Post-apartheid administrations in South Africa were faced with redressing the legacy of multifaceted poverty and social inequalities created by apartheid politics. The entrance of smallholder farmers into the mainstream economy became a government priority and policy aim. Institutional efforts in Limpopo Province provided infrastructure to establish poultry and vegetable producing enterprises. Very few livestock projects were funded. The success rate of institutional interventions was low. We argue that smallholder livestock systems offer policy opportunities to realise post-apartheid reform goals in the smallholder livestock sector. The premises are; there are more livestock in communal smallholder sector than in the commercial sector. This indicates there is a substantial level of natural, human and social capital existing within smallholder livestock systems. Secondly, commercial livestock systems are increasingly converted to game and wildlife enterprises necessitating imports of large numbers of livestock from Namibia to account for the shortfall in red-meat in South Africa. It is possible that the low off-take characterising smallholder livestock and the Cattle Complex Philosophy probably deterred past efforts to recognise the potential of smallholder livestock systems for rural and agricultural development. The Cattle Complex Philosophy claims that African smallholders have an attitudinal resistance to sell livestock. Data from a survey amongst 193 households in ten villages of Sekhukhune District of Limpopo Province illustrates that low livestock sales relates to the dysfunctional composition, sub-optimal reproductive potential and high calf mortality of smallholder herds. Conclusions and policy recommendations are offered.