Getting the Breeding Edge

28 May 2015

A Breeding EDGE course gave Queensland producers Terry and Megan Dunne a clearer view of their herd objectives and how to meet them.

For Megan and Terry, a Breeding EDGE workshop at Biloela was a chance to draw breath and consider opportunities for improvement.

“Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to get off farm and we only had time for me to go, but we’ve gone over everything I learnt together and discussed how it applies to our situation," Megan said.

The operation

The Dunnes run 400 breeders (down from 480 before the drought) on 1,538ha, 55km south-west of Biloela.

When they bought their property ‘Shawlands’ in 2005, the breeder herd consisted of Charbray, Charolais and Romagnola-cross cows. Since then, Droughtmaster genetics have been used to achieve their breeding objective of producing an early-maturing red animal with minimal hump.

Half the offspring are sold as weaners, privately off-farm to repeat clients; the remainder are grown out to 18 months – two years (about 340kg), for the backgrounding and finishing markets.

The breeding challenge

Megan and Terry identified reproductive issues they wanted to solve, particularly variations in pregnancy rates across mobs.

The learnings

Megan and Terry learnt how to use Estimated Breeding Values and Bull Breeding Soundness Evaluations (BBSE) to drive reproduction goals and understood the importance of environment and herd health on reproduction.

“We can definitely achieve our breeding objectives quicker by making sure our new bulls are not only the phenotype we want, but have above average 200-day growth figures and scrotal size, which is linked to both male and female fertility,” Megan said.

The Dunnes’ existing bull group will undergo BBSEs before joining starts (October-November) and will be vaccinated several months earlier to ensure sperm counts have time to recover.

“It became evident from the workshop that we need to replace our bulls earlier,” Megan said.

“We have been keeping them until they’re 10 or 12 years old, we’ll now turn them over at seven or eight to ensure better fertility in our herd and also to keep pace with genetic gain.”

When selecting heifers, the couple will focus on females that are early maturing and early to puberty.

Read the full case study in the May-June edition of Feedback, due out in early June.

Information

Megan and Terry Dunne E: mtdunne@activ8.net.au

The Breeding EDGE program aims to help producers develop a cattle breeding program or improve an existing one. Topics include: examining your current situation, reproduction issues, genetics, setting breeding objectives, livestock selection and managing the herd to capture benefits.

Find out about upcoming workshops  –  including a workshop on 16-18 June in Rockhampton. 

Read more about BREEDPLAN 

Design your own selection index 

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