This is my last newsletter. I have been writing these Newsletters for 20 or more years and time has finally caught up with me, I retired some time ago from the farm but have continued to explain a different concept in animal breeding.
This concept is not new as nature has been using it in a much more logical form than humans have ever used it. In nature the superior male animal of the species’ compete for the females. As they tire the next superior animals take over and so on until the season has finished. This means that superior genes have been injected into the population and the gene pool has been reshuffled.
My objective in all this writing was to give those farmers who were breeding animals of any sort, a different method of improving those animals than they had chosen. The more I became involved in the science of animal breeding the more I came to the realisation of how far ahead nature was. To be successful it is most important to meet natures demands as closely as possible .
It is believed that the angus breed began from a narrow base of very few cows. If this is so then all angus are related. There is nothing wrong with this and nature overcomes this by the constant changing of sires. This has been going on for many years but the diversity of types has been sufficient to produce animals that could adapt to the dramatic changes in their environment. So we come to the animal we have at the present time. Not necessarily the right one because many years ago humans came along, pushed nature aside, and began their idea of the type of animal needed to meet today’s requirements.
It would be interesting to see what would happen if some pure angus had been living in the wild and had gone through natures breeding to see what the difference would be. In terms of nature and men the saying “There is no end to the improvement of anything biological it will slow down but it will go on “ Luckily this will continue and it could mean that some time in the future we may return to species bos to begin beef breeding again.
All animals, ourselves included, are dominated by their genes but they can change (epigenetics) lets hope for the better. There is no doubt that this universe has, and is changing. Science books tell me that the human animal spent some time like a million years beside and in the sea, because the universe was so hot. Can humans stop the warming?
The continual rape of the sea is what concerns me most. People do not seem to realise that among other things the sea is a giant thermostat that heats slowly and cools slowly . It is alive like everything else on this planet and if the fish numbers decrease and even extinct, then the sea would die and with it this planet.
So all biological things are interrelated and the degradation of any could have an unforeseen affect.
So humans who take up animal breeding carry with them a huge responsibility this must be recognised.
My monthly Newsletter is read in some 6 countries and buy some 700 readers, for some reason countries come and go and then return. It all started when a breeder in Canada had many questions and I was giving him explanation on how the genes worked and about individuals codes and their ramifications.
All my newsletters can be read from our website www.pinebankangus.co.nz
With an explanation on how to breed an efficient steadily improving herd of beef cattle.
Whether they are generally influenced by what I have written I have no idea, but originally there was some discussion in the American Beef Forums www.5barx.com and Keeneys Corner. These discussions have proved to be of value to both of us.
As written in my last newsletter our program has been running now for 53 years which as far as I am aware is some 30 years longer than any other program of its type in the world.
The program as spelt out in our web is with very slight variations, is the same program as used by scientists in all their experiments for heritability, for growth, fertility, etc.
This program as far as I am aware is the only way that you can improve production in your herd.
I suspect that my letters on the “Bulmar” effect has put breeders off, because of the time taken to overcome it.
There are herds around that have overcome the effect and are producing progeny tested bulls yearly, that are the best in their herds and whose progeny will not be subject to the “effect”.
I would suggest that using these bulls semen, each year when there is a new bull, use that semen and you should use your own best bull against the imported semen each year the progeny of these two bulls will give you a lot of information on your own herd!
Thankyou to all the readers of my letters for your questions and comments. The future is yours.
This year the Pinebank Glanworth commercial scientific breeding programme will have been operating for 53 years in angus cattle. There is no doubt that this programme is making gains in improvement in the economic production of the angus breed.
The slow building-in of productive genes into the herds has made gains to the extent that Pinebank bulls performed better than all competitors in a cross country trial run in America in the 1990. My information is heresay in that the American Angus Association will not give me a copy of the data, but have never denied our success.
A Pinebank bull was top for some years as reference bull in the implementation of the Australian Recording Scheme. I suggest that were the bulls to be used today they would still be top because present breeding methods show that little progress has been made in the last 50 years. We also believe that were our bulls to be tested today for all economic traits, something that we would welcome, the tests would show just how much progress we have made.
For some twenty years I have tried to simplify the theories of genetics but there are some parts that breeders do not understand or do not accept. What prompted me to try to show you a different way of breeding animals was that as a young breeder I was voted on our New Zealand Angus Council. Listening to all the conversation
I became aware that the members were just as confused as I on progressive breeding.
I went off seeking help and being interested in science I wondered what method scientists used to run their experiments! So I ended up approaching a Geneticist . I was very lucky because the gentleman I approached was a Chinese student who was having time off from studies while he wrote his thesis for his doctorate, so he had time to think.
