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New standards benefit bull buyers

Bull testing is for everyone

DNA testing proving its worth

Buying better bulls

Low pregnancy rates - diagnosing the problem

EMA as an indicator of muscling 

Organic certification and conversion to organic status 

Line breeding – when is it too close?

Breed your own bulls

Clink on the links below to go straight to the articles

2004: Breeding Technology Field Day: Cattle breeders warned: "Balance needed in breeding program"

2002: Dry season management plans have short and long term benefits



New standards benefit bull buyers

The constant pursuit of client satisfaction and breed improvement has driven the Greenup and Rosevale Santa Gertrudis Studs to test the semen morphology of ALL 2006 sale bulls in addition to the breeding soundness examination that all their sale bulls undergo.

Greenup stud principal Rick Greenup said, "Beef producers are often unaware of which bulls are working for them and which are freeloaders. A bull can appear to be working but unless his semen is up to scratch he can be shooting blanks or even worse, fertilising eggs with abnormal semen that will result in abortions later."

"Most bulls are bought at sales after only a visual inspection and many of those bulls go into multiple sire herds, where long mating seasons and other bulls compensate for the freeloaders, and their individual performance is never known," Mr Greenup said.

Trials conducted as part of the Bull Power research program by the Department of Primary Industries, showed that in multiple sire herds 7% of bulls sire no calves, 58% sire less than 10% and only 13% of the bulls sire over 30% of calves.

A survey of infertility problems in 3000 bulls in Southern Queensland identified that semen quality accounts for 10% of faults.

"Your bulls are only as good as their semen and ability to mate. There is no point having a bull with great carcase and weight attributes if he can’t get deliver his genetics effectively to a number of cows in a short period," Mr Greenup said.

"We put huge pressure on our cows and sires. The cows are expected to calve every year without assistance, after a 12-week mating period and they must turn-up at branding with sound udder, teats and legs. We get a 85-93% preg-test, in spite of the short mating period and that the cows running on rough, forest-Ironbark country without supplements," he said.

"Our emphasis on structure and muscle means less bulls get through branding with their stones intact. We are very hard on rosettes and navel conformation, as well as sheaths. There has been a lot of focus on sheaths over the years, which is good, but DPI trials have shown that rosettes and navel stumps have a big impact on a bull’s serving ability, yet many bull breeders still overlook these faults."

"The tough standards we put on semen morphology, sheath and navel conformation as well as the usual pressure on temperament and carcase traits means that we offer a select draft of bulls, but our clients are confident that much of the guesswork is taken out, " Mr Greenup said.

Injury, disease, fever, and extreme environmental conditions will affect fertility, and as sperm production is continuous, Mr Greenup recommends that bulls are re-tested every year before the mating season, for semen quality and breeding soundness.

For a sale catalogue phone Rick & Alice Greenup on (07) 4164 4260


Bull testing is for everyone  By Alice Greenup

In the past bull testing was mainly done by stud breeders, nowadays it is common practice on many commercial properties as well.

For commercial cattle producers, Rob & Lois Grummitt bull testing prior to mating has been a standard practice for years on their property Bogarella near Augathella.

Mr Grummitt says fertility is his number one criteria when selecting bulls, followed by temperament and structural soundness.

The couple breeds 60 per cent of their own bulls each year and purchases the rest from other commercial breeders who are applying the same fertility management in their herd.

"We have 100 cows selected from the herd for breeding seedstock, of their calves we leave 30 entire, ten of these we use for ourselves and the rest we sell to commercial breeders who like what we are doing with our herd," Mr Grummitt said.

"We test our bulls each year before mating, to look at structural soundness, serving ability, testicles, sheath, pizzle and a semen morphology analysis is done on two-year old bulls to see if there are defects in their semen," he said.

The Grummitts bought the 600 mm annual rainfall property ten years ago as an undeveloped block and have improved 20 000 ha of the 22 000 ha block with clearing and Buffel grass pastures. In recent years the better nutrition is enabling the cattle to reach their potential for fertility and growth and the Grummits are capitalising on this through shorter joining times, using less bulls and carrying steers through to finished condition on property.

"When we came to Bogarella there was continuous mating, we brought it back to five months, then back to 14 weeks for a few years. Now we are joining cows for 11 weeks and heifers for nine weeks, while still getting 90 per cent pregnancy and 85 per cent weaning," he said.

Bogarella turns off finished export cattle and provides a regular supply of domestic trade cattle to local butchers.

"We are cross breeding with 50 per cent British breeds and 25 per cent each of Bos indicus and European breeds as this is the product that the butchers want and it suits our environment," Mr Grummitt said.

"The butcher trade gives us a lot of useful feedback to help with breeding and nutritional management."

