Ready, set, feed! The University of Pretoria (UP)’s Department of Animal Science has established an innovative, practical approach to Animal Science teaching through a practical beef feedlot challenge. The 2022 winners were an all-female group, the MOOdonnas. The Feedlot Manager of the Year was also the team leader of the MOOdonnas, Marlize Grobbelaar.
“It is such an unbelievable honour winning this feedlot challenge as an all-female team. I am so proud of the MOOdonnas; each team member gave their absolute best during this challenge. We also become close friends, for we have survived and strived through tough and good days. As a team, we decided that we were going to keep our heads down, work hard and focus on the final goal - to produce healthy, happy, good-growing bulls, and we did! I will pick this team again and again for any challenge because these are women to watch out for in this industry,” Marlize explained.
She added, “This feedlot challenge was truly a challenge and an unbelievable experience. It took a lot of dedication and will to keep up a good and even pace right through this challenge while balancing our final-year studies. As feedlot managers, we had the responsibility of caring for these bulls, for they are totally dependent on us for feed, water, good health and much more. This was a major responsibility, and we learned such valuable lessons from this. After this challenge, we are certainly more prepared to enter the agricultural industry.”
The UP Agric Feedlot challenge is presented under the guidance of Prof Edward Webb. It aims to give final-year Animal Science students practical experience in the whole value chain of beef production.
“This project is a collaborative effort supported by several industry partners, notably SIS Livestock (Pty) Ltd, First National Bank, Santam, Essential Nutrient Systems, OctavoScene, Elanco, TalTec, Obaro, AgriGauteng and Vleissentraal Bosveld. The project is unique because it also served as the experimental part of a PhD study on the effects of nutrition and fattening on the quality of red meat,” Prof Webb explained.
He added, “These aspects are important in modern animal production and will help improve the sustainability of red meat production in southern Africa by improving the efficiency of red meat production without compromising beef’s quality attributes and acceptability of beef. The findings from this study will benefit the livestock industry through better knowledge of the effects of feeding methods, duration of fattening and the use of feed additives on carcass and meat quality, and improve compliance with quality criteria for the export of red meat.”
The UP Agric feedlot challenge also provides an excellent opportunity for transdisciplinary teaching and research through the involvement of several other disciplines, such as Veterinary Science, Culinary Science at the Department of Consumer and Food Sciences, and Agricultural Economics. An exciting part of this project is the annual Animal Science braai competition, which explains the most relevant meat preparation and cooking methods, with the added benefit of an almost festive day to enjoy various types of meats, wine and interesting discussions with experts in the culinary industry like Dr Hennie Fisher.
The benefits of this unique teaching approach include training students about the responsible use of natural resources, the inclusion of alternative feedstuffs for ruminant animal feeding, the responsible management of biosecurity, animal health and animal welfare, and the ethical aspects of animal food production. Many of these aspects stem from concepts included in the book chapter by Prof Edward Webb and Prof Elizabeth Webb titled “Ethics of Meat Production and Its Relation to Perceived Meat Quality”, in the secobd edition of the textbook titled “New Aspects of Meat Quality, From Genes to Ethics”, edited by one of the leading researchers in the field Prof Peter Purslow and published by Elsevier.
Marlize and her MOOdonnas team members emphasised, “We have learned a lot about managing a feedlot, feeding bulls, animal health and welfare, and so much more. But I feel the biggest lesson from this challenge was time management and teamwork. Prof Webb said teamwork often makes the dream work, which is exactly why our MOOdonnas dream came true!”