kg meat / hectare / input costs
the Bapedi is almost impossible to beat!
The name change: How Pedi
When the Boers fist came into contact
with Bapedi sheep in the late 1800's,
they called them Pedies. The name
stuck amongst whites.
However, recent attempts by the Pedi
Sheep Breeders Club of South Africa
to register a Breed Society, revealed a
thriving group of traditional sheep
farmers in the breed's original area of
development who also wanted to
register a Breed Society; and amongst
them the breed has always been known
as Bapedi Sheep.
Recently it was agreed to merge the
two groups and a common constitution
for a breed society has been agreed
upon and accepted in terms of the Act
regulating livestock improvement.
The society that will be registered will
be know as the Bapedi Sheep
Breeders Society of South Africa and
the breed will henceforth be know as
How we got into Bapedi's
In 1983 we bought 7 top Mutton Merinos - 5 ewes and two
rams. This decision was prompted by the breed's reputation
for supposedly high productivity. Fifteen years later, we had
just one ewe left. Of all those produced, we had managed to
consume only one: a very expensive sheep as we had
accumulated vet's bills of more than R 10,000 over the years!
All the others had died of some or other disease. Clearly, a
sick sheep was a dead sheep.
In 1997 we acquired 6 Pedi sheep - 5 ewes and one ram.
Four years later we had over 30 and we had consumed at
least 20! The sheep hardly ever got sick, which was just as
well, because a sick sheep was still a dead sheep. In all this
time we had not de-wormed once, and had not even
vaccinated. Vet's bills were zero.
Various Pedi flocks have been shown to be immune to Blue
Tongue. At Grehenheim we do not vaccinate at all, not even
against Pulpy Kidney, a disease that manifests itself when
sheep come under stress.
Backed by Frikkie's genetic knowledge and his experience
as a Zoologist (see CV), and our experience in breeding
German Shepherd Dogs, we periodically acquired the best
rams we could find and, with careful selection, we gradually
built a top-class flock.
What we select for
The Bapedi sheep is first and foremost a
naturally selected, minimum care, veld sheep,
adapted to survive in the harsh conditions of the
bush veld. Traditionally, they require almost no
management and hardly ever get sick, and when
they do, it is seldom due to local diseases such
as Heart-water or worm infestation. Winter-time,
when food is scarce, they depend on the fat in
their tails for survival.
These are the characteristics we at Grehenheim
seek to maintain.
While we have a state-of-the-art sheep handling
facility, they sleep outside.
We never de-worm the whole flock, only those
that need it. Any animals that require more
de-worming than the rest of the flock are culled.
Sheep that get Heart-water or any other local
disease are immediately culled.
Bapedi's should never be too heavy, this would
impair their ability to walk long distances in
search of food. Hence we do not select for
weight, although we do select against animals
that are smaller than the norm for our population.
We don't have a lambing season and we don't
isolate young ewes from the flock as this does
not happen in their traditional areas. This way
the fertile ewes that can conceive and lamb at a
young age without being disadvantaged thereby,
are selected for.
Unfortunately, because we have a stud, and thus
have to know who the parents are, the young
rams have to be isolated from the flock before
they reach reproductive age. However, to
counter this, we leave some cull ewes with the
rams and utilize their offspring for the pot.
All animals that exceed the extremes of the flock
parameters are culled, for example those that
are too small or too big, grow too slowly or too
History of the Bapedi Sheep
The fat-tailed Bapedi sheep arrived in South Africa between
200 and 400 AD with the Bapedi people, who had migrated
into the Northern Province and settled south of the
Soutpansberg. Ever since then the black people of the area
had maintained these sheep without modern scientific
methods. The Breed has thus been subjected to natural
selection for centuries.
Only in the mid-1980's did the white man enter the picture. In
an effort to ensure the survival of indigenous breeds, a flock
of Bapedi sheep was established and maintained at the
Stellenbosch Breeding Station in Sekukhuneland in the
Northern Province. A second flock was established for
recording and evaluation purposes on the farm Delftzyl near
Roetan in the Northern Province.
The Pedi Club of South Africa was established in 1998 and
applied to be recognised as a Breed Society in terms of the
Livestock Improvement Act in 2006 under the name "Pedi
Breeders Society of South Africa". Registration as a Breed
Society was delayed when it became apparent that a group
of Bapedi people also wanted to register a Breed Society.
The two groups have now got together and a common
constitution has been agreed upon. It has also been agreed
that the breed shall henceforth be known as Bapedi Sheep,
in keeping with the breed's origins.
The Pedi Club is affiliated to the South African Stud Book
and Livestock Improvement Association as incorporated in
terms of Act 25 of 1977 and has effectively been functioning
as a breed society since 2006. The club currently controls the
Breed Standard and stud animals are registered through the
club with the South African Stud Book. The main aim of the
club, as reflected in the Breed Standard, is to improve the
quality of the breed without sacrificing any of the qualities that
have been fixed in the breed through Natural Selection.
