One of the challenges facing beef producers across Australia is the ever increasing occurrence of drought. Drought presents many obstacles to the management of a beef enterprise with countless operational, financial and emotional hurdles testing the resolve of beef producers. While often not on the top of the priority list, one of the considerations that managers of a stud cattle operation need to make is the impact that the drought (and consequent management practices) has on both the genetics and performance recording requirements of their herd.
Who do I contact for advice?
The best approach to maintaining an effective performance recording program during a drought will vary from operation to operation and from drought to drought. If you are in any doubt as to the best strategy for your particular situation, please do not hesitate to contact staff at Angus Australia to discuss your options.
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 short term challenges such as drought. One component of this is the maintenance of an effective performance recording program.
No. The performance of an animal will only be directly compared by the TransTasman Angus Cattle Evaluation (TACE) 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.
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:
In addition to the above management strategies, there are several specific considerations that need to be made when recording particular trait information.
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.
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.
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.
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.