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may 2007 Primefact 620

Developing an effective breeding plan for

your beef business

eter Parnell
P You need to develop a clearly defined plan of
Research Leader (Beef Genetics and what you are attempting to achieve from your
improvement), armidale investment in breeding. Once you have developed
this plan you need to make informed decisions that
This Primefact provides an overview of the consider the costs, the expected returns and the
important steps in designing and implementing level of risk associated with the investment.
an effective breeding program for your beef herd.
It discusses the importance of establishing well
defined breeding goals, a clear understanding of Table 1. A stepwise approach to planning and
implementing a successful breeding program
the requirements of the market(s) being targeted,
and a good knowledge of the available differences Step 1. List the traits of economic importance
in economically important traits both between and Step 2. List your future customers’ requirements
within breeds. it will show that the key elements to
Step 3. List your future herd production targets
success in any breeding program are careful long-
Step 4. List your herd’s current performance
term planning, the use of good information to help
Step 5. List your breeding goals
in decision-making, and, above all, consistency
Step 6. choose an appropriate breeding system to achieve your
and patience in the pursuit of breeding goals.
table 1 summarises the key steps in planning Step 7. List your criteria for selecting replacement bulls
and implementing a successful breeding program. Step 8. Prioritise the selection criteria
These steps are no different from those used Step 9. apply patience and consistency in implementing your
for any other investment decision in your beef breeding program

It is important to have a clearly defined plan for your breeding herd Photo: Bill Hoffman

percentage of difficult calvings. Don’t be too conservative. It is a good practice to set targets for your herd that are at least Step 2. Clearly. Your breeding goal should relate to customer needs in at least 3 to 5 years’ time. You should include traits such as temperament and structural define a particular market as your primary target soundness. market opportunities it is important that your breeding objectives are designed to ensure that Step 1. if not impossible. and focus mainly in that direction. calving economic viability of their beef enterprises depends spread.g. You may also wish to animal that is ideal for all situations. DeVeLOPING aN effeCTIVe BReeDING PLaN fOR YOUR Beef BUSINeSS . on continual improvement of productivity. weaning rates. the average of the top requirements 25 per cent of herds in your region. but careful analysis of market the performance of your stock further along the forecasts and trends in consumer demand can production and marketing chain (e. The important components of each of the steps in Because of the uncertainty of predicting future table 1 are discussed below. List your future customers’ as good as. many breeders still pay undue attention to aesthetic or fashionable characteristics Step 3. This will include traits influencing The wide array of market specifications makes it reproductive performance. It is important allocated to your cattle enterprise it is important for breeders to understand that the long-term to set realistic targets for weaning rates. List your future herd production targets that contribute little real economic value to the To optimise the use of the land and feed resources future productivity of their herds. It requires knowledge of your current years’ time. customer requirements. turn-off weights etc. growth. carcase extremely difficult. turn-off weights). List the traits of economic importance future generations of progeny have a high degree List those traits of genuine economic importance of versatility and the ability to match a range of to your customers and/or your herd’s future production and market situations. growth rates provide some ‘best-bet’ insights into likely future during the backgrounding and finishing phases. Unfortunately. it is impossible to be definite about future as well as feedback from your customers on market opportunities. List your herd’s current performance vision of the likely future production environment This is often the most difficult step in many and future customer requirements in at least 3 to 5 situations. or better than. to produce an yield and meat quality. productivity. Remember that the breeding for today is already done. your breeding goals should relate to your Step 4. carcase yield and meat quality). This means focusing on traits that will either lower the This may require an investigation of the typical costs of production or increase the value and production levels achieved by other producers in quantity of output from the herd. That’s when the results of your current herd production levels (e.g. breeding decisions will be realised. your region. Photo: Brian Cumming 2 PRImefaCT 620.

for example. in other situations. female fertility and/or reducing the milk production potential of your cows to give them a better chance Step 7. you do not have the challenge of sourcing suitable replacement females or managing separate mating groups. as is required in some crossbreeding systems. if one of your breeding objectives is to the benefits of breed complementarity and hybrid reduce the incidence of calving difficulties in your vigour. If you haven’t been collecting relevant production data and customer feedback information. it will be difficult to determine the direction in which you should be shifting your herd to achieve your future targets. Choose an appropriate breeding system and the most appropriate breeding system for to achieve your goals your situation. then your breeding program—has the advantages of being a much simpler system to implement in a Selection for structural soundness. If your breeding Straightbreeding—the use of a single breed in goal is to increase marbling performance. replacement bulls Once you have determined your breeding goals Step 6. Crossbreeding is practiced by many breeders in an attempt to increase performance over that achievable from the use of purebreds. breeds there are GROUP BReeDPLaN estimated in some situations straightbreeding will be the Breeding Values (eBVs) available to help you best option.Unless you have a good understanding of the base from which you are starting. then you need to select bulls with greater growth potential and increased leanness. DeVeLOPING aN effeCTIVe BReeDING PLaN fOR YOUR Beef BUSINeSS 3 . known as hybrid vigour. is generally most noticeable in traits such as fertility PRImefaCT 620. for composite breeding can be utilised to achieve example. for further information environment. but it can also be expressed in If your calving rates are less than optimal for your growth and carcase traits. herd. if your customer feedback indicates Choose the best breeding system to improve herd that your steers tend to be too light. This increase in performance. then relevant selection criteria include eBVs for Birth Weight and Calving ease. Photo: Bill Hoffman fat cover. the disadvantage of straightbreeding is that you forego the potential benefits of hybrid vigour and breed complementarity that can be achieved from a structured crossbreeding program. on crossbreeding refer to Primefact 624 Beef cattle then you should be placing greater emphasis on breeding systems. The major breeding decisions ‘maturity pattern’ requires skilled judgment. you can identify those traits that need to be emphasised in your selection and bull purchase decisions. crossbreeding or rank potential candidate animals for selection. the next step is to list the relevant Once you have established your breeding goals selection criteria that are available to help meet you will be in a sound position to choose the most these goals. List your breeding goals By comparing your current performance levels with your future herd production targets and future customers’ requirements. temperament and self-replacing herd. Photo: Brett in straightbreeding systems are the choice of Littler replacement sires and deciding which sires to join with which cows. or your calving spread is too long. with excessive profitability. then now is a good time to start! Step 5. Of course. List your criteria for selecting of re-breeding early in the joining season. and survivability. appropriate breeding system that best achieves for many of the important economic traits in most progress towards improved profitability in your herd.

