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Beef up our beef

Mar 17 2014 07:42 *Mandi Smallhorne

I came back from my recent trip to Denmark thinking that, on the whole, the Danes do things so very well. Aside from their easy, under-stated chic, one aspect of our look-see trip that impressed me was how well (and often) private industry, government and academia work together.

International Media Support, an organisation that supports journalists in conflict situations or when dealing with human insecurity, had invited a group of Ghanaian, Kenyan and South African journalists to see how this small but financially comfortable country is progressing en route to its goal of being fossil-fuel-free by 2050.

In almost every case – when we were visiting the test site for massive wind turbines at ?sterild, or the wave power installation being tested at Hantsholm, for instance – we were hosted by academics who were working hand-in-hand with engineers from private industry, or guided by members of the local council who were personally invested in the success of the ventures we were being shown.

When one of my South African colleagues confessed to me – after another bus-and-metro trip to a meeting (we were taken by the reliability, cleanness and comfort of public transport) – that she didn’t want to go home, I found myself wistfully wishing that we could take some of Denmark’s ideas and habits with us. Such as collaboration between academia, industry and government for the greater good.

And about 10 days after I stepped off the plane, I walked into one such initiative, right here in Pretoria.

It’s called the Animal Breeding and Reproductive Technology Platform, and it’s intended to unite researchers and farmers – with government bodies as facilitators – to improve our livestock industry.

Apparently South Africa’s ‘marginal’ land which cannot be used to grow crops is in fact ideal land for livestock, but we’re not using it to its full capacity, and as a result, South Africa is a net IMPORTER of meat.

If we could boost the industry through leveraging technology to improve breeding, they say, we could turn that situation around.

During one session, we heard a roll-call of some of the breeds that make up the 14 million-strong national cattle herd: Brangus… Simmentaler… Afrikaner… Drakensberger… Nguni….

Presenter Thys Meyer of the Simbra Cattle Breeders Society of Southern Africa, speaking at the Innovation Hub in Pretoria, said that cattle breeders across the country could clearly see the advantages of engaging in a genetic data collection programme aimed at analysing and improving yields from beef cattle.

The research budget that would be needed is around R240m but, Meyer said, ...

Read more - Fin24