Weekly genetics review: The Donoghues of beef + VIDEO

Wayne Upton*, 24/07/2018


LAURIE and Alison Donoghue ran Toolangatta Hereford stud for 43 years, culminating in the annual on-property bull sale selling 50-60 bulls per year.  The stud was dispersed in 2004.

The property of the same name near Bundella, west of Quirindi, had been in the Donoghue family for 78 years.

As devout Hereford breeders, the Donoghues were always keen to promote the value of Herefords, but were happy to harvest knowledge from whatever source they find valuable.

Toolangatta hosted many field days to help their clients make better decisions in their breeding operation.

Always a forward-thinking breeder, Laurie was quick to give new ideas a go. When net feed efficiency research was in its infancy, he borrowed portable feed intake measurement equipment to measure his own young bulls.

Laurie served on the board of Herefords Australia in the 1990s, before selling his herd and moving to Dubbo.

Astute judges may have been able to assess Laurie and Alison’s elite genetics potential, but the rest of us need to see the progeny test results, and in this, Laurie and Alison have excelled.

They produced two kids, Kath and Andrew, both of whom are making their mark in different fields in the beef industry, and especially in genetics.

After studying at UNE Armidale and working for a while at the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU), older sibling Kath headed to the US to complete a PhD in genetics, returning to AGBU for a period after completing her doctorate.

She then took up a position with the NSW Department of Agriculture as a cattle genetics researcher based at Trangie (see tonight’s second story on her recent research work). Her love of country life has seen her establish family life at the small western village of Nevertire, with husband Bruce and daughters Julia and Lara.

Andrew Donoghue

Younger brother, Andrew, took a different path into the beef industry, and is now general manager of Herefords Australia Ltd (HAL).  Andrew studied Agriculture at Marcus Oldham in Victoria before moving home to the family property at Bundella.  When the family decided to sell the property, Andrew moved to Armidale with his wife Anna and daughters Georgia and Alex.

Andrew is providing a more traditional role than his sister, servicing the seedstock and commercial beef breeders.

Legendary beef consultant Bob Freer once commented that working in a breed society is one of the most difficult positions going.

The society is working towards a common goal for the benefit of the breed, but all the while fierce competition exists between members to sell bulls. It is a form of ‘co-opertition’, just as in many places, McDonald’s and KFC establish common precincts and compete for customer dollars.

As general manager of Herefords Australia, Andrew is a true multi-tasker.  His responsibilities range from ensuring member requirements are attended to, through to facilitating genetic improvement of the Hereford breed.

“Breed societies must evolve into a breed association that services the needs of their clients rather than simply maintaining a stud book,” Andrew says.

He suggests it is essential that a breed society today has a commercial focus.

“Breed societies need to be involved in research and development and develop commercial products using the evolving technologies such as DNA,” Andrew said.

BIN project

Like a number of breed societies, Herefords Australia has been conducting a beef information nucleus (BIN) project that aims to collect phenotypic and genomic data to develop further the genetic evaluation procedures that enable a breed to make progress.

Andrew says that the BIN project had been a major contributor in getting the use of genomic information to the stage where it can be used in the single-step Breedplan evaluation.

Single step Breedplan is the system that incorporates genomic information with the phenotypic measures to produce a more accurate EBV.

Breed societies have in the past, and will in the future, add integrity to the data records.

“But for now, we will use advanced technologies such as DNA to improve this role with greater accuracy of pedigree and performance,” Andrew said.

Research explores genetic impact on methane production

Andrew’s sister Dr Kath Donoghue’s main research has focused on the topical subject of genetic influence on methane production in beef cattle.

As such, Kath is offering quite different service to that of her little brother, where she is involved in ground breaking research that still has to find its place in the industry.

Click on this separate report and accompanying video, to read more about Kath’s interesting research project.

While the beef industry has families such as the Donoghues making important contributions, it is in good hands. Alison, whom we sadly lost some years ago, would be rightly proud of her two kids.


  • Guest author, retired NSW DPI Beef Cattle Breeding Specialist Wayne Upton, is writing our Weekly Genetics Reviews for the next few weeks, while Alex McDonald is on holiday.


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  1. Jim Gough, 24/07/2018

    A great story Wayne. This family has always had vision and integrity.

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