1. The Red Poll Connection
For years now we have been selecting our Braford breeders for
good temperament, no horns and the ability to survive on natural
pasture with minimal supplements and no grain. We have been
achieving this - our breeder herd is now about 60% natural polls,
droughts have culled the poor doers, and anything that gives
trouble in the yards or crush is culled.
About 10 years ago, we decided we had not enough time in this
life to complete our upgrading without going outside the Braford
genetic pool. We wanted to speed up the process of breeding
quiet, polled, fertile, hardy, tender, red cattle.
We had previously tried and rejected Simmental (not fertile
enough) and Charolais (poor temperament and calving problems).
After looking at and reading about a lot of breeds, we choose Red
Polls, and bought about 6 pure bred Red Poll heifers. These
certainly fulfilled two of our criteria – quiet and polled.
They were smaller than our big Brafords, with a big stomach and
looked a bit like a cross between a dairy cow and a beef cow.
But, they had calves regularly, survived the drought and never
produced bad temperament offspring. (US research showed that Red
Poll came first in a trial of meat quality (marbling and
tenderness), and breed reproductive traits such as 200 day calf
weight per cow put to the bull.) All offspring did well on their
better milk and inherited the deep red colour with no horns. But
they were hairy little cows and did struggle in the drought
– they had not evolved in Queensland climatic conditions.
We felt we should start with cattle that evolved to survive and
thrive in our conditions. That sent us looking at African cattle.
(We liked the sound of Nguni cattle, but found them not easily
2. From Red Polls to Senepols.
Some five years ago we first heard about Senepols. They
sounded like the answer to our search – polled red cattle
with good features from both Red Poll and African genetics.
Another advantage was their Bos Taurus origins, unlike most
tropical breeds which are Bos Indicus. This gives great potential
for hybrid vigour when used in cross breeding operations.
Senepols were developed on the Island of St Crois in the
Caribbean over 100 years ago from two breeds - British Red Poll
and N’Dama cattle, a native Bos Taurus breed of cattle from
Senegal in tropical Africa. The N’Dama (a descendant of the
hump-less longhorn cattle of Egypt) were originally brought to St
Crois in the 1800’s to pull sugar cane carts on the
plantations. Red Polls were introduced from England via Trinidad
in 1918 and the Senepol breed was developed from the crosses by
selecting for early maturity, maternal efficiency, polled, heat
tolerant, red colour and gentle disposition. N’Dama was
superior in heat tolerance, insect resistance and ability to
thrive on poor quality pasture. The Red Poll gave carcass
quality, high fertility, feed efficiency, quiet temperament and
improved milking ability. Senepol has now been a fixed breed for
almost a century – it is no longer a cross-bred composite,
so the genetics are more concentrated and offspring more
predictable and consistent.
Senepol cattle were introduced into Australia in the mid
1990’s with the aim of improving fertility, temperament and
meat quality in Northern cattle herds. They are performing well
in Southern USA and the big beef producing nations of South
3. The Benefits of Senepols
Senepol cattle are naturally polled, range from dark red to
ginger in colour with good eye and skin pigmentation, have short
shiny hair, calve easily and have a docile temperament. They look
like a slick coated red Angus. We see their big benefits are:
No Horns – we dislike cattle with big horns, and hate
doing the dehorning. Also, once the animal libbers finish doing
over the merino people for mulesing and tail docking, they will
discover de-horning of cattle. We prefer to avoid that hassle (In
July 06, the President of the RSPCA announced that he wants all
surgical animal procedures (mulesing, dehorning, spaying) to be
done by those with qualifications and experience, and under
Heat tolerance – research in US has shown that Senepol
cows maintained a cooler rectal temperature than Brahman cows
whilst grazing in the heat of the day. They also discovered that
this heat tolerance was passed onto F1 Senepol cross breds.
There are three reasons for Senepol heat tolerance.
First, Senepols have a sweat gland that runs down the middle
of their back. It is this unusual sweat gland that makes the
breed so famously heat tolerant. It must also help deter
Second, Senepols have been found to have a “Slick Coat
gene” which confers a very short sleek coat on offspring.
It has been found that animals with a short hair coat and glossy
sheen reflect far more light and heat than animals with long hair
and no sheen. Senepols are famous for a short, shiny sleek coat.
They are the only breed in Australia known to carry the Slick
Third, work by Jan Bonsma in South Africa also showed that red
is the preferred colour for maximum heat tolerance in treeless
pastures. Heat tolerance is highly heritable.
Other research has shown that all genetically heat resistant
cattle are small framed, have fine, short glossy hair, solid red
or tan coats and thick hides. Senepols add their magic sweat
gland to this mix.
Black hair is a disadvantage in hot climates, but black skin
is an advantage in protecting the animal from UV light and skin
cancer, so we select for black skin and noses.
