Achieving desired production targets in cattle breeding enterprises is assisted by developing a breeding program that utilises genetic and reproduction knowledge and technologies.
The objective of a breeding program is to ensure that the desirable genes that have been selected for are transferred from one generation to the next.
Genetics define the production potential of cattle. Using the best available genetics allows producers to potentially improve the contribution that cattle make to enterprise profit. Important profit drivers that relate to animal performance,such as growth rate, are influenced by the 'genetic makeup' of the herd.
When selecting cattle, producers should focus on what they are trying to achieve. This may be defined in the business goals and target market specifications that were identified during the business planning process and reflected in the enterprise's breeding objectives.
Selecting the right bull or cow is the first step in improving the genetics of a herd, however, genetic improvement is not a quick fix and must be pursued over generations of livestock.
Reproduction is an important factor affecting the economics and profitability of cattle enterprises. It forms the basis of genetic herd improvement, transferring genes from one generation to the next, and is central to weaning more calves.
Considerations in cattle breeding programs:
- Bull management - Bulls are able to sire a large number of viable offspring in each mating season.
- Cow management - Cows are able to conceive and rear a calf to weaning each season following puberty.
- Heifer management - Heifers meet target weight and condition score to help realise a 365-day calving interval.
- Weaner management - Maximum survival rates and growing weaner calves out to growth targets.
- Predation management - Calves are protected from predation by wild dogs.
- Health and reproductive diseases - Health and welfare of the herd to maximise growth and reproductive rates.