"From this feedback we have found that the main contributor to eating quality and consistency is the level of condition the cattle have and how long they have had that condition prior to slaughter," he said.

Mr Grummitt says that he gets his information on marketing and fertility management from attending field days such as the Buying Better Bull days, reading, talking with vets and visiting commercial properties that are known to be innovative and profitable.

"We spend a lot of time looking for successful commercial cattle operations and make it our business to talk with them and find out how they do a better job, then maybe apply it to Bogarella."

Source: FEEDBACK October 2000, Meat & Livestock Australia

DNA testing proving its worth  By Alice Greenup

DNA testing to match calves with sires in multiple sire herds is showing beef cattle breeders which bulls are producing the most calves and the most profitable.

Burnett and Louise Joyce are convinced of the value of this technology', which enables them to reduce their mating ratios with confidence and identify high performance sires for their Santa Gertrudis stud, Gyranda near Cracow in central Queensland.

"The cost of the DNA testing is $45 per head but it is worth every cent, as we can establish pedigrees in multiple sire herds with accuracy, giving us the benefits of single sire mating without the added management" says Mr Joyce.

The couple has used DNA testing since 1992 as a result of their involvement with the Meat & Livestock Australia - Department of Primary Bull Power project and the Beef Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) genetics research.

"When we started doing DNA testing, you took blood samples, these days the tests are done with tail hair and this is much easier and quicker" Mr Joyce said.

"We are interested in fertility management so it was natural to get involved in the Bull Power project. Mating yearling heifers, controlled mating, pregnancy testing and sale of empty cows have been standard practices on Gyranda for years," he said.

"There are two main reasons beef producers lose money on bulls: either by poor herd health such as nutrition or disease or by using non-performing bulls," he said.

My Joyce said his bull percentage has dropped as a result of the Bull Power project, as they are now confident to mate at 2 per cent and even less in single sire herds, without pregnancy rates suffering.

"The higher fertility bulls are breeding females that get in calf earlier and are more fertile, so nowadays our pregnancy rates across the herd are above 90 per cent after a four month joining period and weaning rates are around 85 per cent" he said.

The Joyce’s run 500 stud and 500 commercial Santa Gertrudis breeders on 9500 ha, which is a mixture of scrub and forest country, annually turning off 200 bulls and the rest as steers for the heavy domestic trade.

Gyranda has an average rainfall of 650mm, which is predominantly summer rainfall and its pastures are a mixture of native and improved species, complemented with 400 acres of irrigated crops.

As strong advocates of Group Breedplan, the Joyce’s aim to strengthen genetic comparisons by keeping cattle in large management groups. They achieve this through multiple sire herds with DNA testing for sire identification and by leaving all male calves entire until their 400-day weights are taken.

The Gyranda sale and herd bulls are inspected prior to mating in August for soundness, and semen is collected and sent away for full lab analysis from any suspect bulls or bulls showing depressed performance the previous year.

"We know from the Bull Power project that the only relevant semen test is ‘per cent normal sperm’ and this can only be determined in the lab. The traditional semen test was the 'crush-side' test for motility but semen can have good motility and still have a low number of normal sperm," Mr Joyce said.

"We use a serving capacity test for two-year old herd bulls before their first season, but after that the DNA sampling provides ongoing monitoring of their performance."

"The DNA test is our alternative to traditional serving capacity tests, we know for certain which bulls are getting the most calves and only proven high performers are retained" he said.

"The research has given us the confidence to know the bulls are capable of doing the job and that if we evaluate them properly in the first place we don’t have to put out extra bulls just-in-case."

Source: FEEDBACK October 2000, Meat & Livestock Australia

Buying Better Bulls  By Alice Greenup

Every year, millions of dollars are spent on bulls. The difference between a cheap and an expensive bull is not what it was bought for, but the length of its working life and the quality of its calves.

Bull fertility research in Bos indicus derived breeds is being done through the Bull Power project funded by Meat & Livestock Australia and the Santa Gertrudis Association (Australia).

The trials, which have been conducted over the last six years, were a cooperative effort by QDPI, University of Queensland, James Cook University and the Northern Territory Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries.

Queensland Department of Primary Industries (QDPI) Senior Beef Extension Officer, John Bertram says the project provides northern beef producers with tools to optimise their branding rates and reduce overheads through selecting high performance bulls before mating.

"Bull Power looked at the impact of sheath size and shape, scrotal circumference, testicular tone, semen quality, mating behaviour and dominance on calf output, but we found no single physical or reproductive trait was consistently related to calf output," Mr Bertram said.

