The Senepol is a two breed
composite that was developed on the island of St. Croix, the
southernmost and largest of the Virgin Islands.
In the 1800s N’Dama Cattle were imported to the Caribbean
Island of St. Croix from Senegal, West Africa. The St. Croix
island environment encompasses both wet tropics with high
humidity and rainfall and hot, dry savanna areas. Tropical
parasites and cattle tick are abundant and the native
vegetation is low in quality. The N’Dama, a Bos Taurus breed
native to Senegal, was well suited for the Caribbean because
of its heat tolerance, insect and disease resistance, and
its ability to thrive on poor quality forage.
By 1889 Henry C. Nelthropp’s Grenard Estates was one of the
largest N’Dama breeders, with over 250 head of cattle, which
he maintained as purebreds.
After attempts to
import higher producing cattle from temperate regions had
failed, the cattle having broken down quickly from heat and
nutritional stress, Nelthropp’s son, Bromley, had a vision
to develop a breed of cattle that would flourish in their
tropical environment and combine the traits needed for
superior levels of production.
In 1918, Red Poll
bulls were introduced to the Nelthropp’s N’Dama herd to
improve milking ability, fertility and remove the horns. The
British Red Poll is known for its natural poll, red colour,
early maturity, milking and mothering ability, ease of
calving and docile temperament. This blending of genetics
proved very successful, and formed the foundation of the
Senepol breed. As the Red Poll influence became more
apparent, strict selection was applied for the following
Natural poll (no
Nelthropp herd was dispersed to local breeders and the
development of the Senepol breed on St. Croix has since been
continued by four primary herds. From their beginnings, the
island herds maintained genetic records that grew into the
Senepol breed registry, as it is known today.
On-farm performance testing began in the mid 1970’s with the
establishment of the Virgin Islands BCIA (Beef Cattle
Improvement Association). In 1977 the first 22 Senepol
cattle were imported to the United States mainland from
where the breed has become extremely popular, grown and
spread to numerous U.S. states and various countries across
South African Senepol History
The S.A. Senepol Club, under the auspices of the Red Poll
Cattle Breeders’ Society of South Africa, was established on
the 10th August 2000 with nine founding members during an
open meeting held in Bloemfontein.
After making enquiries, a
visit to Zimbabwe was arranged by 2 members during October/November
2000. There they looked at and selected live animals for import to
South Africa. The process was set in motion and a permit for the
import of 27 live animals from Zimbabwe was issued. In Zimbabwe the
arrangements for the quarantine and export of the animals did not go
very smoothly and led to several delays. This necessitated another
visit to Zimbabwe in late June 2001 to sort out the problems and the
cattle were able to enter quarantine in Zimbabwe on 26th July 2001.
Once in quarantine, some of the animals tested positive for the
disease T.Parva and were not allowed to continue. One cow and two
claves also died in quarantine. A week before the cattle were due to
be released to come to South Africa there was an outbreak of Foot
and Mouth Disease in Zimbabwe and all borders were closed for the
movement of live animals. The cattle remained in quarantine in
Harare until special permission was obtained from the South African
National Department of Agriculture to bring them in. Finally, after
many challenges the animals were allowed to set off on the long
journey to the quarantine facility in Kempton Park, South Africa.
The cattle were released from quarantine on Friday 21st December
2001 to start their new life here and form the basis upon which the
Senepol breed was established in South Africa.
Two of the cattle originally imported from Zimbabwe
Senepol Cow SC 97 231
Corran Judy (aka Maria)
Senepol Bull SC 98 105
Since then the popularity
of the Senepol breed has grown immensely and, with the use of
imported semen and embryos and a solid upgrading system, the numbers
have grown accordingly. Today breeders can be found in most
provinces of South Africa and also in the neighbouring countries
Botswana and Namibia.