He wrote a breeding plan that some years later one of the top American scientists said “That guy has thought of everything, that is the most sophisticated breeding plan that I have ever seen.” The Geneticist was Dr T.S.Ch’ang and when we began, I made a number of plans. The first was that I was in for the long haul, 100 years or more. T.S ‘s comment was that as far as he knew nobody had ever run the programme for a long time and it would be interesting to see what occurred. The American scientist who commented that it was the most sophisticated programme that he had seen asked how long it had been running at that time. This was in the late 1990’s and when I said 30 years he was very surprised and after some thought said “That he did not know of any programme of this kind that had been running for this period”. That was 23 years ago and so I thought that I would tell readers what had happened.
There are two parts of genetics that are the basis and are vital to all living animals
and their survival right through to the present day.
The first is the randomising of genes at the moment of conception.
With the variation in the population of all living animals no two animals are alike.
These two factors are of course linked, without randomising there would be no variation. Without variation there would be little survival to handle the environmental changes that have existed since the beginning of time.
At the start of the programme after Dr Ch’ang agreed to help me , he arranged the first years mating. I had 65 cows and we divided them into 4 mobs and took what we considered the 4 top 2year old bulls for the matings. There were approximately 16 cows per mob. T.S (Dr Ch’ang) wished to use a lot of bulls to make sure that we hit the top progeny tested bull. This was in 1963. All cows were randomised to each group and each mob had a representative cross section to each age cows.
So I set out on my 100 years breeding programme. I had thought that after the opposition that I had had from the Angus council that I would be on my own. Something that did not worry me at all. My herd had to rise to a mimium of 120 cows which it would do the following year.
I was approached then by a neighbour to ask if he could he join me! T.S refused and that was that. When I mention it to him he said “People are fickle! You agree to do something and then you find that they have gone and done the opposite and not told you. So every plan has gone out the widow and you just cannot operate on that basis. I knew that some of our top scientists had joined sheep breeders and had submitted programmes which had been completely disregarded and then the scientist had been blamed for the resulting mess that occurred.
A second breeder approached me and then a third and I began to think about it.
I had been treated with derision by the Council and also my fellow breeders, but four breeders represented a power within the Angus Cattle industry and had to be taken seriously. Not only did they represent a lot of registered cows in the breed but also a big percentage of their income.
If we joined up we represented a considerable a force. T.S. had warned me about the reception that I could anticipate and although that did not concern me, I could see the advantages in strength.
I set out to convince T.S. that a number of breeders would give us political power as we would have at that time some important content of the registered cows in the association. It would also give us four voices for advertising what we were doing.
T.S. reluctantly agreed after saying to me “You want people. I cannot handle people,
You handle people I shall handle the animals.” So it was settled.
There appears to be confusion on whether it better to attempt to stabilise existing cow herds thus limiting improvement, or to keep maximum variations in the herd to make room for improvement if desired .
My letter is on animal population variation, a very important part of animal breeding. From the beginning of time variation was necessary to allow the majority of animals to survive in dramatically changing environment. Those animals that could not cope with the environment died off. This left plenty of the species to continue.
The environment also plays a part in natures selection of superior animals to sire the next generation. In natures breeding the best and fittest male wins the females and so superior animals sire the next generation. This happens in all breeds except humans where one man one woman allows a complete reshuffle of the whole gene pool every generation. This of course means that on average there is no physical improvement.
The programme explained on our website follows exactly natures demands. The only factor that is different, is we speed up the generation interval and we pick the superior animal , not the environment. We do not have to wait the 2 odd years for the animal to mature, before we get our first calves. We use our selected bulls as yearlings but even more important, we change them every year. This speeds up the improvement of the population as fast as possible. It means that we also reshuffle our total genetic pool on a yearly basis thus keeping our ‘in Breeding’ level as low as possible.
There also appears to be misunderstanding in the randomising of genes at the moment of conception and that genes turn on and off at random.
Genes do not turn on and off except when demanded by the brain. The brain is the dominate organ. Here is what happens when you wish to get out of your chair. You begin to think ‘I must get up out of my chair’. This message is conveyed straight to the genes that supply energy. The energy is held until you are ready to move. The legs and their muscles are also notified and when you decide to move then the energy is supplied to the muscles that then give you the strength to get out of your chair.
Imagine the energy that is supplied to the body when running a marathon how those genes must be working overtime. In one of my early paper I spoke about a number of so called junk genes.
There are no junk genes, nature does not work that way. It has now been shown that all those genes are involved in the production of energy.
The strength of any breed is the number of breeders doing different things with it. They may not be right but then they could be! And either way something is learned from it.
What is equally sure is that when every one is doing the same thing the breed is not going anywhere.
Anyone who sets out to do something different should be encouraged not critised.
