The Senepol Cattle was developed on the Caribbean Island of St Croix, US Virgin Islands, from on a base herd of N'Dama Cattle imported from Senegal in West Africa in the 1800's. A number of purebred herds were maintained on the island as the cattle were well suited to the island's conditions and thrived on the rough pastures. By 1889 the island's largest herd were owned by Henry C Nelthropp on his Gerard Estate and numbered 250 head.
His son, Bradley, decided to improve the breed further. In 1918 he visited the island of Trinidad and there he bought a Red Poll bull, believing that a cross would both improve the milking ability and remove the horns of the N'Dama cattle of St Croix. Over the next decade successive generations of crossbreeds were produced that yielded polled (hornless) cattle with a solid red coat that has solid meat-yielding frames, had the hardiness and heat resistance of the N'Dama, could survive on rough pasture and which were excellent mothers with good milk producing ability and where the calves reached maturity early.
In the mid 1940s the Senepol breed had been established as pureblood and Northrop's herd was distributed island wide. The Senepol name was trademarked in 1954.
In 1977 the first Senepol cattle were imported into the USA and by the early 1990s Semepol genetics were widespread through the southern United States. Subsequently Senepol cattle have been exported to Australia, South Africa and a number of South American countries.
The St Croix island population is interesting in that it's a completely closed herd. As a result the Senepol breedstock has very little genetic diversity and the Senepol itself is unusual in being able to sustain the lack of genetic diversity. In most cattle breeds this would tend to lead to the progression of recessive traits across the generation, but Senepol genetics are mainly dominant, which is why Senepol characteristics progress rapidly into other herds when they are cross-bred.
Senepol cattle are known for their heat tolerance, ability to convert poor quality grass into meat, excellent maternal instincts, gentle natures, disease resistance and ease of calving.
The Senepol is a dual-purpose breed, producing both milk and meat. Calves are small and light at birth (typically 34kg) but grow rapidly. The calves are renowned for their ability to jump up quickly after birth and suckle almost immediately.
Cows produce milk for 268 days of lactation and yield on average 11.3 litres of milk per day. Heiffers are typically bred at between 2 and 3 years of age. During an lifetime a Senepol cow can have between 13 and 15 calves, with a calving interval of 12 months.
Appearance / health:
Senepol cattle should be uniformly red (and the colour should be dark), excepting white on the udder and in small amounts on the bottom line. Both bulls and cows should be completely polled (hornless). Senepol are a medium-sized breed that are well balanced in terms of forequarters and hind quarters giving good overall beef performance. This also gives excellent symmetry, making the Senepol a good show animal. Both top and underlines in this breed are straight. In the cows heads are fine and neat, in the bulls they are squarer and more masculine in appearance. The tail is well set in and level with the top line. There is good separation between the legs and the hocks are strong. The hooves are medium-sized and deep with even toes.
The Senepol, as a breed, is renowned for its health and disease resistance and recent studies have shown them to have very active immune systems. They show extreme heat tolerance and can be seen grazing in the middle of the day when other cattle are seeking shade. They also have the ability to utilize the roughest of pastures.
Behavior / temperament:
The Senepol is known for its gentle nature, intelligence and ease of handling, features of its N'Dama parentage. With its general ease of calving, this makes the Senepol an excellent choice for low maintenance and low input modes of husbandry. This is also an ideal breed for small-scale hobby-style rearing (which is how many are reared in its native St Croix).
Housing / diet:
The Senepol is a very easy cow to keep. It has a calm and even temperament, is resistant to disease and heat, calves easily and can feed on even rough pasture. However, it can also be reared intensively on feedlots. But it does need to be overwintered indoors in colder latitudes.
Written by Dyfed Lloyd Evans
disease resistance, good milk yields
Senepol Cattle in Senegal
I came across Senepol cattle in Senegal, where bulls had been introduced for an improved breeding program. This is interesting as the Senepol are derived from Senegalese N'Dama cattle introduced to the Caribbean Island of St Croix in the 1800s. These were crossed with Red Poll bulls to produce a hornless breed that was as hardy and disease resistant as the N'Dama but with the square beef conformation of the Red Poll.
So, in a sense these bulls introduced to Senegal were coming home. It was hoped that the bulls had retained the disease resistance of the N'Dama, but could be crossed with the native N'Dama to yield a better beef conformation with more muscle on the fore and hind quarters.
Senepol are renowned for their heat tolerance and they also have good milk yields. Their red colouration and strong shape make them a good looking breed. They are also very calm and are easy calvers. They are low maintenance and can browse as well as graze.
These characteristics make them very suitable for small-scale farming, all attractive features in West Africa. The bulls are big and strong but gentle. The main problem with them is that they are very used to being handled by humans, so accidental crushing is a real problem in confined pens.
As well as the ability to be raised under low-intensity management on the range, Semepol cattle can also be reared intensively on feedlots.
The Senegalese program is currently at too early a stage to say how it is working out, but the preliminary results look promising. Disease resistance has been maintained, beef conformation of the crosses is better and meat yields are up. But it remains to be seen how the crosses work under real-world village type management.
Still, the experience I had working with the bulls and their offspring makes me respect this breed a lot. Docile and dual-purpose with great potential for stock improvement in hot, humid and arid regions of the globe..
From DLlE Oct 12 2012 3:53PM