Merits of the Mashona

Amazing adaptation to a hot, sunny climate, poor soils and nutritional scarcity

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The Mashona breed has evolved anatomically and physiologically over many centuries to handle our tough African environment.  These animals have adapted beautifully, so that they efficiently dissipate heat from their bodies and hence are not stressed by high ambient temperatures. Their smooth glossy coats, thick, movable skin, numerous sweat glands and high vascularity all facilitate rapid heat dissipation.

Their large surface area per unit mass, with skin surface area often increased by extra folds in the dewlap, neck and scrotum, further assist heat loss, along with their fat deposits being primarily intramuscular rather than subcutaneous, which reduces tissue insulation. Mashonas also have a relatively low metabolic rate. Hence, under heat stress, there is less metabolic heat to be dissipated.

The Mashona’s pigmented hide and high quantity of sebum secretion from the skin, which spreads over the hair, protect the animal from the various potentially damaging effects of high ultraviolet radiation found in our climatic conditions – cancers, hyperkeratosis and inflammation.

The Mashona is relatively tick-repellent due to its thick, movable hide, well-developed panniculus muscles and sensitive pilomotor nervous system. The hide reacts more rapidly to the slightest irritation. The Mashona is hence highly resistant to physical tick damage and infection with tick-borne diseases and the same characteristics repel flies and other biting insects, with the high quantity of sebum secretion also helping to repel insects.

The small size and low metabolic rate of the Mashona is to great advantage.  Highly adapted to adverse nutritional circumstances, survival and production even in dire conditions are superior to larger breeds, with maintenance requirements of cows being lower. With their small size and mobility, their ability to forage even when temperature and UV radiation are very high, and their durable teeth, Mashona cattle are very efficient, selective grazing animals.  They also browse, and seasonally make wide use of a range of food resources, supplementing their diet with highly nutritious fruit, pods, freshly fallen leaves and legumes  and boosting protein intake in the process.


Temperament and behaviour
The Mashona is docile and its relatively small body size further facilitates handling and management. Under ranching conditions, herd and maternal instincts are well developed.

Females graze in groups which allows for more efficient use of bulls in the breeding season. At calving time, a few matrons guard the calves in a nursery area while their dams are grazing, protecting them and warning the rest of the herd if danger threatens. Bulls take naturally to single sire herds and exhibit good herd control.

Mashonas reach puberty relatively early.  Heifers can be bred as early as 1 year 14 months under good feeding and management, offering greater lifetime productivity. Females are sexually active and tend to resume ovarian activity relatively soon after calving. Expression of oestrus is strong; an advantage for artificial insemination.

Males possess good libido and are very mobile under ranching conditions. The scrotum is adapted to maintain correct testicular temperature under sub-tropical conditions. Females are highly fertile and give a consistently high annual calving percentage.

Mashona cows calve easily and if bred pure, calving difficulties are virtually unknown. Even with cross-bred calves, birth mass seems contained by the dam's influence.

Cow productivity
The Mashona cow is an excellent mother with a good milk supply, offering very high cow productivity. Scientific research has conclusively proven that the Mashona cow in the natural veld is unrivalled in weaner output per unit weight
of cow.

Growth and efficiency
The adaptive traits of the Mashona make its utilisation of the veld, and its rate of growth off it, highly efficient.  With the current trend towards veld fattening, this spells more good news about the breed.


Carcass conformation and quality
The Mashona has a relatively high dressing percentage and with its early maturity, fattens and finishes at low body mass.

The proportion of lean to bone and fat in the carcass is relatively high and as the Mashona’s fat deposits are largely intramuscular, meat is very juicy and tender.




The Mashona Breed is thoroughly adapted to the Iocal sub-tropical environment.

Here are the Main Mashona Merits in summary:

Thoroughly adapted to the Iocal environment:
  • Resistance to high temperatures and heat stress
  • Resistance to tick infestation
  • Resistance to ultraviolet radiation
  • Minimal damage from flies and biting insects
  • Reduced susceptibility to tick-borne diseases
  • Small body size and low maintenance requirements are survival factors under adverse nutritional conditions
  • High degree of mobility
  • Efficient and selective grazers
  • Propensity to browse
  • Durable teeth

Valuable growth and efficiency traits:

  • Maximal efficiency of veld utilisation
  • Optimal growth under extensive systems
    of production
  • Very competitive output per hectare
Specific carcass conformation and quality traits:
  • High dressing percentage
  • Early maturity and carcass finish
  • High proportion of lean to bone and fat in the carcass, with excellent commercial merit
  • High degree of marbling (intra-muscular fat)
  • Tender and juicy meat

Ideal temperament:

  • Relatively docile
  • Amenable to frequent handling

Beneficial behaviour patterns:

  • Herd instinct is well developed, females graze in groups and facilitate breeding success
  • Well-developed maternal instincts, dams will guard and protect calves
Excellent fertility:
  • Early sexual maturity, leading to enhanced reproductive longevity
  • Sexually active females
  • Short post-partum anoestrous period
  • Strong expression of oestrus
  • High annual calving percentages
  • Males are very mobile with good libido

Outstanding cow productivity:

  • High quality milk supply
  • Excellent mothering ability
  • Unbeatable weaner output per unit weight of cow
  • Maximum output per hectare
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