Genetics: Incremental changes for a profitable future

Beef Central, 26/10/2021

Beef producer Marie Copley from Copley Pastoral Co near Crows Nest in southern Queensland delivered a presentation posing the question, “To EBV or not EBV?” at a field day held at Brahman bull breeder Alf Collins’ Collins Belah Valley (CBV) in August. Here is a summary of her address…

WATCHING the Olympics earlier this year was inspiring and amazing.

Who could not be inspired and enthralled with the intense competition amongst these elite sportsmen and women?

The swimming is a particular favourite and the contrast between different events adds to the intrigue.

The 50m splash and dash, where the swimmers go for it in one spectacular lap is a vastly different event to the 1500m. The finalists are all great swimmers but over 30 laps the best performers build a lead steadily-lap after lap.

They do this through disciplined skills execution and strategy, making incremental gains. Katie Ledecky builds this to a 20m lead and secures the gold medal.

Cattle breeding is much more a 1500m than a 50m event.

Copley Pastoral’s experience reflects this as we have utilised CBV genetics and worked to develop our own functional, analysed genetics.

Building over time with disciplined herd management, including a ‘No Freeloader’ breeder approach, data-informed decision-making and persistence towards a ‘Herd that Works’.

We work to make incremental genetic gains each year, regardless of seasonal conditions.

I came into the cattle industry 30 years ago when I married Tom, coming from an oncology nursing background, where evidence formed the basis of our practice.

It seemed logical that our cattle business had a system, recorded and collected data that we used to inform our decisions and enable us to analyse and confirm our progress.

My role in our business became largely data management, in recording all maternal data from joining to progeny and then following the progress of the next generation. Utilising notebooks, Excel, herd recording software and Google Docs ensures we keep us and our herd accountable. Latterly we have worked to increase accuracy through genomic analysis of EBVs and parental verification.

Data is the basis for a steady, consistent, disciplined approach.

Data enables us to avoid being distracted by shiny, seemingly easy solutions to complex problems.

1500m, rather than a 50m approach

‘To EBV or not EBV’….that is the question…for some!

Hamlet faced a philosophical dilemma but using EBVs to select sires is not philosophical-it is just good science.

EBVs are not a cult, a choice between EBVs or ‘Cattleman’s Instinct’ or a mystical belief system.

EBV hesitancy is a frustration and comes at a cost to the cattle industry, when so much of the industry requires the utilisation of good science to make complex decisions about our expensive capital investments.

The value and power of EBVs is undeniable as we can identify those leaders and performers which can form the basis of real genetic progress and those animals that, despite how they look, just won’t.

EBVs can be daunting but fertility is king for the Northern Beef Industry the further north we go.

$ Indices for the Brahman Breed are both dominated by weaning rate and are therefore useful and simple selection tools. EBV informed sire selection requires consistent, persistent management of the breeder herd to make incremental gain through functional, analysed genetics.

Followers of the US TV drama series, ‘Yellowstone’, will be familiar with the patriarch of the Dutton family cattle business – John Dutton, played by Kevin Costner. In an endearing scene with his grandson Dutton lists off all the difficulties in ranching, which he can’t control, including weather, prices and public perception.

The grandson asks, ’if it is so hard-why do it?’

John Dutton replies ‘Because it’s one hell of a life…’

Now, we know that ‘Yellowstone’ has lots of problems and hasn’t been profitable for years.

But a profitable business can afford you the privilege of living that great life and functional analysed genetics can help us make incremental gains for a profitable future for our family businesses.







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