"DNA testing in multiple sire herds showed us that the majority of bulls sired less than an average of two calves per week, 7 per cent of bulls are getting no calves, 58 per cent are siring only 10 per cent and a few are getting the rest. The skill in bull selection is to identify those bulls that will get the calves and those that won't," he said.

"A significant finding from the research particularly for Bos indicus cattle is the importance of the percentage of normal sperm in an ejaculate (per cent normal sperm) as an indicator of the bull's calf getting ability rather than the traditional ‘crush side’ semen motility tests," he said.

Mr Bertram says since 1992, over 2000 beef producers have attended QDPI "Buying Better Bulls" workshops, which encourage better use of objective data and selection procedures however the regional vets are responsible for reliable and accurate bull breeding soundness evaluations in support of this technology.

Roma veterinarian Rod Howard is one of these proponents of bull testing and says that while there are a number of producers testing bulls prior to mating, they are unfortunately still the minority.

"By identifying bulls with poor semen quality, low libido or structural problems we are reducing mating ratio of bulls to cows from 4 to 2.5 per cent, without impacting pregnancy rates, and this is a significant saving on capital," Mr Howard said.

"A bull evaluation test can range from $10 to $30 per bull depending on the level of testing, plus $10 for a semen morphology test, but considering a bull's value, $40 is a small investment to ensure your next year's production," he said.

Mr Howard says the producers bull testing are pushing their production to the limits, they are pregnancy testing, ensuring nutrition is adequate and controlling diseases, because they understand it is the whole package that helps the bottom line, not one aspect.

"Bull testing is like pregnancy testing - until you look at the cattle seriously, you don't know what you've got," he said.

Source: FEEDBACK November 2000, Meat & Livestock Australia


Low pregnancy rates - diagnosing the problem By Alice Greenup

It is not uncommon for pregnancy rates to suddenly drop from 85 per cent to below 50 per cent from one season to the next.

Last year poor nutrition and pesti-virus (refer Beeftalk 9 Autumn/Winter 2000) caused widespread fertility problems across Queensland with some producers reporting 30 per cent reductions in calf output.

A low pregnancy rate can be devastating to a business for many years after the event, as it will affect cash flow, stock flow, cow replacement program and long-term female numbers.

Determine first if the cows are not getting in calf or are getting in calf and aborting the foetus. As a general rule if the cows are not getting in calf, suspect a bull problem or female nutrition problem. If the cow's are getting in calf and losing the foetus, suspect a disease.

The first step when investigating the cause of low fertility is to determine if the bull is the cause of the problem, to do this consider these points:

Were the bulls fertility/soundness tested prior to mating, this should include a vet inspection for structural soundness, serving ability test and semen testing?

Were the bulls proven sires?

Calculate mating ratio, did you have enough bulls given their age and experience?

Was the mating multiple or single sire? In single sire herds, bull failure due to inherent fertility problems or injury will result in very low pregnancies.

Have the bulls received annual vibriosis and 3-day (Bovine Emphemeral Fever - BEF) booster vaccinations?

If the bulls are not the problem the next step is to determine, what caused the female herd fertility to drop.

To assist with the diagnosis of the problem write down the herd background and any unusual features, such as:

Mating period

Previous reproductive performance

Body condition score of the cows prior to and during mating

Pasture quality and overall nutrition prior to and during mating

Age of the cows

Were the cows bred on the property or bought in?

Is the herd usually a closed herd?

Have any other cows been introduced to the herd, which could introduce diseases such as vibriosis, leptospirosis, Pesti-virus or Akabane’s, for which your cows have no current immunity or protection by vaccination?

The percentage of the herd that is showing fertility problems.

Annual vaccination program.

Were there any post-natal deaths, suspected abortions, still births, or unusually weak calves.

Country type and any inherent deficiencies such as phosphorus or copper


Culling program particularly for cows pregnancy tested empty

Supplementation program

Is this a natural or artificial breeding program?

Potential causes can be diagnosed with this information and possibly blood tests of the most severely affected part of the herd.

Poor nutrition is the most common cause of low pregnancy rates in Queensland particularly with first calf cows. Improved management such as early weaning and supplementation can overcome many of these problems. However the possibility of disease should not be ruled out without first testing to check for the presence of common fertility diseases such as Akabane’s, Leptospirosis, Vibrioisis and Pesti-virus.

Vaccines and management programs to develop immunity within the herd can ensure these disease problems are eliminated.

Source: Department of Primary Industries Beeftalk Magazine


EMA as an indicator of muscling By Alice Greenup

The eye muscle is the length of muscle running either side of the spine, its cross-sectional area is often referred to as eye muscle area (EMA) and it is a common measurement in Breedplan data and carcase feedback data.