Tick Resistance - The same cattle tick that infests Australia
is endemic on the Island of St Crois. We cannot remember seeing a
tick on our Senepols yet. Slick coats, sweat glands and genetic
resistance make Senepols a valuable breed in ticky country. AA
Company finds that both pure and first cross Senepols have higher
tick resistance than Brahman.
Calving ease – Senepol calves are slim and come out
easily “The look like wet rats when they’re born, but
they can jump up and run like a deer”.
Fertility – one factor dominates all others in
commercial cattle breeding operations – “Can I wean
and sell a healthy calf off this cow, without trouble, every
year?” Red Polls, N Dama and Senepols will all deliver
Longevity – Senepol cows have good udders and long lives
– some still in production at 20 years.
Body shape – animals that thrive on poorer quality
pasture (most of Queensland for most of most years) need four
characteristics – smaller body size, big rumen, wide mouth
and able to walk well. Senepols have a body size and shape best
suited for low care survival and calving ease.
Early maturing – Senepol tend to mature as quickly and
Angus and Hereford.
Tight sheaths, good sires – many Brahman cross cattle
have long slack, penis sheaths. Too often they get stepped on,
caught on logs or wire, or get grass spears in them. Senepols
have close tight sheaths with an efficient angle of dangle. They
also have high libido, and are early and aggressive breeders.
Hardiness – Senepols developed in tropical conditions
with ticks, biting insects, poor pastures and little veterinary
and drug assistance. This has produced a naturally hardy beast
suited to the wet and dry hot climates.
Meat Quality – The Bos Taurus/Red Poll background of the
Senepols has produced consistent good quality meat. Taste tests
by Meat Standards Australia found that Senepol meat averaged 4
star eating quality with no samples below 3+ star - “an
unusually high result”.
Docility – Both sides of the Senepol family tree have
been selected for docility, hardiness and fertility since the
days of Ancient Egypt and Norman Britain. Neither has a history
of drug dependency. Senepols are thus the ultimate “Easy
4. Our Experience in Senepols
We bought our first Senepol bulls at the first Senepol Auction
at Gracemere in 2003 and since then have used pure Senepol bulls
exclusively on all cows at Sherana.
This sale was a marvellous debut for Senepols (unless you were
looking for a bull bargain). There was 100% clearance of all
bulls (pure and cross bred) with a top price of $17,000 and
average price $7,875. Females peaked at $9,000 and averaged
$4,706. (In 2005, Senepol bulls topped at $18,000 and females at
We looked carefully at all bulls, looking for good
temperament, dark skin, no grain feeding, good feet and minimal
evidence of buffalo fly attack. That fussiness was costly –
we had to pay $9,900 for Max, our first bull, and $5,500 for Good
Girl, our first pure heifer. Since then we have bought another
bull, Senepol embryos, more Senepol heifers at computer auctions
and a line of Senepol/Angus heifers.
We now have a good line of Senepol/Braford bulls and a couple
of Senepol and Senerjy (Senepol/Jersey) bulls for sale.
5. Grain vs Pasture
For years our beef breeders have gone down a dead-end road,
producing mountainous cattle that can survive only with
supplementary feeding and drugs. Over-fat bulls win show ribbons
but their offspring (if they have any) are suitable only for
turning into mountains of unhealthy meat in grain based feedlots.
Grain prices are heading higher for a long time – high fuel
costs, declining soil fertility and competition for grain and
molasses from subsidised Ethanol production will ensure that.
Moreover, the health benefits of pasture raised animal food
are becoming recognised. And more people are taking an interest
in how their food is produced. Factory feedlots do not score well
on any criteria except quantity. This century will reverse some
of the bad trends of last century – people will take an
interest in the quality of their food and how humanely it is
raised. The future for beef raising in North Australia has got to
be in pasture with no drugs, vaccinations, hormones or dehorning.
Grass is our great low cost resource which, with the right cattle
and sheep, can be turned into high quality protein for an
increasingly hungry world. Senepols and both of their parent
breeds evolved on pasture – very few of their ancestors
spent time as convicts in a feedlot factory.
(Further reading: Why Grassfed is best – the surprising
benefits of grassfed Meat, Eggs and Dairy Products by Jo
Robinson, Vashon Island Press, 2000).
6. Fat Bulls vs Skinny Bulls
When a bull is fed grain it lowers semen quality and can
develop fat in the scrotum which can make the bull temporarily
sterile (because the fat increases temperature of the scrotum).
Tests have shown that bulls grown from weaning to maturity on
pasture alone had 19% more daily sperm production and 52% greater
sperm reserves. The fatter the bull, the less fertile he is (same
goes for cows and ewes “She may look thin but she will
breed like a rabbit”).
