The major contribution that we can make to the profitability of your operation is through providing you with the opportunity to buy genetically superior animals. We can also contribute by keeping the price of the animals you are buying at reasonable levels.
Genetic progress can only come about by using genetically superior animals. Genetically superior animals can only be identified by measuring the animals themselves and as many other animals that are related to them as is possible.
The Angus Society publishes a number of dollar Indices which attempt to reconcile the conflicting objectives that producers in particular markets have. We use two of these, long fed and short fed for self-replacing herds, as the starting point for our decisions on animals to use.
We feel very strongly that producers in temperate Australia will find it difficult to compete with commodity beef produced elsewhere. We can produce very high-quality meat, which means marbled meat. The two Indices we use have a heavy emphasis on marbling.
Using an index means that we are always compromising – we trade off leanness for meat yield against fat for fertility and doing ability. Obviously, we are also concerned with the animals’ physical structure and temperament. On some of these we cull, on some we compromise.
To meet our breeding objectives, we need to access animals which have the attributes we want to breed into the animals we are selling to you. As a rule, we have ‘bought in’ male animals through AI and bred our own cows.
We try and keep genetic diversity in our herd. In practice, this means that we choose to trade off performance (index value) for diversity.
We have tried to make the pool from which we buy in genes as large as possible – we are willing to use Australian and American Angus. We are a little more careful about the American animals as there are measurement and environmental differences between the two gene pools which makes comparison difficult.
To meet our objectives as rapidly as possible, we try to use relatively young animals in our breeding programme. We are aware that there are risks associated with this, so we do keep some (of the very good) animals for a longer period.
In the last two years, we have used a small number of high indexing cows, who more than meet our other criteria for structure and temperament, as donors for embryo transfer programmes.
To balance genetic diversity and performance, we have in the past used various software programmes that do this, such as TGRM and Breedexact. More recently we have used some of the updated versions of these packages. We are still trading off genetic diversity in the herd against performance and trying to keep the inbreeding in individual animals at reasonable levels.
Measurement of Animals
Underlying all of these aspects of our breeding strategy is the measurement of animal performance. We try to do this as accurately and comprehensively as possible. The measured data is recorded and analysed through the Angus Society and BREEDPLAN to give us meaningful comparisons of our animals with one another and with other performance-recorded animals.
There are a small number of breeders in Australia who are measuring as intensively and rigorously as we are. We are very happy to introduce their animals into our herd. Where we feel that there is a lower level of commitment to comprehensive and accurate measurement, we are more cautious about introducing their animals.