Most markets have a minimum EMA for given carcases weight ranges so retailers can maintain a minimum portion size. While price penalties are applied to EMAs below the minimum size the payment systems do not reward EMAs that are above the minimum. This means you are not paid more for a larger EMA.

EMA is easy to measure in both the live animal and the carcase and this has led to the increased recording of EMA, while other significant traits like length and volume of muscle are overlooked due to the difficulty of measuring them.

The myth of EMA is that it is an indicator of muscling, however many research experiments that date back to the 1940’s have shown that EMA alone is not a useful indicator of muscling. However we continue to invest a large amount of resources into measuring it and sometimes even using it as a selection criteria, potentially confusing and impeding real genetic progress of more economically important traits.

As a predictor of muscling, EMA can be used alone or with carcase weight and fat thickness.

Numerous studies conducted in the USA, Australia and New Zealand have shown that when used alone, EMA is a poor predictor of total carcase muscle accounting for only 18 to 22 per cent of variation in overall carcase muscle.

Presently the two strongest predictors of carcase composition and muscle are subcutaneous fat thickness and carcase weight. When used in conjunction with these measurements EMA contributes to a varying degree to an estimate of carcase muscle.

Where the range of carcase weights is large, or the carcases are very different, EMA can contribute moderately to prediction of carcase muscle as the third component of an equation with carcase weight and fat thickness.

Unfortunately in the current context where EMA is currently most widely used, that is, to compare similar animals of similar weight ranges, EMA does not contribute strongly to the prediction of carcase muscle, even as a third component in the carcase muscle prediction equation.

As most strategies to achieve genetic improvement involve comparisons between animals or carcases of similar ages or sizes it would appear that EMA whether used alone or as a third component in a formula is unlikely to be of use for quantification of carcase muscle.

The usefulness of EMA as a measurement remains with ensuring that animals are bred with the minimum EMA required to meet market specifications, as there is no reward for selecting animals with large EMAs either financially or through increased muscling. Furthermore this focus on large EMAs may be reducing the selection pressure you would otherwise put on other economically important traits where genetic progress should be focussed.

As an industry we have suffered in the past from the persistent use of easy to quantify, efficient measurements such as butt profile, despite the knowledge that they are not indicators of saleable meat yield, muscling and traits of economic value. Ultimately these white elephants will cost more for the industry in misguided genetic gain and lost potential to invest in research and application of harder to quantify, economically important traits, for example muscle volume or feed conversion efficiencies in extensive grazing systems.

Adapted from:

"Beef characteristics that might be of value in selecting for genetic merit."

E R Johnson

School & Faculty of Veterinary Science

The University of Queensland



Organic certification and conversion to organic status   By Alice Greenup


Certification of organic status is essential to the commercial success of the organic industry. It ensures credibility and enables access to markets for organic products. Australia has export control orders that make it illegal to export any produce labelled organic or bio-dynamic unless it is certified organic.


The National Standard for Organic and Bio-Dynamic Produce is the minimum standard for produce to be exported as organic produce and is used as a domestic market regulator.

Certification means having the farm and the production system inspected by an accredited organic certifying group to ensure they comply with the National Standard.


There are two levels of organic certification:

"Certified" or "Certified A" is the full organic certification awarded after the farm has been operating and complying with the National Standard for at least three years.

"Certified in Conversion" or "Certified B" is the transition level prior to full organic status. This period is for at least two years prior to full certification.


Certifying bodies

The following organisations are accredited as organic certifiers:

Biological Farmers of Australia (BFA)

Organic Herb Growers of Australia (OHGA)

The National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA)

Biodynamic Research Institute (BDRI), also known as DEMETER

The Organic Food Chain (OFC)

Tasmanian Organic-Dynamic Producers (TOP)

Organic Vignerons Association of Australia Inc (OVAA)


Converting to organic production

Consider the following issues before converting to organic farming:

Knowledge: Do you know enough about farming organically? Who can help?

Tools and implements: Do you have the equipment you need?

Labour and time: Can you get staff who will work with and understand organic methods? Will organic farming require more labour than non-organic farming.

Inputs: Do you have access to suitable seed, livestock and other inputs such as manure or hay?

Finances: Do you have the finances to cover a drop in income that may occur during conversion to organic farming? Do you know the costs and benefits of farming organically?

Your property: What are the likely problems and potential sources of contamination given the history and surrounds of your farm?


The certification procedure

Assess whether the costs associated with changing are compensated by expected returns and market opportunities

Cease use of artificial fertilisers and synthetic chemicals

Select a certification organisation

Apply to the certification organisation of your choice

You must register with a certifying body before commencing your conversion period to demonstrate compliance through auditing and monitoring during conversion.

