Production

Helen Springs trial focuses on northern fertility

Beef Central, 16/08/2013

An MLA-funded Producer Demonstration Site (PDS) at S. Kidman and Co's Helen Springs Station in the Northern Territory is focused on developing genetic tools to underpin large scale improvements to productivity in the northern herd.

The PDS aims to equip northern producers with bullbreeding and fertility-boosting tools.

NT Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries’ Principal Pastoral Production Research Officer, Tim Schatz, and station manager Chris Towne hope it will show how successful genetic selection can occur on an extensive, commercial property through performance recording, technologies and efficient management decisions.

“The most economically important trait in the northern beef industry is fertility,” Mr Schatz said.

“Cows that reproduce and calve early allow producers to turn-off more progeny one wet season after weaning for the 350kg live export market.

“While the principles are the same as with smaller herds, the north needs practical ways to incorporate objective genetic selection into big herds in big paddocks.”

The three year PDS, which commenced in December 2012, is aiming to address challenges of genetic improvement in the north: overcoming the shortage of tropically adapted bulls with estimated breeding values for fertility traits, identifying superior females within large herds and objectively evaluating young potential sires on a large scale.

It involves a bull multiplier herd developed to breed high-quality sires for the station. Brahman and Charbray cows were selected for their reproductive performance and joined with Charbray bulls purchased on fertility traits, with the first calves weaned in April 2013.

Building on the herd recording already in place at Helen Springs and its outstation, Brunchilly, the PDS team will collect:

  • birth date and weight, dam and sire (using DNA testing)
  • at weaning: 200 day weight
  • end of first post-weaning dry season: 400 day weight, height and scrotal size
  • end of first post-weaning wet season: 600 day weight, height, scrotal size and semen morphology
  • for female progeny: 800 day weight (pre-joining), 800 day height, and then weight. Pregnancy status, lactation status and BCS will be recorded twice a year.

The objective data recorded for male progeny will be combined with conformation, temperament and bull breeding soundness evaluation to identify potential sires. A selection index will be developed to rank these bulls, with data submitted to BREEDPLAN for analysis to aid selection of home-bred bulls to extend genetic gains across the station’s commercial herd.

Expected results from the PDS

  • A tool kit on how to set up a bull breeding nucleus on a commercial station.
  • A field day to demonstrate progeny from the bull breeding program and selection techniques
  • Increased number of desirable bulls that are available to industry with information on genetic traits such as days to calving, scrotal size, onset of puberty and polledness
  • Increased number of producers with the ability to breed their own high-quality bulls

Source: MLA

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