And fat cells, once formed, are permanent. Dick Diven, a
cattle nutritionist from Tucson Arizona, says “The bottom
line is that a bull that is ever made fat is for all intents and
purposes ruined forever”.
The future seems to promise higher costs for fuel, grain and
water and drier weather. Animals that cannot survive on pasture
alone should be avoided like the plague.
So, if you come to look at our bulls do not expect to see fat
fools in Show Ring Gear – our bulls will be in their
working clothes and have a lean and hungry look. But they will
not spend months deflating fat – they will surge ahead no
matter where they go (“anything is an improvement on that
desert at Rosevale”). And they spend their nights dreaming
about the big mobs of nubile heifers the Rouseabout keeps
promising they will meet soon.
7. Senepols in Cross Breeding and Composite Programs
Senepols have been used to improve almost every other breed of
cattle – we have crosses with Braford, Brahman, Red Poll,
Angus, Santa Gertrudis, and Jersey. We have seen
Senepol/Charolais, and read about Senepol/Holstein.
Because they are a fixed breed with tight genetics, Senepols
quickly influence other breeds, particularly recently developed
breeds with big genetic diversity (rude people refer to these as
mongrel breeds). This potential for hybrid vigour is increased by
the fact that Senepols are Bos Taurus unlike the Bos Indicus
breeds that now dominate Northern Australia. The Australian
Agricultural Company, one of the biggest cattle breeders in
Australia, is now using Senepols heavily in their breeding
programs in the Gulf and Barkly Tablelands. (Senepols give
tropical beef breeders a chance to compete with Victorian Angus
breeders in the meat quality stakes.) Most tropical breeding
programs now start with Zebu type cows, cross them with Red Poll
or some other Bos Taurus breed and then look for the slick hair
gene of the Senepols. AA coy is finding that Senepols lift meat
quality, fertility, docility and tick resistance with no loss of
We have most experience with Braford crosses, having used
senepol bulls exclusively in our dominantly pure Braford breeder
mob for two seasons now. The really noticeable changes have
Horns have almost disappeared. No horny offspring – some
scurs, mainly poll F1 offspring.
Temperament is dramatically improved – in general, much
Smooth sleek skin/hair. Far less evidence of ticks, but no
obvious change in susceptibility to buffalo fly.
Small calves at birth but grow quickly.
Less white hair and skin. 60% of F1’s still have some
white on face, 40% solid honey brown or red with no white. Good
eye pigmentation. The white faced ones would get lost in a
Much tighter sheaths on bulls – less dangling slack.
It is noticeable that Senepols are less worried by heat than
most other cattle. They still get attacked by buffalo flies, but
we have not yet seen ticks on them (probably all the ticks were
desiccated or decimated by drought).
We have two pure bred red Brahman cows. The Senepol crosses
are quieter, polled or scurred with good conformation, smooth
skin and a beautiful honey gold colour. And I guess the meat is
With our pure Red Poll cows, the Senepol improved the body
shape and took off the hairy coat.
We have a few pure Jersey milkers – they are skinny
looking cows with a big pot belly. But they handle heat well and
survive well on pasture. (Research in Jamaica showed Jersey to be
as heat tolerant as Brahman). Moreover, Jersey meat quality is
much under-rated – they marble better than any breed except
Waigu, and come first or second in many beef taste tests. So we
have a few Senerjy F1 weaners. The temperament and body shape
looks more like a beef breed, with smooth honey tan colour and
dark skin. We believe Senerjy have great potential for producing
a line of hardy pasture raised beef cattle with great tasting
tender marbled meat and good heat and drought resistance.
For Santa Gertrudis, Senepols offer a slick coat, dehorning
and we are sure they will improve the fertility of
Senepols also do a great job with Angus, both red and black.
They take off that hairy Scottish highland coat and dress up in
smooth tropical gear. Senegus ladies report big savings on
anti-perspirant and tick repellent.
Senepols have been used a lot in Australia to cross with
Charolais. What a beautiful result – smooth honey/grey
cattle with thick muscled bodies. At the Gracemere sale that we
attended, the Senepol/Charolais bulls sold at stud bull prices.
From our experience in Charolais (very limited) Senepols would
have to bring great benefits in temperament and calving ease.
8. Senepols in the Tropical Dairy Industry
Like beef cattle, dairy cattle have gone down a bad road
– big short life cows producing prodigious quantities of
milk from high-cost force-feed feedlot conditions, with loads of
anti-biotics and other drug aids.