Complete Statutory Declaration regarding farming/production practices

Inspection arranged by the certification organisation

Inspector’s report reviewed by the certification organisation

No organic certification is granted at this stage. This is the 12-month pre-certification period.

At the beginning of the second year – annual inspection arranged and producer can achieve "Certified in-conversion" status

At the end of the third year – following satisfactory annual inspections – producer can achieve "Certified" status



Certification periods

To become certified organic, producers must undergo a pre-certification period to demonstrate full compliance with standards for 12 months prior to entering "in conversion" status and a minimum two-year period as " certified in-conversion".


Partial certification and de-certification

When commencing conversion to organic production, producers can to certify part of their farm to enable a gradual progression to full certification on the whole property.


Partial certification is a useful strategy to maintain organic status on sections of the property while controlling restricted areas of pests with non-organic treatments.


An organic property can undergo partial de-certification of an area in the event where organic status cannot be maintained for the entire property due to problems such as chemical contamination or a pest outbreak that requires chemical management.


Transferring certification

Organic certification cannot be transferred with the sale of a property as the certification relies on the management skills of the farmer. But if the new owner can demonstrate appropriate knowledge and skills, then certification can be re-instated.


Source: Department of Primary Industries Beeftalk Magazine



Line breeding - When is it too close

Written by Alice Greenup & Mick Tierney, Geneticist

 We have done some line breeding ourselves to produce our colt Double Cross, so it is always interesting to revisit the implications.  We are not advocating line breeding, but it is important to understand the real impact from a genetic perspective rather than an emotional one.

 When is inbreeding useful?:

·         Fixing a desirable genotype

·         Maintaining a valuable line

·         Test mating to reveal harmful recessive genes, which may be present in the population.


Effects of inbreeding:

·         Increase proportion of homozygous gene pairs

·         Increased frequency of bringing recessives (good or bad) together

·         Adverse affects can be completely removed with one outcross ie it only takes one outbreeding to remove all effects of inbreeding.


With each generation there is a 50% chance that the identical gene will be passed on to the embryo, so each generation halves the chance that both individuals got their gene from the common ancestor.


A population can tolerate inbreeding if the rate is not too high since selection will remove animals that do not perform well.


References discussing the lethal and negative effects of inbreeding relate to trials  such as  continuous full-sibling mating over 20 generations, resulting in extinction of all but one line (the rest had lethal recessive genes) – a fairly extreme trial.


 There is a “co-efficient of inbreeding” which can be calculated to determine the actual level of inbreeding in any given pedigree (where 100% is fully inbred and 0 assumes no inbreeding).  Note that for each outcross in the pedigree that line does not contribute to this figure, as the inbreeding is removed. 


I had calculated one for a Droughtmaster line where the sire and dam where by the same sire (ie same grand-sire) but the grand dams were different line.  This pedigree came up with a coefficient of inbreeding of 1/8, which is 12.5% inbred.


I find this stuff interesting as we often get scared of line-breeding (for good reason) but what I learnt  was that often what we think is really inbred is often not so bad due to the outcrossing on the dam side. 


We saw some absolute shockers at Uni in the showing cat & dog industries and they were getting really cruel results, but they were doing full sibling and parent to daughter/son type mating.  These inbreeding coefficients got pretty high.


Our colt’s pedigree is one the web-site if you want to see how in-bred/line-bred he is.  We are finding that this leads to stronger sire traits coming through, as his genes are more consistently paired up, so when he gives his genes to a new embryo they are more predictable (for good or bad).



Breed your own bulls

The annual purchase of replacement sires can be a major outlay.  With the increasing costs of running a beef enterprise many commercial beef producers are considering breeding their own bulls for use in their herd.  While this approach has some benefits, especially when done well, breeders must consider the option against the possible genetic benefits that can be obtained from selecting bulls using GROUP BREEDPLAN information as a selection tool. Breeders need also to consider carefully whether or not their herd is of sufficient size to maintain a long term bull breeding operation without running into problems from inbreeding.

Producers can select bulls for their program using either simple or complex methods depending on the emphasis they place on this decision.  Bulls contribute to over 90 per cent of genetic gain in a herd, so sire selection should not be made lightly irrespective of whether you buy or breed your own bulls.

"A bull is a semen production and storage unit, with a self delivery system."  So when you are selecting bulls you need to consider:

Are the semen production and delivery systems sound?

Are the bulls physically sound enough to the job in your environment?

Are the genetics right for your country and market, ie will they handle the environment and still produce calves that finish at the weight and maturity your customer wants?

Are they a superior genetic animal that will meet your breeding program goals, for example earlier maturity, improved fertility in females, temperament etc?

