Unlocking herd potential
19 April 2018
Good genetics, through strategic bull selection, is one of the keys to revealing the full potential of a breeding herd managed under good nutrition, according to Queensland producers Rodney and Paula Wright.
The couple, who produce Brangus–Droughtmaster weaners at Mt Ossa (near Mackay), have completed a Breeding EDGE workshop and were invited to provide feedback at a pilot workshop for the newly updated Breeding EDGE course.
The information and skills gained from those workshops now help them make more informed genetic improvement and herd management decisions.
Fine-tuning breeding and selection
“This country can be challenging at times for stock,” Rodney said.
“Nutritionally, the dry season can be tough and, during the wet season, huge rainfalls can reduce the quality of feed. The cattle also have ticks and buffalo flies to contend with.”
Rodney and Paula control-mate their herd for three months, pregnancy test, remove ‘empty’ breeders and use nutritional supplements. However, their experience with Breeding EDGE has enabled them to further fine-tune their breeding and selection programs.
“We need a suitably adapted but softer-styled animal that is early maturing, fertile, and has good early growth, temperament and market suitability,” Rodney said.
“We learnt a lot from the courses – in particular, if you haven’t got the genetics in your herd, you can’t get full value from your paddock nutrition, or bang for your buck from supplement feeding,” Rodney said.
“We now understand objective bull data and that drives our bull selection decisions – the availability of performance data is a must.
“We’re looking for estimated breeding values (EBVs) and BULLCHECK information (formerly Veterinary Bull Breeding Soundness Evaluation), including semen morphology and percentage of normal sperm.”
Carefully-considered bull selection criteria
Since the workshop, the couple has a tighter set of criteria of what they want from a bull and a breeder, and feel they have the skills to select an animal that will genetically complement and improve their herd.
Rodney and Paula seek out bulls from breeders close to their region when possible, to ensure adaptability, and try not to buy from sales, preferring to see animals in paddock condition and not grainfed.
Bulls are selected based on:
- fertility: above average scrotal size
- offspring information: such as age of puberty of their heifer calves
- birth weights: focusing on lower birth weights to improve cow and calf survival rates, particularly in maiden heifers
- days-to-calving EBVs: breeders have a short joining period, and lower or negative days to calving improves the chances of calving early and getting back in calf (this information isn’t always available)
- parentage: dam and sire histories are also studied; both should be out of a cow that has calved every year, in the right calving interval.
“In summary, we’re looking for well-balanced bulls with good measured traits such as scrotal size, semen and morphology, fats, eye muscle area, temperament, and good structure of the sheath, feet and legs, etc.," Rodney said.
The one trait the couple won’t compromise on is temperament.
“We’re a small family operation. Often it’s just Paula and me, and we can’t afford to have anything that has questionable temperament,” Rodney said.
“We pride ourselves on our weaner offering each year being quiet and well-handled.”
- Use BREEDPLAN and BULLCHECK data in combination with visual appraisal to make bull selection decisions.
- Don’t obsess over growth traits at the expense of other important traits such as fertility and temperament.
- Buying sound bulls of high genetic merit can rapidly increase your herd’s rate of performance and profit.
Breeding EDGE courses
For upcoming Breeding EDGE courses, keep an eye on the FutureBeef website’s calendar at futurebeef.com.au/events
Three-day Breeding EDGE workshops are planned for:
- Katherine, NT, 30–31 July, 1 August
- Kununurra, WA, 8–10 August
For information on these courses:
T: 0428 113 732
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