Successful beef producers will to obtain the full potential benefits from genetic need to plan carefully to balance this end-product improvement because of inadequate planning emphasis with the need to maintain and improve of their breeding objectives. exist for using improved breeding programs to enhance long-term profitability. for further implementing your breeding program information on the use of eBVs refer to Primefact Lack of consistency in the pursuit of breeding 625 Using EBVs and $Index Values in beef goals has caused the downfall of many breeding breeding. inadequate use of on-farm productivity in their breeding herds. programs. there will be several traits identified faster returns than those obtained from investing as requiring some emphasis in your breeding in genetics. a truly from the current herd will differ from the optimum outstanding animal is produced with the potential balance for future herd profitability. because of the economic importance have the persistence and skill to seek and exploit of maximising the number of live calves born. the relevant selection criteria will include eBVs Step 9. When you list your selection criteria. remember It is important to stick to long-term goals unless that the more traits you select for the less progress there are legitimate reasons to alter the direction you are likely to make for any particular trait. only to find ‘maturity pattern’ still requires visual assessment later that they have been wasting time or even and skilled judgment. fertility usually commands less In most beef enterprises significant opportunities emphasis in selection to improve future profitability. it is important that each selection criteria breeding goals. Unfortunately. considered as a long-term strategy for improvement in herd profitability. genetic improvement is one program. They may alter their for structural soundness. available information to help in their breeding 4 PRImefaCT 620. Apply patience and consistency in for Intramuscular fat Percentage. DeVeLOPING aN effeCTIVe BReeDING PLaN fOR YOUR Beef BUSINeSS . Successful breeders are those who for example. better than the last. the opportunities presented by genetic variation: reproduction traits will usually demand greater they are patient opportunists. The influence of chance in breeding growth and carcase traits to maximise profitability also creates opportunities. nature of inheritance the short-term results of breeding decisions are necessarily unpredictable. it is just as important not to try availability of new information and technologies to incorporate too many traits into your selection are often valid reasons to reconsider long-term program. after Conclusion consideration of its low heritability and limited scope for genetic change. long-term although single-trait selection is rarely an optimal changes to the production environment and the breeding strategy. the genetic relationships between traits (both favorable and antagonistic) The pace of genetic change is usually much slower and the relative economic importance of genetic than most of us would like. There are certainly many Step 8. This will require some long-term gains in herd performance and knowledge of the scope for genetic improvement profitability. it is important to distinguish between the benefits assured that if they follow their long-term plans the of achieving gains in your current herd and those average for the next generation of animals will be obtained from gains in future herd performance. even better. market changes. emphasis when you are considering culling strategies for the current herd. going backwards. When you are determining priorities for selection Successful breeders patiently play the averages. However. Occasionally. of the various traits. temperament and breeding programs to meet a fashion. of a breeding program. Once you have identified the relevant of the few investment options available to beef selection criteria it is important to establish producers that can provide permanent cumulative their relative importance. Selection little long-term justification. The beef industry It is likely that the future trend towards value-based is equipped with the knowledge and tools to make marketing and premiums for improved quality and faster genetic progress than at any other time in consistency will increase the industry emphasis on history. is related to a breeding goal that has real economic investment in your breeding program should be importance. most beef producers will fail end-product traits. Prioritise the selection criteria alternative investment strategies that will generate In most cases. and the generation after next the optimum balance between reproduction. not all economically important traits that may seem important at the time but have have objective measurements available. However. Because of the random improvement in each trait. to provide a dramatic lift in the genetic merit of a population. Breeders are often influenced by fads Unfortunately.

and to persist with a long-term strategy to pursue this direction in the face of Disclaimer: The information contained in this publication is based on knowledge and understanding at the time of writing (may 2007). provided that you attribute NSW Department of Primary Industries as the © State of New South Wales through NSW Department of Primary Industries 2007. Further reading Primefact 249 Checking your bull is ready for joining Primefact 621 Market specifications for beef cattle Primefact 622 Live beef cattle assessment Primefact 623 Cattle breed types Primefact 624 Beef cattle breeding systems Primefact 625 Using EBVs and $ Index Values in beef breeding Primefact 626 Selecting and managing beef heifers Primefact 627 Economic advantages of better management of your beef breeding herd Further information for further information contact your local NSW Department of Primary Industries Livestock Officer (Beef Products). You may copy.decisions. because of advances in knowledge. distribute and otherwise freely deal with this publication for any purpose. However. Job number 7807 PRImefaCT 620. and lack of patience and consistency in implementing their breeding programs. ISSN 1832-6668 Check for updates of this Primefact at www. To fully benefit from genetic improvement it is essential to carefully plan the appropriate direction for your breeding program. users are reminded of the need to ensure that information upon which they rely is up to date and to check currency of the information with the appropriate officer of New South Wales Department of Primary Industries or the user’s independent adviser.dpi.and medium-term challenges to your enterprise. DeVeLOPING aN effeCTIVe BReeDING PLaN fOR YOUR Beef BUSINeSS 5 .