Animal Nutrition

Game pellets ensure safe and correct supplementation through the year


The game farm industry in South Africa has shown dynamic growth over the past few decades, and there are currently more than 10 900 farms where game is farmed. The best economic performance of roughage utilisers expressed in return on capital is where the system optimises the use of the cheapest natural resouce component in the feed system.

In terms of optimal production per hectare, the seasonal nature of roughage production in Southern Africa means it simply isn’t possible to provide for all of the grazing animal’s nutritional needs.

Profitability can be increased drastically through supplementation of around 10-15% of total dry matter requirement. However, further increases may lead to increased production but not necessarily increased profitability.

During winter months the veld suffers from a natural protein deficiency. If reproductive animals’ protein requirements are not met, reproduction is the first thing that suffers. This means there is less product to sell, while the fixed costs of the enterprise remain the same. Through sufficient and carefully-utilised winter grazing, combined with strategically correct protein supplementation, it is possible to achieve the goal of optimal production per hectare.

In order to achieve the above-mentioned objectives of optimal production per hectare of natural resource, provide Epol Antelope 16 pellets (16% crude protein - production pellets), Epol Grazer 14 pellets, (14% crude protein), Epol Game Rancher 12 (12% crude protein maintenance pellets) or Epol Rhino pellets (12.5% crude protein) at 0.5-0.8% of body weight per day. All animals need to be adapted to game pellets after a period of non-use.

Placement of troughs

The single biggest problem with game supplements is that intake is difficult to control due to the wide variety of species that sometimes coexist, as well as the dominant species that eat more than the others. By placing feeding troughs far apart within the camp/area, intake can be spread out more fairly. The purpose of Epol Antelope 16, Epol Grazer 14, Epol Game Rancher 12 and Epol Rhino pellets supplemented at 0.8% of body weight is to maintain the condition of game during the dry winter months when there is a predominantly protein and energy deficiency and to provide phosphate, trace minderals and vitamins. On green summer pastures, Epol Antelope 16, Epol Grazer 14, Epol Game Rancher 12 and Epol Rhino pellets will stimulate an increase in weight. When intakes are low, it can usually be attributed to the fact that sufficient nutrients are consumed from the pasture.

Research by Ferreira and Van Zyl (2003) showed that methionine, lysine, histidine and arginine were the most limited amino acids required for growth in various game species. The essential amino acid ratios in the game species also followed the same trend. Balancing these imbalances through supplemental feeding of Epol Antelope 16, Epol Grazer 14, Epol Game Rancher 12 and Epol Rhino pellets will greatly benefit optimum weight increase, conception and a shorter inter-calving period in some game species, such as buffalo.

Protein for the rumen

During the winter months in summer rainfall regions, the protein percentage of the grass drops to as low as 3%. However, it is not so much the game that suffers from a protein deficiency as the microorganisms in the animal’s rumen. These organisms are responsible for, amongst other things, the digestion of grass and supplementary feed ingested by the animal. The efficacy with which the rumen’s microorganisms digest the grass or feed will largely depend on the animal’s protein intake, as nitrogen (derived from rumen degradable protein) is required by the microorganisms to grow and multiply.

As soon as rumen-degradable protein is supplemented on dryveld, nitrogen intake and microbial growth increase and the microorganism population multiplies. The grazing ingested by the game is then digested quicker and the energy therein is released in a form that can be utilised by the game. Therefore, the digested feed leaves the rumen quicker and because the animal’s rumen feels empty it stimulates the animal to consume more veld grass and bush. In this way, better utilisation of the dry grassland and leaves is achieved and weight loss can be limited. Epol game pellets contain no urea and are therefore suitable for both ruminant and non-ruminant game species!

Also important is the fact that by the end of winter, the amount of roughage is usually also limited and a maintenance supplement alone will not be sufficient to minimise weight loss. Therefore, Epol pellets have been formulated to contain a combination of natural protein resources, energy from sugars, starch and hemicellulose, as well as all the essential macro and micro minerals and vitamins. Supplementing the trace minerals copper, cobalt, zinc, manganese and selenium throughout the year in our high rainfall areas at the coast plays an extremely important role in optimising the condition, conception percentage and general health of the animals.

Livestock and game farming combined

A combined livestock and game farming enterprise can have various economic but also ecological benefits. Arid regions are also biologically protected best by accommodating a wide variety of species. For example, Springbok competes 60% with the grazing habits of Dorpers but only 40% with that of Merinos. Some species will be less competitive because they prefer the coarser, longer grasses avoided by both Dorpers and Springbok. Biomass/ha increases up to 40% by combining the correct game with normal livestock farming. Game is also more resistant to normal livestock diseases occuring in the area where they are raised.

Game species eminently adapted to the available habitat on the farm should always be considered in a combined livestock- and game-farming enterprise. The larger the farm and the more heterogeneous the vegetation and topography, the greater the number of species that can potentially be kept. Whether or not other established game farmers have achieved success with specific species in a comparable environment can also serve as a reliable benchmark. Success not only depends on adaptability but also on competition from other game species.

Trophies and biltong

Only game that can adapt to the rest of the livestock farming enterprise, as well as the purpose of the game farming, should be considered. For example, in ecotourism, the capital expenditure is high and the Big 5 play an important role in marketing. Biltong or trophy hunting can be successfully managed with combined farming. The right species, as preferred by the respective biltong and trophy hunters, must be kept. Biltong hunters prefer affordable game species, while trophy hunters usually want a wider variety of species. 

Dr Vlok Ferreira, National Technical Manager Ruminants, RCL Foods

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