Bull selection can be as complicated or simple as you wish.  However the more effort you put into the system to ensure your decisions are based on objective (measurable) rather than subjective  (visual/opinion) factors the better the outcome will be.  For example recording details such as date of birth and weights will enable you to pick bulls which are actually better growers rather than those which are simply older.

There are a few options for selecting bulls and these are explained below.  These options assume growth is the main breeding goal and that cattle are automatically culled and selected for critical traits such as structural soundness.  Tailor the objective measurements you use in your herd to your breeding goals.

To compare Options 1, 2 and 3 consider the example of a 300 breeder herd with a 4 per cent mating ratio, that is 12 bulls used each year.  For simplicity assume there are no mortalities.  Branding percentage is 80 per cent, so we produce 240 head in total, that is 120 heifer calves and 120 bull calves.  Replacements required are:

            Replace 26 per cent of cows mated    78 female replacements per year

            Bulls last for 4 seasons                        3 bull replacements per year

Bull selection in a breeder herd is usually done at branding.  However some breeders like to leave bull calves entire until they are older to see how they grow with time.  The Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Animals recommends that cattle should be castrated under the age of six months, bulls castrated after this should be done by a veterinarian.

Option 1 - Staggered selection

At branding select 30 of the best bull calves out of the 120 born.  Tag and weigh these calves and castrate the rest.  Unless you are recording birth dates most of the bulls selected will be older calves and from older cows with more milk.  While these calves will usually be from the more fertile cows in the herd, some potential gains in growth rate might be lost. At weaning the number of bulls carried through to yearling age can be reduced through culling and castration.  Between 15 and 27 months of age, weigh and select the top three bulls for retention in the herd.

Option 2 - Selecting bulls from replacement heifer calves

In this option the replacement heifers and first calf heifers are used as a bull breeding unit and provided the herd is big enough, inbreeding is not a problem.  Replacement heifers are selected on weight for age, they are mated and retained in a separate paddock until they wean their first calf.  Mating is limited to three months.  The maiden heifers and heifers with calves at foot are joined with the 6 youngest bulls.

When 80 per cent of heifers mated calve, identify the rest that are calving late or have failed to calve.  Those that didn't calve are recorded and culled and the rest are noted as potential culls.  At branding tag and weigh the 80 per cent early calves, leaving the bull calves entire.  At weaning weigh the entire calf crop and divide the weaners into gender classes and calculate growth.  Identify heifers with poor calves as potential culls.  Using these figures select 60 suitable heifers to be retained for the main breeding herd.

As before weigh bulls at 15 to 27 months of age and select the top three as replacements.  These are used in the maiden heifer paddock for their first year.

Option 3 - Select all replacement and sell surplus

In this option objective selection is extended to the whole herd when deciding on replacements.  Mating is limited to 3 months for all breeders.  First calf and maiden heifers are managed in a separate paddock until they wean their calf.  Procedures at calving, branding are the same as Option 2.

At weaning heifer paddock calves are weighed and divided into sex to identify poor performers on growth.  Mother up poor performers and identify those dams as potential culls.  Cull and castrate the bottom half of the bull group.  In the main herd weigh the bull calves and castrate the worst half for growth.  At the end of weaning there are 60 bulls for further selection.  Select 3 you require and select some others as potential sale bulls.

Option Four - Establish a nucleus

Females in this herd are chosen to ensure they have a superior genetic base compared to the rest of the herd.  Superior bulls are bought in from outside and the female nucleus herd breeds the bulls for the remaining herd This option allows the use of superior genetics from outside the herd, as identified through GROUP BREEDPLAN, as well as overcoming potential inbreeding problems.

With a bull selection intensity of 1:10 (one replacement bull selected from every 10 bulls born) a nucleus herd of 150 cows can supply 6 replacement bulls out of a bull calf drop of 60 head.  This supplies the replacement needs for a 600 cow herd.  Note the greater the selection pressure the more genetic gains that can be made.

Some people may be concerned about using bulls from replacement heifers due to dam effects of subsequent growth performance, however this is an environmental influence and will not affect the bull's genetic merit.


Keep in mind the fundamentals of bull selection whether buying or breeding your own herd bulls.  The DPI has a great book on Bull Selection for those wanting to brush up their skills.

Breeding Technology Field Day

Cattle breeders warned: balance needed in breeding program

There was standing room only at the recent Breeding Technology Field Day, as 170 beef producers packed into the hay shed to hear industry experts discuss breeding programs and the latest research in genetics and breeding.

The event was hosted by Rick & Alice Greenup, Greenup Santa Gertrudis Stud, Kumbia and the program was designed in response to feedback from their Bull Technology Field Day held last year, which indicated beef producers wanted more training on female selection and breeding programs.