Farmers in hot Alabama are using Senepol, Holstein and Jersey
to produce a heat tolerant dairy cow to be raised on low cost
pasture – the aim is a medium sized red cow, polled, with
black nose and hooves able to produce well from pasture in a hot
climate. Senepols contribute calving ease, high calf survival, no
horns and good temperament. Both Senepol and Jersey have high
heat tolerance and superb meat quality. Some people believe that
Jerseys are the only dairy breed that will be successful in
tropical dairying from pasture. Senepols improve heat tolerance,
body size and docility with little harm to natural milking
9. Gene-Testing for Marbling and Tenderness
We have tested 19 Senepol and Senepol infused cattle for
marbling and tenderness. In tenderness the best possible score is
8 (from 4 genes); in marbling the best possible score is 6 (from
3 genes). The best results were:
|Pure Senepol||8||Senepol/Red Poll||2|
|Other Senepol X||6-7||Other Senepol X||1|
The best individual score came from a sleek looking
Senepol/Jersey bull who scored the maximum 8 for tenderness and a
good 2 for marbling. A Senepol/Braford/Red Poll poll also got 2
for marbling and 5 for tenderness.
10. Home Remedies
“For high blood pressure sufferers: simply cut yourself
and bleed for a few minutes, thus reducing the pressure in your
“Remember to use a timer.”
11. Service Fees.
A North Dakota Farmer got in his pickup and drove to a
neighboring farm and knocked at the farmhouse door.
A young boy about 12 opened the door. "Is your Dad home?" the
"No sir, he isn't," the boy replied. "He went into town."
"Well," said the farmer, "is your Mom here?"
"No, sir, she isn't here neither. She went into town with
"How about your brother, Howard? Is he here?" "No, he went
with Mom and Dad."
The farmer stood there for a few minutes, shifting from one
foot to the other and mumbling to himself.
"Is there anything I can do for you?" the boy asked politely.
"I know where all the tools are, if you want to borrow one. Or
maybe I could take a message for Dad."
"Well," said the farmer uncomfortably, "I really wanted to
talk to your Dad. It's about your brother Howard getting my
daughter, Pearly Mae, pregnant."
The boy considered for a moment. "You would have to talk to Pa
about that", he finally conceded. "If it helps you any, I know
that Pa charges $50 for the bull and $25 for the hog, but I
really don't know how much he gets for Howard."
12. Mother Maremma.
During the drought, a Braford cow on the mountain died and we
got an orphan calf. Mother of All Things (who is psychic about
babies in distress) got an urge “I think I’ll go and
check the cows”. She noticed a small lost calf, managed to
run it into a fence and caught it - she always carries a dog
chain and collar (even in supermarkets in case she meets friends
with feral grandkids). Unaware of Premier Pete’s safety
regulations on what ladies may lift, and ignoring all the bike
safety warnings, she hauled it onto the saddle of the Yamaha Quad
bike, held it down and tootled home.
Sheba the White Wolf notices and inspects everything that
enters her territory around the house and stockyards. She noticed
the orphan on the bike and immediately adopted it.
As MOAT got a bottle ready Sheba cleaned the baby’s
bottom. As it attempted the bottle, she cleaned its face and
rubbed against it. The calf seemed to recognise the protective
attention and calmed down. Sheba then took up guard beside the
calf and never left it, growling at any threats that wandered too
near (chooks, turkeys, or even the Hunting Dog (a big threat to
cattle as she is a house dog the size of a baby hare.)
She even looked sideways at Rouseabout who had the job of
hauling the orphan onto the ute for a trip to the sale. (All that
was worthwhile – MOAT attended the auction, did a sales job
on everyone who walked past and got $202 for a week old heifer
calf – our first Senepol cross sold).
13. SALE OO
We have a good line of Senepol/Braford bulls, and
Senepol/Jerseys for sale now. Never had grain or hormones, and
all tested for the tenderness and marbling genes. We may also
have some pure Senepol bulls we would let go. Enquiries
14. Easy Care Sheep
If you are sick of steak, add some easy care damara, dorper or
meatmaster sheep to your enterprise. We always have sheep for
sale, especially in droughts (ie all the time).
15. Mailing Lists
Every time we send out a Sherana Report on Sheep or Cattle, we
have two problems – too many envelopes to stuff, and too
many letters and emails returned because they are “Unknown
at this address”, “left address” or their email
is "Full" or "Over Quota". So Please:
- Advise promptly of change of address
- Empty your email box
- Advise if you wish to be taken off our mail list
- Please give us an email address if you have one
Profit margins and Rouseabout time do not support too
many postage stamps and envelopes
Otherwise, like stirry bulls and barren cows, YOU WILL GET
Bye for now.
(PS we prefer to send this newsletter by email (printing and
postage costs too much) so if you have an email address we would
appreciate that advice. Please let us know if you wish to also get
our Sheep Report, or no more newsletters whatsoever.
Best Wishes for early spring storms (if this gets sent by
then) or for Christmas, if it doesn’t
From Mother-of-All-Things, Rouseabout, Fixit, Sheba the White
Wolf, the Hunting Dog, Max, Ben and all their Senepol offspring
and all the other Ovines and Bovines.
Viv & Judy Forbes