Nguni cattle are a mixture of the European and Indian type cattle that have been migrating south from Egypt via the east coast of Africa for about 8000 years. Ngunis arrived in the south eastern parts of Southern Africa about 2500 years ago with the Nguni people. The east coast is one of the most trying and disease ridden parts of Africa and due to many centuries of natural selection we have the Nguni as we know it today.
The Nguni is perfectly adapted to Sothern Africa. They have special abilities to cope with all the disease, parasites and droughts that Africa can throw at them. They can do this because they have over the centuries evolved similar characteristics as our game species, to be one of the most efficient cattle breeds around today.
The Nguni is a browser and a grazer so it has a much larger selection of food than many of the other cattle breeds. It is also not fussy in what it eats so as it walks along it takes a bite of whatever is in front of it. This method of grazing ensures that the plant has enough greenery to stay alive and continues to grow.
The Nguni is a small to medium framed animal. This smaller shape is extremely efficient compared to the larger breeds of cattle. They can walk for many miles in a day. They can groom themselves to remove ticks. They are very heat tolerant and can survive with very little water in a day. They can utilise poor quality food. They are extremely fertile and seldom have calving problems. Even their tails have developed to resist ticks and swat flies better than other breeds of cattle.
Almost all Ngunis have horns and occasionally a naturally polled animal will occur. There are many different horn shapes and lengths. The main reasons for the horns are for defence and there are stories of some cows even attacking leopards to protect their calves.
Even though some Ngunis have solid colours most have different colour patterns and no two are exactly alike. One theory for the variegated colours is that when they are threatened they all group together and mill around. The colours and patterns then confuse the predators and they don’t know where an individual animal is to attack it.
For centuries Ngunis have been in close contact to people. This has made them very docile cattle, they handle stress very well and are extremely curious animals. Ngunis have also played a special part with the social development in Africa. They are seen as a form of wealth and are still used as currency for certain things like labola. They were used as the main form of survival for many centuries by supplying milk and food to the people. During trying times like drought the cattle were slaughtered to feed the people. This kept the people alive and also lightened the grazing load on the veldt. This was a sustainable system and is theoretically similar to what we are doing today.
The motto of the Nguni society of South Africa is “Breed from the past for the future”. It truly is and the Nguni is once again becoming a common sight in South Africa.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHAT IS NGUNI BEEF LIKE?
Nguni meat is of exceptional quality and compares favourably to any of the best beef breeds known. The meat is generally very tender and has a very satisfying texture. The fat is mostly concentrated around the surface of the carcass thus making the meat very lean.
Grass fed beef also has little or no visible marbling but still has enough intramuscular fat to be tender and juicy. The fat is slightly yellow or creamy when compared to grain fed beef. This is due to an increase in beta-carotene. The meat is also darker in colour due to the added vitamins and minerals, as well as the muscles having to do more work.
Our Ngunis only eat the natural vegetation which includes many different wild herbs. This makes the beef very flavourful and tasty.
WHAT DOES THE LABEL MEAN?
100% NATURAL BEEF: This means that all our cattle are raised in the most natural environment as possible free from harmful chemicals and eating only what cows are supposed to eat.
FREE RANGE: All of our cattle have free access to food and water. They also have large grazing areas and are free to wander around.
GRASS FED: Our cattle only eat the natural food that grows on Waylands and occasionally hay and straw, during the drier months that has been produced on the farm. Our cattle never enter a feed lot and never eat a grain based diet.
DRUG FREE: We never use any steroids, growth hormones or vaccinations. Antibiotics are only used on individual cows as a last resort to prevent suffering and these animals then enter the commercial market. Due to our management practices and holistic grazing methods we now very seldom use anti parasitic remedies and if needed it is only for individual cattle.
IS WAYLANDS BEEF ORGANIC?
No because we are not registered with the government. We are however as close to being organic as possible. Certified organic meat in South Africa is virtually impossible to find due to the extreme requirements for certification.
COOKING GRASS FED BEEF
Cooking beef at too high a temperature and for too long destroys its protein structure causing the meat to be tough and flavourless. Fat has an insulating effect on the meat and thus because grass-fed beef has a lower fat content it needs to be cooked with about 15 to 20% less heat and for a shorter time. (Medium coals when braaied). Once cooked allow the meat to rest for a few minutes before eating it.
IS FROZEN MEAT FINE?
Although most people prefer to buy meat fresh it will be perfectly fine for about 3 to 6 months in the deepfreeze. If frozen meat is allowed to thaw naturally it will be as fresh as the day you bought it. Even steak will retain its flavour, texture and colour.
DEFROSTING FROZEN MEAT
All frozen products should be left to thaw naturally. The best way to defrost meat is to place it in the refrigerator 24 hours before it will be used. This method slowly thaws the meat while retaining its juices which is essential for flavour. If meat is thawed outside of a refrigerator then never place it close to an external source of heat like the braai fire, and once thawed but still chilled, refrigerate immediately until used. In an emergency the best way to defrost your meat is to put it in luke warm water.
WHAT MAKES MEAT TENDER?
The greatest reason for tough meat is STRESS. If an animal has any form of stress whether it is from the transport, too little food or water, rough handling, temperature changes or stress at the abattoir the meat will be tough. One of the benefits of the Nguni is its natural ability to deal with stress.
All meat requires some intramuscular fat to make it tender. Although grass fed beef does not show the marbling, it still has a sufficient amount of intramuscular fat to be tender, juicy and flavourful.
Another reason for tough meat is in the way that it is cooked, heat and timing is everything.
All meat should be aged to enhance its tenderness and to concentrate its natural flavours.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF GRASS FED BEEF
There are many health benefits to grass- fed beef. Some of the main benefits are that it is four to six times lower in fat when compared to grain fed beef making it as lean as poultry and wild game. It also has a higher vitamin and mineral percentage. Grass fed beef is three times higher in omea-3 fatty acids than grain fed beef and the ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 is at the ideal ratio required for our bodies.