// // // //
SONGS
ADVERTISE
Advertise with us:
R10 000 pm VAT excl.

Wildlife matters

BACK
HOME » Wildlife » Wildlife matters

Meat production of sable antelope

22 February 2013

The sable antelope is popular on wildlife ranches due to its high value as a trophy and tourism animal. Especially the western Zambian sable antelope is valued and this shows in the current mean prices that are being paid for it on live wildlife auctions. There are four subspecies of sable antelope in Africa: Hippotragus niger niger, to which the local ecotype of the Western Zambian sable antelope also belongs, in southern Africa; Hippotragus niger anselli in eastern Zambia; Hippotragus niger roosevelti in southern Kenia and northern Tanzania and the giant sable antelope Hippotragus niger variani in northern Angola. It is important to note that because they are only subspecies they will hybridize and produce fertile offspring. Hence they should never be kept together. The dangers of introducing such exotic wildlife have already been discussed in an earlier contribution. It is better to concentrate on improving the habitat and stock of indigenous sable antelope because they are already adapted to a marginal environment for sable antelope in South Africa Africa.

The sable antelope occurs in greater numbers in wetter and more tropical regions in Africa. Nevertheless the sable antelope can be produced in free-ranging and semi-intensive production systems provided that the guidelines below are being followed. However, the following general characteristics of the sable antelope should be kept in mind in any production system.

Free-ranging sable antelope form breeding herds that consist of around 14 adult cows and their young. Each breeding herd utilizes a range of some 200 to 400 ha and is protected by a dominant bull that utilizes a moving territory of 20 to 40 ha around the herd. This territory is defended against intrusion by other adult bulls. The only way in which to increase the size of a population on a wildlife ranch is with increased habitat because social behaviour will prevent the increase of the size of a breeding herd or the decrease in their range size.

The cows of the sable antelope become sexually mature when they are 24 months old and the bulls when they are 32 months old. However, a bull will only start to breed when he becomes a dominant herd bull from an age of five years. He stops breeding when he becomes 10 years old and is replaced by a younger bull as a herd bull. However, when there are only young bulls in a population they may breed with the adult cows. A cow will keep on breeding until she is 10 to 13 years old when she will usually die in a free-ranging herd because her teeth becomes worn and she loses physical condition. The calf weans when it is eight months old and a cow can usually produce eight to 10 calves in her lifetime. Young, free-ranging bulls are expelled from the breeding herd when they are 36 months old and the heifers form new herds with a bull from the bull herd unless they join a breeding herd that has lost some of its adult cows.

The ideal habitat for a sable antelope is frost-free, open bushveld that is interspersed with grassland near a wetland and has scattered low shrubs under which the calves hide early in life. The diet consists of 85 per cent medium to tall grasses of a good quality, 10 per cent browse and 5 per cent herbs. A sable antelope feeds selectively and sweet veld with grasses that are at least 200 mm tall is preferred. The best grazing grass in the diet of a sable antelope is Guinea or buffalo grass Panicum maximum which only grows in wetter areas and germinates in the shade of tall trees. Other suitable grasses include finger grass Digitaria eriantha, black-footed grass Brachiaria nigropedata, red grass Themeda triandra, perennial signal grass Urochloa oligotricha and spear grass Heteropogon contortus. Yellow thatching grass Hyperthelia dissoluta, common thatching grass Hyparrhenia hirta and gum grass Eragostis gummiflua are less palatable but are eaten in the early growth stage. The leaves of the raisin bush Grewia flava, black thorn Acacia mellifera and sweet thorn Acacia karoo are most often browsed.

Because the sable antelope is a proficient creeper wildlife fences for them should be fitted with an electrified strand that is 300 mm above the ground surface and 225 mm away from the wire fence. The stocking density is 0.86 sable antelope per Grazer Unit (1.16 Grazer Units per sable antelope) and 0.71 sable antelope per Browser Unit (1.40 Browser Units per sable antelope). A veld condition index of >60 per cent of the optimum is required and the ideal sex ratio in free-ranging herds is three adult cows per adult bull. Two natural waterholes should be provided per breeding herd and a sable antelope will drink 9 litres of water per day.

The sable antelope can also be produced under semi-intensive conditions in a series of camps of 400 ha each and with one breeding herd and a dominant bull per camp. Each camp should have a gate in a corner to facilitate rotational grazing some three times a year. A separate camp of 400 ha should be set aside for a bull herd. The young bulls should be removed from the camp of the breeding herd at the age of 18 months otherwise they will be killed by the dominant bull. Heifers should be moved to a vacant camp with an unrelated bull. Food supplements such as lucerne and antelope pellets should be given throughout the year but an excess of antelope pellets can cause acidosis and death. Tick control should be done with an acaricide such as Drastic Deadline that will not kill oxpeckers. The acaricide can be dispensed in apparatus such as a Duncan Applicator. Anthelmintics for de-worming should be given before releasing the animals or can be mixed with the antelope pellets.

Old cows with worn teeth can be kept in small camps of 5 ha each where they can receive a highly nutritious diet. This will enable them to calve for another five years or so. Sable antelope should not be mixed with other wildlife in a camp because the herd bull may kill such wildlife. A sex ratio of six to eight adult cows per adult bull is suggested for semi-intensive breeding.

 

 

References:

Kriek, J C 2005. The sable antelope. In J du P Bothma and N van Rooyen (Eds). Intensive wildlife production in southern Africa. Pretoria: Van Schaik, pp 138 - 146.

Skinner, J D and C T Chimimba (Eds) 2005. The mammals of the southern African subregion, third edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp 663 - 664.

By: Prof J du P Bothma

SONGS
ADVERTISE
Advertise with us:
R10 000 pm VAT excl.