WHILE often not on the top of the priority list, one of the considerations that stud cattle herd managers need to make during times of drought is the impact that the conditions (and consequent management practices) has on both the genetics and performance recording requirements of their herd.
Here are eight commonly-asked questions and answers about stud herd recording during dry times, compiled by Angus Australia:
Why is it important to consider genetics?
Genetic improvement is a medium to long term strategy for improving herd profitability. Importantly, the effects of genetic improvement are both cumulative and permanent.
The breeding decisions made in a herd today will have a direct impact on the genetics and subsequent profitability of the herd for the next ten years. Consequently, stud breeders are encouraged to persist with their long-term genetic improvement strategy during shorter-term challenges such as drought.
One component of this is the maintenance of an effective performance recording program.
Won’t the poor performance of animals in a drought lower their EBVs?
No. The performance of an animal will only be directly compared by Angus BREEDPLAN to the performance of other similarly-treated animals. That is, calves that have been bred in the same herd, are of the same sex, are of similar age and have been run together. It is how the animal performs relative to other similarly-treated animals that is important, not the actual measurement of the animal.
What impact can a drought have on performance recording?
While the poor performance of animals is not a problem to genetic evaluation, there are countless factors that can potentially compromise the effectiveness of a herd’s performance recording during a drought. Generally speaking, these factors revolve around the forced implementation of management practices that cause considerable disruption to routine stud operations and/ or the poor condition of stock.
What management practices can be taken to reduce the disruption of drought?
Importantly, there are a number of strategies that can be taken which will minimise the disruption that drought has on the effectiveness of a herd’s performance recording:
What other specific considerations should be made?
In addition to the above management strategies, there are several specific considerations that need to be made when recording particular trait information:
Should performance be recorded for calves that have lost weight?
Yes. Calves should be recorded even if they have lost weight. Remember that animals are only directly compared to other calves that have all been treated alike. It is how the animal performs relative to the other “similarly treated” animals that is important, not the actual performance of the animal.
Should performance be recorded for sick/extremely poor animals?
In extreme situations, if the drought has resulted in a high and varied incidence of disease/sickness, careful consideration needs to be given as to whether to record the performance for that particular group of animals. If there have been significant differences in non-genetic influences that can’t be accounted for, recording performance may bias the EBVs of these calves. It is important to note that this relates not only to their performance during the drought, but all performance information for these calves. While the drought may have broken by the time their later performance is recorded, there may still be differences between the performance of the calves that can be attributed to the non-genetic influences that couldn’t be accounted for previously.
Does genomics offer an alternative to collecting performance information?
As a general rule, performance information should be collected and an effective performance recording program maintained wherever possible. However in situations where the collection of effective performance information is either challenging or not possible, genomically testing animals provides a useful alternative for obtaining information about the genetics of the animals.
The best approach to maintaining an effective performance recording program during a drought will vary from operation to operation and from drought to drought.
Source: Angus Australia