Mr Greenup said the response before and after the event was fantastic, demonstrating that there is still a huge demand for these sorts of training opportunities.

"People came from as far as Gympie, Moura and Ballina for the day. Producers are craving to hear experts give practical advice about breeding cattle. There is so much information out there, it is getting really hard to sift out what is relevant to each person’s business and not get carried away with new technology, just because it is new," Mr Greenup said.

"Genetics is like throwing darts at a dartboard - you need to know where the bullseye is that you are aiming for. But if you make the target too big, you will hit it somewhere, but it won’t get you very far genetically, or you could even go backwards."

Deputy CEO of the CRC for Cattle & Beef Quality, Dr Heather Burrow spoke on beef tenderness, genetic markers and the antagonistic relationships between certain market traits and cattle function traits such as fertility.

"There was a lot of interest in selecting for market specifications and what trade-offs need to be considered in terms of feed efficiency, fertility and environmental adaptation," Ms Burrow said

"For example there is an favourable relationship between yield and feed efficiency (FE), however there is an antagonistic relationship between those traits and fertility, marbling and fat coverage. So if producers are not chasing marbling they can pursue other carcase traits and FE, but they need to balance this with their other breeding objectives to make sure they retain fertility and function."

"The producers are starting to question how much tropical adaptation they need in their specific situation and they are setting breeding objectives for a given area, rather than assuming we all have the same environmental constraints," Ms Burrow said.

DPI Senior Extension Officer John Bertram and Christian Duff from Tropical Beef Technology Services then guided the producers through a series of practical activities to define breeding objectives, specific to each producer’s business and markets.

Mr Bertram gave an overview of the traits that should be the highest priority in all breeding programs such as structural soundness and fertility, recommending that as producers define their breeding objectives that they avoid single trait selection and focus on traits that are most important to their business.

Mr Duff said the producers revealed which traits impacted on their on-farm production and market specifications and what they look for when selecting cattle.

"The more things we try to select for, the less genetic progress we will make. So it is critical to work out what is relevant to each business to ensure it is maximising its potential for profitability and to avoid fads and stick to a long-term plan, that achieves continuous genetic progress," Mr Duff said.

Graeme Hopf, an industry expert in cattle function, challenged the group’s assumptions about what underpins a cow’s milking ability, soundness, longevity & fertility and how this should be applied in a breeding program.

Mr Hopf described an ideal beef cow as one that gets in calf early, calves easily and gives ample milk to rear a good calf.

"Beef producers should breed cows for the country and use bulls for the market. Breeders on light, forest country have different pressures to a herd that is grown on fertile, fattening country, so the cows should be selected for function and managed to match the country, and the bulls used should provide the market traits such as growth and maturity pattern," Mr Hopf said.

"The selection of beef cattle in recent years has resulted in some very large heavy animals and this has placed greater stress on the bones and joints of these animals, this makes selection for proper structure even more critical."

The day’s take home message was for breeders to take a balanced and planned approach to their breeding program, which should be tailored to individual environments and customer requirements, while producing a profitable end product.

Grame1.jpg (236935 bytes)

Grame Hopf 

"An ideal beef cow is one that gets in calf early, calves easily and gives ample milk to rear a good calf."

Grame&Rick.jpg (114872 bytes) Grame Hopf & Rick Greenup


Rick Greenup’s Breeding Objectives

Easy-care cattle that wean a calf every twelve months, and maintain condition in harsh environments, without supplements.
Adequate frame size, heavy weight for age, moderate maturity pattern and the ability to lay down fat to fit both Jap Ox and domestic markets.
Tropical adaptability and longevity, through structural soundness and function.
Cool temperament.

An Ideal Breeding Cow

cowpicture2.jpg (496713 bytes) This diagram discusses some conformation issues and selection criteria for cows.

To view this picture try double clicking on it.  Or you could try copying and pasting into a word document to print it.  

If you are still having trouble please call or email us and we will be happy to send you a hard copy.

Dry season management plans have both short and long term benefits.

By Lucy Skuthorp, Queensland Country Life, May 30, 2002

If there was ever a buzz phrase for South-East Queensland this year, then drought proofing is it.

It's something which is not out of reach for the average farmer either, nor is it too late to take action now, according to Kingaroy beef producers Rick and Alice Greenup.

Three years ago the Greenups began implementing a dry season management plan to bring about some short-term relief on their property during dry winter spells.

They have found the relatively simple things they were doing to save their Santa Gertrudis cattle and hip pocket in the short term also had some long-term benefits.

The introduction of a dry feed supplement early, reducing and postponing the breeding season of their cattle and a pasture rotation system is showing significant merit.