Once the proposed breed society becomes functional, the
society will hopefully take over the registration functions of the
Sources: Landrace Breeds: South Africa's Indigenous and
Locally Developed Farm Animals, Compiled and edited by
Keith Ramsey, Liz Harris and Antoinette Kotze. Farm Animal
Conservation Trust, ISBN: 0-620-25493-9.
This history updated 3 March 2009.
Ras Standaard in Afrikaans
Natural Selection of the Bapedi
Definition of Natural Selection - The
evolutionary process whereby organisms better
adapted to their environment tend to survive
and produce more offspring.
(Concise Oxford Dictionary, 2002).
In essence, animals that are better adapted to
their environment in terms of feeding and health
will spend less time on basic survival and will
thus have more opportunity to reproduce than
their less adapted counterparts, and over time
their genes will thus increase in the population.
Conversely, badly adapted, unhealthy
individuals or individuals that cannot utilize or
survive on the available food will be so busy
surviving that their opportunities to reproduce
will lessen, or in extreme cases, they will simply
die before they can reproduce, and their genes
will decrease in the population or eventually
even disappear from the population altogether.
Fat-tails in particular are a powerful advantage
for survival in hot dry areas with little food. A
fat-tailed ram can live off the fat in his tail during
bad times and reproduce while his thin tailed
counterpart is foraging for food. In addition, the
metabolism of fat produces 8 times more water
than protein. Animals with access to fat will thus
be less dependant on water. More of the next
generation will thus carry his genes rather than
those of his counter part.
Another example relates to disease: In every
population, humans included, some individuals
are more resistant to a disease outbreak than
others. If only those that do not get sick are
allowed to breed, the population as a whole will
eventually become immune to the disease. In
the development of the Bapedi in a Heart-water
area, animals susceptible to the disease died
as there was no treatment available in their
Over time the Bapedi breed as a whole
developed a high resistance to the disease.
This advantage, however, would quickly
disappear if breeders started to practice
Bepaling van 'n top ram
Klik hier vir 'n volle verduideliking van hoe die gradering
stelsel van Pedi Skape werk
Klik hier vir 'n verduideliking van die verskillende Stamboek
By Grehenheim gebruik ons sleg T5 / Elite of T5/Merite
gegradeerde ramme of ramme met 'n definitiewe potensiaal
om hierdie mylpaal te beryk, en wat SP (“Studbook Proper”)
Ons beveel aan dat 'n teler wat wil stoet teel, ramme wat
minstens “T5/M” (Meriete) gegradeer is, en minstens op
Stamboek “B” geregistreer is, gebruik. Om ramme wat laer
gegradeer is te gebruik maak nie sin uit die stoetteler se
Boere wat slegs kommersieel of vir die pot produseer,
behoort nie ramme wat laer as T4/S (S = Superior)
gegradeer is te gebruik nie. Stamboek registrasie is hier nie
van veel waarde nie. Ramme uit hierdie klas is redelik volop
en goedkoop en behoort redelike nageslag te produseer.
Kyk na die stamboek en die graderings van die
voorgeslagte. 'n Ram met al sy voorouers T5/E gegradeer
sal omtrent altyd beter produseer as ? ram met lae
'n Goeie ram uit 'n kudde van eenvormige tipe (skape wat
almal redelik eners lyk) is omtrent gewaarborg om soortgelyk
te produseer, veral as die ooie waarop hy gebruik word ook
van dieselfde eenvormige tipe is.
'n Skaap se stamboek is net so goed as hyself - niks
Swakkelinge kom in die beste families voor en moet
nie mee geteel word nie.
Die beste stamboek beteken niks as die dier self
van swak gehalte is nie.
'n Goeie ram uit 'n goeie familie met 'n goeie
agtergrond sal omtrent altyd goed produseer.
Dit is moontlik vir 'n goeie ram met onbekende ouers
om goed te produseer, maar die voorspelbaarheid
daarvan is laag, en die nageslag gewoonlik baie
You are what you eat
Pedi meat is tasty, tender and healthy:
Because of their wide and natural dietary intake
(they literally eat anything - grass, leaves, roots,
weeds, cactus etc).
A cactus plant after Pedi's had been at it
Growth and weight-gaining stimulants fed to
intensively produced animals animals probably
contribute to obesity in the people that eat
them. Veld sheep are free of these growth
They taste like just Karroo lamb!
Pro’s & Con’s of Lambing Seasons
The gestation period of Pedi sheep average
160 days, but may vary from 150 to 170 days
and they lamb twice a year.
In management systems which incorporates a
lambing season, rams are introduced to the
flock twice a year for a period of maximum two
months at a time. Ewes synchronise their
seasons when the rams are introduced and
almost all are usually ready to be mated within a
period of one month.
Theoretically, the small number of ewes that do
not get pregnant at first mating will be pregnant
by the end of the second month. Ewes not
pregnant should be culled on the basis of their
The biggest disadvantage of the system is that a
larger number of rams are required as one ram
can only mate about 20 to 25 ewes during such
a short space of time. One is therefore often
forced to use rams of lesser quality in order to
ensure that all ewes are impregnated.
Having the flock all lamb more or less at the
same predetermined time has significant
management advantages, particularly when
there is a risk of predation on the lambs by
jackal and / or Caracal (Rooikat).
