Wildlife has become an economic commodity and selective breeding holds the potential of high returns on investment. But managing stud herds scientifically not only requires suitable land, insfrastructure, experienced personnel, reliable service providers and feeding expertise. Essential to the process are well established game breeding practices to ensure the improvement and establishment of high quality and pure gene pools and bloodlines. Acquiring only the best possible genetic material in breeding bulls for addition to herds, is of the utmost importance.
Genetics is defined as the study and variation of inherited characteristics, and as applied in the game industry in South Africa, this has become a specialised and lucrative business. It is common knowledge that the game industry performs better than the stock market, while at the same time conservation and biodiversity are supported by increasing the number of wild animals and protecting them. While adding value to the wildlife industry, genetics as a field of expertise is used by Pilanesberg Game Breeders according to high ethics with the combined vision to produce the best possible animals.
This encompasses scientifically formulated feeding, precise record keeping and extensive experience in game breeding to ensure disease-free animals of different bloodlines, and adding significantly to the breeders’ investment in developing the best available gene pools.
Meticulous detail is required during genetic selection, breeding and reproduction to provide certified splits. To improve bloodline purity and counter destructive interbreeding, careful selection is essential, and to this end, skin and hair samples as well as measurements for each stud animal is kept on record in a DNA data base. Such DNA records are a great help in producing animals with exceptionally high resistance to diseases common especially in certain parts of the Bushveld, easing the relocation of prized animals to virtually anywhere in the country.
It goes without saying that close observation plays an important role in the early detection of illness or loss of condition in animals, and immediate treatment with a scientifically managed feeding regime is required to have the animals back in the breeding pool faster, ensuring a higher productivity rate and shorter periods between pregnancies.
While controversy rages and there are still divergent opinions regarding the breeding of colour variant game, the increase in demand is not in dispute, as proven by the dramatic increase in prices fetched in recent auctions.
Purists hold personal viewpoints which will not even allow keeping an indigenous Eastern Cape bontebok in Limpopo, but a recent study by the Biodiversity Institute has determined that colour variance is gaining in popularity. It is proven to actually be a natural occurrence which does not weaken the gene pool. With much of the genetic material having been shot out for trophies over the past 200 years, game ranchers are recreating that genetic material by putting together two animals with good genes in a safe place to breed under excellent breeding conditions, with an inifnitely better chance of survival.