Senepol cattle have a solid red colour, ranging from dark red to a lighter ginger colour. They are naturally polled and have good eye and skin pigmentation. Senepols have a docile temperament, being easily managed and handled in extensive pastoral conditions. The development of the breed placed high natural selection pressure on structural soundness, hardiness and fertility. Senepols have a medium frame with extremes of muscle and bone avoided, striking a workable balance of feed efficiency to growth, fertility and calving ease. The small circular photo shows a calf at 2 months old (low birthweight, for ease of calving) and the larger image shows a calf at 8 months of age, ie 6 months on (large weaning weights).
The Senepol has been a fixed breed now for almost a century. The N’Dama, a native (Bos Taurus) of Senegal, North West Africa was crossed with the British breed, Red Poll. The two breed composite was developed on the island of St Croix in the Caribbean, at the beginning of the 20th century. The breeding result realised the N’Dama’s superior traits of heat tolerance, insect resistance and ability to thrive on poor quality forage, with the carcase quality, high fertility, feed efficiency, quiet nature and renowned maternal and milking ability of the Red Poll.
The island environment of St Croix encompasses both wet tropics with high humidity and rainfall and hot, dry savanna country. Tropical parasites and cattle tick are abundant and the native feed low in quality. This ‘home’ of Senepol has produced a tough, adaptable breed of cattle with the ability to thrive under harsh conditions, maintaining fertility, tropical resistance and feed efficiency whilst producing an excellent eating quality carcase.
Calving Ease And Growth
Long term research findings by Dr Tim Olsen of USDA Subtropical Research Station, Brooksville, Florida established Senepol cows maintained a cooler rectal temperature than Brahman cows whilst grazing during the heat of the day. These studies also found the F1 Senepol maintained rectal temperatures the same as full blood Senepols, thereby indicating the ability to pass on the factor in crossbreeding.
In addition, Senepols have a greater immune response to disease and insects compared to other beef breeds. This capacity has largely been attributed to the N’Dama influence. N’Dama cattle are highly resistant to the Tsetse fly, a carrier of the disease Bovine Trypanosomiasis (Sleeping sickness). This trait is important in Australia, as Buffalo fly is prevalent. An identified (sleek coat) gene confers a very short haired, sleek coat when an animal carries a copy of the gene. To date, Senepol is the only breed available in Australia that is known to be a carrier of this gene.
Smooth coated animals in tick infested country will carry less tick burden than hairy coated animals. The natural licking (grooming) process, as well as the animal’s inherent tick resistance, greatly reduces tick larvae from maturing. From field counts conducted in Queensland, the Senepol and its slick haired crosses appear to have a very high level of genetic tick resistance.
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