In nature, predator numbers are controlled by the
periods of minimum available food. When a
large number of lambs suddenly arrive, only a
relatively small number of lambs will be lost to
predation as the number of predators present
can only eat so much and no more (predator
One can further protect the flock by keeping
them in a predator-proof camp during the
lambing period until all the lambs are big enough
to fend for themselves at about four weeks of
age. However, it could be difficult to provide
facilities to keep a large flock confined for up to
two months and it will in all probability be
necessary to feed the flock as it is unlikely that
there would be sufficient natural food in such a
Another advantage of the system is that the
introduction of the rams can be manipulated so
that the lambs arrive at times when there is
sufficient food on the veld, thus limiting the need
to feed the flock. The danger here is that if there
is insufficient food for the ewes during
pregnancy and the ewes starve; an entire crop of
weak lambs may be the result.
Not having a lambing season has the following
The major disadvantage is that the system
invariably results in more ewes lambing in the
veld more regularly during the year. As this
contributes to a more stable year-round food
source for predators in the form of vulnerable
new-born lambs, their numbers may increase.
This disadvantage can be limited by keeping
heavily pregnant ewes back until they have
lambed and their lambs are at least four weeks
old and able to fend for themselves. Unlike in
systems where there is a lambing season, the
ewes with very young lambs are smaller in
number at any one time and thus much easier to
At Grehenheim we have no lambing season,
preferring the option of keeping heavily pregnant
ewes back until they have lambed and their
lambs are four weeks old.
Go to top of page
How to Use Rams
For maximum genetic progress in one specific direction, one
should ideally only use one ram with a flock: the very best
ram carrying the desired traits one is selecting for.
This does, however, present some risks:
Overall, the genetic progress of the flock using only one ram
at a time is relatively slow. Splitting the flock into sub units is
an option, but is expensive as more camps have to be
constructed and a greater degree of management is
Furthermore, the splitting of a Bapedi flock into smaller
isolated flocks with one ram per flock contradicts the stated
aim of the Pedi club of producing a low-care veld sheep.
Breeding Bapedi Sheep according to the standard means
breeding sheep that retains the characteristics required by
an efficient veld sheep. One of these characteristics is to
breed a ram that can compete against lesser rams in the
flock in order to maintain the best possible genetic vigour.
For these reasons the Pedi Club allows up to four rams to be
with a flock simultaneously with the proviso that the paternal
origin of all progeny to be registered is determined through
DNA profiling. The cost hereof is about R65.00 per lam.
If DNA paternal testing is not an option, then only one ram of
reproductive age may be with the flock. If rams are changed,
at least one month must lapse from the time the old ram is
taken out of the flock and before the new ram is introduced.
At Grehenheim we have run three rams with a flock of 150 to
200 ewes and determine paternity through DNA analysis.
Establishing who the mother is, of course, easy as she will
be nursing the new-born lamb.
Go to top of page
It is more natural and requires less
Less rams are required (about one ram
per 65 ewes) as ewes are mated
throughout the years rather than in a short
space of time.
Using less rams means that one can be
stricter in their selection, thereby
significantly speeding up genetic progress.
Feeding requirements are spread more
evenly throughout the year.
Selection for fertility is automatic as the
more fertile ewes will have shorter
inter-lambing periods and thus over time
increase their genetic frequency within the
The ram may be infertile or may become infertile, with
serious consequences for the breeder.
The ram may not be a good producer, and by the time
this is realised, the damage is significant.
Over time, the genetic variation may narrow too much.
Based on kilogram meat produced / hectare / input costs, the
Bapedi will be hard to beat.
Although the Bapedi is a small framed sheep (adult ewes
average 35 to 45Kg, rams average 50 to 70Kg) that reaches
an ideal slaughter / dressed weight of 18Kg weight (30 Kg
live weight) at around 12 months of age for rams and 14
months for ewes, its commercial production is highly
competitive for the following reasons:
Go to top of page
A naturally selected minimum care veld sheep that
costs almost nothing to keep
Fat tails are highly sought after for the making of
droëwors and as an additive to game dishes.
High reproductive rates (2 lambs per year, first lamb at
11 months, 6 months lambing intervals thereafter)
Excellent mothering abilities
Extremely hardy sheep that hardly ever gets sick
The majority of animals hardly ever need de-worming
Highly resistant to Heart-water and other local diseases
Vaccinate only for Pulpy Kidney and Blue Tongue
Natural resistance to ticks
Its natural grazing habits and wide range of forage
requirements allow many more animals in an area
By Grehenheim gebruik ons slegs
T5 / E of T5 / M gegradeerde ramme
Ramme met 'n definitiewe potensiaal
om hierdie mylpaal te beryk
Ramme wat SP geregistreer is
By Grehenheim loop drie ramme by
150 tot 200 ooie
Vaderskap word bepaal deur DNA
Lean, because the fat is mainly centered
in the tail.
Because they are slaughtered at a later
age, the meat is more tasty.
Veld sheep have no access to
commercial growth stimulants.
Because these healthy sheep hardly ever
need de-worming or treatment, you don't
eat the chemicals.