Mr Greenup said most importantly, relief and long term improvement would come from knowing your cattle and country properly and by taking action now.

With demand being so high for wet licks, an affordable price at crucial times was pretty hard to come by, Mr Greenup said, which was why they decided to try a dry lick supplement.

Mr Greenup said finding the right mix for use as a supplement for dry standing feed was very paddock specific.

The Greenups have settled on custom-made mixes after undertaking a process of trial and error, experimenting with a ration formulation to suit their fragile ironbark country.

"We've had a lot of trouble trying to find a palatable dry mix," Mr Greenup said.

"I think there's a behavioral component in the cattle and also a land and vegetation factor, because our cattle won't touch salt and most off-the-shelf licks, but our next door neighbours' cattle will.

At present, the Greenups are supplementing their cows with the custom-made dry lick formulation, copra for the young growing bulls, and a molasses urea mix for maiden heifers.

"All the mixes have different labour and cost requirements, so we've had all our cattle in and drafted according to condition," Mrs Greenup said.

"Apart from keeping the heifers and the young bulls separate, the drafting allows us to tailor our supplement program, where poor cows get the most intensive management, which is the most economical way to go."

Mrs Greenup said they have been able to save on costs by drafting cows according to condition when they are preg-testing.

"If you can only afford or only have the time to supplement a few, you only supplement the ones that need it," she said.

"Time and labour is costly, especially in a drought, so supplementing cattle which don't need it is extra work and expense."

Mr Greenup said it is important to get in as early as possible if you're going to use a dry lick.

He said because it's a protein lick and not an energy lick it worked effectively when there was standing feed.

"The idea with a dry lick is it is cheaper and it just helps to maintain the cattle," he said.

"If you let them slide it costs you a lot more to get them back into condition."

Mrs Greenup said the dry lick has been effective because there's been such a shortage of cottonseed meal, whole cottonseed and molasses.

"If people can get onto a dry lick sooner it will hopefully negate the need for a more expensive type of supplement down the track," she said.

One of the most important aspects of this dry season management plan has been a focus on the breeding season of their cattle.

Last year they pulled their breeding season back, while continuing to restrict it to three months. This ensured calves were not on the ground until mid September, which they said was "critical" in the past dry seasons.

"It means in the event of not getting rain until September or October, you haven't got calves during winter stressing their mothers," Mr Greenup said.

"In the event that we do get rain during winter, when we're coming out of a dry spell, the restricted season will give the cows a month or so to catch up."

They said the down-side of the later breeding season is that calves are younger and lighter at weaning. "Because we're weaning earlier, weaners are only averaging 200kg and they're only six months old instead of eight and nine months old, but it's easier and cheaper to feed a weaner off its mother than it is to feed a cow and calf," Mr Greenup said.

The Greenups have realised they have needed to place more priority on looking after their breeding bulls during winter, otherwise their fertility can really be affected during the summer.

"This year a priority for us is to look at the management of our breeding bulls and the nutrition of them and we've realised we need to invest a bit more into them," Mrs Greenup said.

"We will supplement them with an energy growth ration, pre-mix ration to give them some extra nutritional help."

And while there's no arguing the seasons have been tough on cattle, especially during winter, Mr Greenup believes farmers have allowed their pastures to become very run down.

He said when rain finally comes, the water infiltration was poor and grasses weren't responding as well as they should because they've been overgrazed.

"I think it's very important for us all to focus on pasture regeneration and rotation.

"We're going to do that through rotation of our cows through the growing season - spelling our country is a priority," he said.

This was vital to allow the re-growth of nutritious palatable species of hardy native grasses, he added.

While this program is something the Greenups have been working on for the past few years, it's their belief it is never too late to start implementing these kind of measures to receive both short term relief and the benefits down the track.

"I don't think it's too late for some people to wean and getting hold of the dry licks is always within reach," Mr Greenup said.

"They'll be available all the time and they're a cheap way to go. But once the cows have started to fall in condition you don't really get the benefit and you run a higher risk of urea poisoning if the cows are hungry and may gorge the ration."

He said off-the-shelf licks were as good a place as any farmers to start a dry feed supplement program and consider custom-made licks if these are not suitable.

"Nutritionists won't give out a single recipe, because it's just so different for every farm," Mr Greenup said.

"This just highlights the importance of knowing the cattle and knowing the country."

"The biggest thing is you have to persevere to find the answer."



Contact information

You are always welcome at Cardowan & Eidsvold to view the upcoming sale bulls and breeding cows.  Contact Rick & Alice Greenup to discuss your herd's needs on;
617-4164 4260
617-4164 4419
Postal address
"Cardowan" MS 514 KUMBIA QLD 4610. Australia
Electronic mail