Nguni cattle are being used in poor rural communities to strengthen local stock.

This hardy cattle breed, indigenous to Southern Africa, can withstand most tick-borne diseases and are generally low-maintenance. This makes them ideally suited for poorer communities, explained Vuyano Somyo, project manager of the Eastern Cape Nguni Cattle Development Trust.

Nguni cattle survive on grass and require little to no medicine or food supplements, Somyo says. Most small-scale rural cattle are generic; they are mixed masala rather than thoroughbreds. The goal of the Nguni Cattle Development Trust is to improve the quality and quantity of village stock by introducing more Nguni genes in the cattle pool.

The way they do this is both simple and effective. In cooperation with the provincial government, they go into villages and bring with them two Nguni bulls and ten heifers. A heifer is a cow that has never calved.

“They keep these animals for five years. After the five-year period, they must return the same number of bulls and heifers,” Somyo explains. These cattle then go to the next village on the Trust’s list. Ownership of the remaining progeny is then officially transferred to the community.

The point is to create cattle herds more in line with the qualities associated with the Nguni breed. “Obviously, people in the villages have got their own cattle,” Somyo says. Therefore, “it is a requirement that they castrate any other bulls. Then we can produce the Nguni bulls to cross-breed.”
The end result is herds suited to both their environment and limited resources available to the local communities.

The project is managed by The University of Fort Hare takes which also provides research back-up. The Eastern Cape Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform provides training, development, and veterinarian services. The trust is funded by the Industrial Development Corporation.

By Håvard Ovesen