A rare stash of stored semen from a renowned Droughtmaster bull born 45 years ago has been used to produce a bull calf being offered at next month’s National Droughtmaster Sale in Rockhampton.
In what must arguably be some of the oldest genetics ever-used in a bull being sold at a national Bos Indicus sale in Australia, Sunshine Coast hinterland bull breeder Paul Mackay will surely attract attention for his one and only offering in the sale catalogue.
Paul’s entry, Ianbrae Forth of July, is an embryo transfer calf using semen stored frozen for more than 30 years, from Droughtmaster sire Mungalla Double Up. Double Up was born 45 years ago, on July 1, 1974, but his first semen collection did not take place until 1987, when he was 13 years old.
Double Up was bred at Mungalla Droughtmaster stud near Ingham in North Queensland by the breed’s founder, the legendary northern cattleman Monty Atkinson.
Having done some research on him, Paul learned that Mungalla Double Up was sold by Monty Atkinson at the height of the Beef Slump on 1976, making $5200 at a sale which that year averaged just $700 for bulls.
He was bought by another veteran Droughtmaster breeder, Fred Rowe from Southern Cross*. Fred used Double-Up as a herd bull until the age of 13 years, when semen was collected for the first and only time.
For students of pedigree, Mungalla Double Up can be found in the lineage of all three Droughtmaster bulls that have sold in Australia for more than $100,000 at auction.
How Ianbrae’s Paul Mackay came by the semen is a story in itself.
In the early 1990s, his neighbour and fellow Droughtmaster breeder Dr Paul Dingle secured a few rare straws of Mungalla Double Up semen, which the pair used successfully in ET programs, breeding a few bulls.
A few years ago, an AI technician visiting Paul’s property to top up his AI tank with liquid nitrogen happened to mention a collection of stored bull semen owned by an elderly lady who no longer bred cattle, which her family wanted to dispose of. Paul saw Mungalla Double Up semen on the tank’s inventory list and immediately snapped it up.
It was employed straight away in an embryo program, with one of the first calves being this year’s Rockhampton sale entry.
How well do the genetics stack up?
The obvious question that arises from this unusual exercise is: How well does such old genetics stand up against modern-day Droughtmasters?
Phenotypically, as this photo of two-year-old Ianbrae Forth of July shows, he is not dissimilar to Droughtmaster bulls being sold today, around 800kg at two years of age.
“Double Up was a very good bull for his era – probably ahead of his time,” Paul said.
“Forty-odd years on, he’s still as relevant as ever. His son being sold in Rockhampton this year was scanned as a two-year-old with an eye muscle area of 132sq cm, P8/rib fat depth of 14mm and 13mm, and intra-muscular fat of 5.1.”
“We did the Poll gene test, and he has come back as a homozygous Poll (PP). Decades before DNA testing was even thought of, Monty Atkinson was accurately selecting Droughtmasters for polledness.”
“The first thing I thought of with a 45-year-old bull was that he would have a bit of a coat. But his calves have proven to be very slick-coated, and this year’s calf has never been hairy. There is no difference from a modern Droughtmaster.”
The only other previous calf by Double Up offered for sale by Paul’s stud was sent to Rockhampton way back in 1994, making a highly creditable $12,000. The stud now also has a few heifer calves still on cows by the same sire, so his genetics will live on within the Ianbrae stud herd. Only about eight straws now remain in the semen tank, however.
No problem with semen viability
So how viable is bull semen stored frozen for 30 years?
Paul said one of Double Up’s straws was tested for semen quality, and it came back fine.
“We’ve had no problems with it in ET and AI work,” he said. “The good thing was that the technician who had been the custodian of the tank had been looking after it for a very long time, so it was being well cared-for. What we’ve tended to find sometimes with old semen is that it’s actually the quality of the plastic surrounding the straw that fails first – not the semen itself.”
Now, a bit of a plug for this year’s Rockhampton sale entry. Ianbrae Forth of July is from the ET-bred donor Ianbrae Ample (P), sired by breed great Glenlands Maranoa. Ianbrae Ample is a full sister to the 2013 Breed Feature Show Supreme Champion, Ianbrae Mr Wrinkles.
Ianbrae prides itself on breeding with the strongest female lines available, utilising a wide range of breeding methods that include natural service, AI, ET and IVF. Females are coupled with a selection of fresh and frozen genetics. DNA testing via Zoetis is carried out in order to audit pedigree information. Ianbrae Forth of July has full Parental Verification, verifying his sire and dam.
- For those interested in following the fortunes of Ianbrae’s Mungalla Double-Up calf, Ianbrae Forth of July, he is being sold at the National Droughtmaster Sale in Rockhampton next month. He sells as lot 158 on Day-One, 17 September.
* Keen-eyed Beef Central reader and student of history, Kent Ward, has pointed out that the late Fred Rowe (Sr), who bought Mungalla Double Up, was from Greenacres Stud near Jambin. His son, Fred (Jr) operated Southern Cross Droughtmasters.