The future lies in experimentation not repetition.
Animals that can make improvements in their breed come from anywhere in their breed.
They are not being recognised and are not being used so no progress is being made. Any breed is capable of picking up the torch and running with it, and any breed that does, will lead that breed ahead and into the future.
I have finished my attempt to simplify genetics enough so that you can decide your own breeding program I hope point you to the way to improve those characters in which you wish to make progress.
You must believe in what you are doing. Remember the saying which is very true “There is no end to the improvement in anything biological it will slow down but it will go on.”
So I am branching out into my 60 odd years of studying animal behaviour and what I have learnt. Everyones experiences are different and so these are what worked for me.
My father always made us work cattle on foot he said that it got the cattle use to humans around them so that is what we did.
Never run at any animal. If you wish to approach an animal do it slowly. If the animal gets nervous then stop and wait until itl settles or begins to graze.
When in the yards with cattle it is a good idea to stand still and let the cattle settle before beginning to work them. If they begin to blow (get unsettled ) then stop. Slowly slowly is the message.
If you are cutting single cows out of a mob and the cow keeps returning to the centre of the mob do not get mad. The cow is frightened and the centre of the mob is where she feels safe. I always have a stick preferably about 6 feet long. This is not to fight off attacking cows but hold it steady and the cows quickly learn that it indicates where you wish cows to go.
I think that I have already written about how to tell when you are under risk of having an attack from a bull. Beware of bulls with their heads right up!
Dairyboard research has shown that a cattlebeast has no affinity with humans. You can bucket rear a calf all its life and it will not recognise you as such. Whether a mature animals kills you or not, depends on how it feels at that moment.
Cattle may not recognise you but they do recognise the way you move amongst them.
I shall tell about the most dangerous bull that I ever knew.
My neighbour bought a Hereford bull and it was delivered to his farm.The breeder of the bull told my neighbour to put a house cow with the bull to settle it in its new home. He let the bull plus cow out onto the road to move them to a fresh paddock when the bull attacked him! He dodged the bull whereupon in continued down the road. Our drive branched off the road and the bull entered our drive which thankfully was about a mile long and climbed up a hill. There was an old man mowing our lawns and my neighbour could hear the lawnmower working. Also there were young children at our house so on no account was the bull to get up there.
So the bull and the neighbour fought it out around the road which led to my stockyards. He luckily let the bull into one of our yards and closed the gate. Then he came looking for me to tell me that he had this very bad tempered bull in our yards and he did not know what to do with it.!
He found me and we returned to the yards.
The bull was standing in the middle of his yard which was a surprise as normally a single bull in a strange yard would have been walking the fence looking for a way out.
He stood still in the middle looking for trouble his head held high daring anyone to come near him.
We looked at each other through the fence but I wished to find out more so I climbed over the fence watching the bull very closely. I guessed he was waiting for me to get far enough from the fence to attack But I was not that silly. A normal bull you could stare down but I could not stare this one down. With his head held high we stared at each other I was ready to leap for the fence if the bull moved.
Twice he charged and each time I ran up the fence rails. But each time I climbed the fence the bull stopped which meant that he was attacking with his eyes open knowing that it was doubtful that there would be contact.
Undoubtedly the dirtiest and most intelligent bull I had ever seen and very dangerous.
My neighbour said ”What do I do?” I said “You put that bull straight on a truck and send him back to its breeder and ask for a refund. If he refuses tell him that I shall spread news about this bull all around New Zealand.” My neighbour had a young family and if they wandered into the paddock where this bull was he could kill them, You must not have this bull on your place.
I knew what had happened !! This bull probably had been bucket reared and being quiet had been to school pets day and then they had tried to break the bull to show him in the beef shows, but the bull had beaten them and got away and turned on them. He knew far too much and there was only one place for him which was dead.. I was never at risk but I had to find out what the bull was about and the neighbour who had just begun farming was at high risk.
The bull went to the works eventually. The progeny of that bull I expected to be dangerous as in my experience temperament is highly heritable.
What must be remembered is that all animals had some sort of association with man since the beginning of time. Most of this was being hunted by man in order to provide food. This is the reason why people should never run towards any animal because this was the way they were hunted. This has been inbuilt in the psychic of those original animals.
Most animals mob, as a method of protection and this method goes right back to the beginning as those animals in the middle were the safest. This process carries right through for an animal seeking to get away from pursuit, it pushes into the middle of the mob. Man pursuing into the middle only stresses the animal more and makes it more difficult to shift.
This article is an attempt to explain animals’ behaviour ,why it occurs and how to manage this to the animals and your advantage.
If an animal keeps returning to the middle of the mob give it a rest and begin working on another animal. It has been my experience that the nervous animal sees the others being cut from the mob and will leave the mob when approached quietly.
