Welcome to the first in a series of articles presenting insights into the various breeding projects currently taking place at Hillcrest Game Estates.
This particular article focuses on Hillcrest’s Sable and Springbok breeding projects.
Hillcrest Game Estates is part of the Firth Group farming enterprise which is already well-known for its superior genetic progress among Brahman and Brangus stud breeders. These high breeding-standards have been achieved by combining cutting-edge scientific breeding technology such as genomic analysis, estimated breeding values (EBV’s), artificial insemination (AI) and embryo programmes with excellent stockmanship. Accordingly, this track-record gives Hillcrest a decided advantage over its competitors. To support this claim, Dr. Lubout, specialist genetic advisor for Wildlife Stud Services (WS2) says that Hillcrest excels at its breeding objectives precisely because its stockmanship, accuracy of measurements and rigorous application of scientific selection is of such a high standard.
Sable (Hippotragus niger): Zambian and Matetsi
The Afrikaans translation for this broad category of Sable antelope is known as “swartwitpens”. When translated directly into English you have the word “blackwhitebelly”—implying a species of wild game that is distinctly black in its overall appearance, but with a characteristic white under-belly. The seSotho translation is “Phalafala”, whilst the isiZulu translation equates to “Impalampale”.
Within Hillcrest’s Sable breeding project, there are two distinct breeding herds: the Matetsi Sable and the Zambian Sable. In the Wolmaransstad region, the primary bloodlines are of Zambian origin. By contrast, the Matetsi bloodline is to be found at Arc-and-Ciel in the Wellington region.
Zambian Sable Breeding Herd
WildlifeRanching.com1 states that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) conservation status for the Zambian Sable is at “VU (vulnerable)”. For this reason, Hillcrest places significant value to the breeding successes achieved within its Zambian Sable breeding herd.
Hillcrest is extremely proud of its most recent December 2017 acquisition, a Zambian bull called Einstein. This prize sable bull measures a spectacular 50 2/8” at 5 years, 7 months. Einstein is the culmination of three extraordinary bloodlines:
- Njala — Einstein’s sire produced Maximus 51”+; Wiele 50”+; Katavi 48”+
- Nike — Einstein’s paternal grandsire produced, Njala 47 ½” (used by Romaco until he died in 2015); Dinaka 48”+ (Shelanti & Dinaka); Incredabull 50” (Louma); Monster 49” (used by Lumarie until he died in 2017); Palanka 47” (Phala-Phala Wildlife)
- Koning — Einstein’s maternal grandsire produced Alpha 50”+; Romaco 49”
Einstein has a verified 3-generation DNA pedigree of superior ancestors. Wildlife Stud Service’s Dr Lubout believes that Einstein has excellent horn-growth genes. John Firth believes that Einstein’s superior horn length and wide tip-to-tip measurement of 24 4/8” will result in exceptional quality progeny that meets Hillcrest’s breeding goals.
Performance evaluation statistics proves that Einstein has not only inherited good horn-growth genes, but that he has high concentrations thereof too. This ensures that Einstein is almost certain to transmit his gene superiority to his progeny. The Hillcrest team of breeding specialists believe that Einstein (with his superior horn length and wide tip to tip measurement of 24 4/8”) is certain to produce progeny that meet Hillcrest’s breeding objectives.
Credit: Special thanks go to Romaco Ranch for Einstein.
Matetsi Sable Breeding Herd – in Partnership with Arc-en-Ciel
In a unique joint-venture business partnership, established game-breeders John Firth (Hillcrest Game Estates) and Fernando Rueda (Arc-en-Ciel ) have joined forces to breed East African Buffalo and Matetsi sable in a Joint Venture. Interestingly, Arc-en-Ciel (‘l’arc-enciel’) which means ‘the rainbow’ in French, is a wildlife ranch situated between the foot of the Limietberg and the Groenberg mountains in the Wellington area of the Western Cape.
Hillcrest’s proven breeding bull, Zuru (47½”), has been moved down to Arc-en-Ciel Game Breeders in Wellington. Zuru is a quality bull with a strong body and perfect Matetsi colours. Cows with a diverse gene-pool of outstanding genetics were added to this herd.
Reporting on the latest births on the farm, Piet Botma, Hillcrest’s General Manager had this to say: “Clearly March 2018 was the month for females, with 5 calves being born—3 Zambian and 2 Matetsi heifers in total.” From a breeding productivity point of view, Botma adds that “
Top female sable acquired during 2017 include:
- Bloodline auction: Lot 67 – cow 31 2/8”
- Kalahari auction: Lot 43B – heifer (3yr old) 27”
- Xtreme Wildlife Group auction: Lot 14B – cow 30 4/8”
- High Value game auction: Lot 36 – cow 31 2/8”
- High Value game auction: Lot 37 – cow 30 2/8”
Next, follows a discussion of Hillcrest’s Springbok breeding project.
Springbuck (Antidorcas marsupialis2) / “Springbok” (Afrikaans): Coffee, Copper, Black, White and Common species variants
The Springbuck Breeding Project consists of five distinct breeding herds. These are the Coffee, Copper, Black, White and Common Springbuck species variants.
On the IUCN Red List website3, Springbuck are reported to be “widespread and one of the most abundant antelopes of the southern African region”. The IUCN maintain that, on condition that effective management of the Springbuck species is continued (on farms and reserves), it is under no major threat. Accordingly, the species’ current conservation status of “no concern” is unlikely to change.
An interesting historic note is that, in South Africa in particular, as a result of hunting and the effects of rinderpest, the Springbok was exterminated over much of its natural range during the course of the late 1800s. However, after subsequent reintroduction to farms and reserves, the IUCN states that Springbok have “mostly returned to its former range”.
At Hillcrest, our two outstanding breeding ram’s, Hercules (17”) and Tiger (16,5”) are producing good progeny. The Hillcrest team of breeding specialists are most satisfied with breeding standards and objectives that are repeatedly being met for this breeding project.
The Coffee species variant is the latest addition to this Springbuck breeding project. Our young breeding ram (Cappuccino) was purchased from Lake Game Breeders. This ram now runs with 6 Coffee-ewes and a number long horn base-ewes. Our first Coffee lambs were born in December 2017.
Should you be interested in finding out more about Hillcrest’s game—whether for purchase or breeding—why not contact our team today. We will be happy to respond to your enquiry.
On the lighter side — See Frans Groenewald’s comic-art
Looking for a laugh? On the lighter side we invite you to check out some of Frans Groenewald’s humorous artistic impressions of Hillcrest’s Sable: Zambian Sable, Matetsi Sable and Springbok breeding projects.
Frans Groenewald creates artworks that puts a smile in the heart and mind of the viewer. His studio is situated at the inspirational and scenic Lourensford Wine Estate in the Cape Winelands.
Visit Frans on Facebook: @fransgroenewaldart