roman Empire. The name Sussex came from the area from which the cattle originated. They are believed to be the oldest of all British Breeds and were bred for their hardiness, due to the poor soil and grazing conditions that they had to endure. The first imports of Sussex cattle into South Africa occurred shortly after the Anglo-Boer War that ended in 1902, when there was an urgent need to replace the hundreds of thousands of animals that had been lost during the war, to bolster the agricultural sector of the economy. In 1903, 19 yearling heifers and 4 yearling bulls were imported by the College of Agriculture in Potchefstroom.
Sussex cattle are known for their uniformity, deep red colour and qood temperament. They are typically early maturing, adaptable to extreme weather conditions and easy to handle. The females make excellent mothers to their calves, characterized with good milk production and a genuine motherly nature. In 2021 the average Sussex cow weight at calving was 563kg and at weaning 582kg. The average inter-calving period was 414 days, the average calf birth weight was 32kgs and the 7 month weaning weight was 232kg.
On the whole breeding bulls are seen to have high “libido” which leads to efficient mating and high conception rates. The Sussex animal has a fully pigmented skin with a deep dark red coat. There are generally no eye problems and the Sussex bulls, since they are extremely pure bred, are effective in cross breeding programmes, bringing sought after hybrid vigour and uniformity in their calves.
The Skietlaagte Commercial Herd maintains a 95% conception rate in both wet and dry years. The most important component in any beef operation is fertility. To achieve these high reproduction rates, the herd health is central to Skietlaagte livestock management practices.
All Skietlaagte cattle are inoculated annually against all relevant diseases, including congenital contractual arachnodactyly (CA), trichomonas and vibriosis, with annual sheath washing conducted on all bulls. Skietlaagte has been associated with VPlan (Veterinary Verified Livestock Plan) since May 2020 when SA Stud Book – Logix confirmed their participation in the program.
Good herd health is further promoted by having a single breeding season. Culling criteria is extremely rigorous. When a cow is mated, she must have a calf at foot, being proof that she gave birth to and raised the calf.
The Skietlaagte Farms Commercial herd is managed identically to the Stud herd, with cows and calves being weighed at birth and weaning and with the 18-month weight for heifers considered during selection for inclusion in the herd. The cow to calf birth weight ratio is kept below 7% to ensure cows do not experience calving difficulties.
Mostly all steers are sold as 7 month weaners, however when the circumstances are favourable Skietlaagte has the ability to round off its own weaners, as well as those bought in from nearby farmers in the covered feedlot operation on the farm.