Some stud cattle breeders never work their cattle with dogs. We have always done so as most of the farms that bought our bulls used dogs so the cattle must get use to them and move for them.
Lactation is much harder on an animal than gestation and so the strain on a cow that is calving every year ( as they should if they are going to be efficient) is considerable.
This means that the calving cow must be well fed and preferably gain some fat as soon after weaning as possible. Saved feed preferable. Remembering that overfat cows have more trouble calving and fail to milk to their maximum.
It has been shown that calves rarely require maximum milk production. This happens only when the calf is left on for too long. Weaning should be at a constant date to make recording more accurate and gives the cow time to recover.
Weaning weight is 80% dependant on the calf’s ability to grow during this period and only 20% is the amount of milk.
Mating your yearling heifers can and should be done. It is very inefficient to have a group of female cattle running around your farm and only costing money when they can be earning. The first thing is to breed heifers that come into heat early so after weaning they must be fed with as much good quality feed as they can eat. Those that have conceived should be kept separate and held in mating condition.
Fetal growth is at its maxim for a fortnight before birth and if the heifer is being fed too highly during this period then you can get into calving problems. Low birth weight bulls should be used. When I began mating yearling heifers some thirty years ago, the first year I pulled 50% of the calves. We pull only the odd calf now.
After calving the heifers are back on maximum feed, because if they are going to survive then they must get back in calf at the next adult mating. Heifers that do not conceive and those that do not rear a decent calf are culled. It means that you overmate which we do in all ages culling those that failed to conceive and those that fail to mother etc.
Having done this for many years our cows from yearling onwards are highly fertile. Our yearly live calving rate, yearlings included, is in the high 90%.
Menstruation in one animal is highly recognised by another. For that reason women or girls should not be engaged in the handling of entire animals during this time. Of particular concern are bulls ,stallions, stags and boars. I am against girls handling even pony stallions as the horse can react very quickly and can cause a lot of damage in a short time.
Stags become very dangerous in the rutting season (the roar) and everyone should keep well away and not enter their paddock at any time. There has been a number of deaths in New Zealand by people not understanding the behaviour of pet or ordinary stags. Sweating horses are particularly at risk at this time and you must never tie a sweating horse in an area where the stags are roaring because the stags will kill the horse.
After mustering all day,riding home in the evening on the farm that had a lot of wild deer, going through through heavy bush cover, I was followed by a very big heavily antlered stag. He never showed himself but kept right up behind me, ripping at the trees and roaring loudly. Even the mustering dogs were right up close and were nervous. I always carried a .38 police special handgun when out on this country, I would back the horse who was very frightened, into some bushes and wait for the stag to appear so that I could get a shot at him, But he knew too much! As I approached the homestead he eventually left me but it was an frightening time. He was at times so close that I could hear his heavy breathing. It was the sweating horse that bought him so close!
I have spent the last 30 odd years trying to explain in simple terms about genetics, not very successfully I am afraid. Hopefully better than nothing. which was my knowledge in the beginning. When I began studying I was fortunate enough to travel and talk with the best brains in animal breeding at that time.
Each animal is given a code at the moment of conception from which genes are split off. These gene build each of our organs, brain, liver, heart, circularly system, etc. These cells are called Stem cells.
The mass of these genes are half from each parent and are sampled at random. Every animal has good and bad genes and unselected animals keep returning to the average. The production of all animals varies with its randomisation of gene uptake thus demonstrating why selecting on pedigree is of doubtful value.
Genes turn on and off as they are required by the body within which they work. Nature by intense competion of each years sires, has through evolution been steadily improving each animal to suit its changing environment so that it has survived right through to the present.
Nature’s system is far more sophisticated than any human could designed and covers all the requirements evolution demands. It was not until humans arrived and put their demands on what they thought to be correct and began domesticating animals for their own needs that it destroyed any chance of improvement. It would be interesting to see what the animals would look like had nature been left to select them by its system right through to the present day!!
There are two animals who have showed no physical improvement in the last 100 years, humans and beef cattle. Humans because of one man one woman and cattle because humans have taken it on themselves to breed something that they believe suits their needs.
There are as far as I know no wild cattle living that are totally devoid of human interference. Hence my belief that nature never had the opportunity to develop its own cattle until now.
Back in the eighties I had an American geneticist staying with us and he said“ today we are going out to see your cattle while you explain to me what you are doing.“
I had about 60 bulls running in 12 acres and I complained to scientist Fred, that the bulls would not settle and kept tramping. We were wandering through them while making my comment.
“He said spilt them in half they are too big a mob.’’
So when he had left next day that was what I did. The tramping stopped immediately and they were back to grazing, problem solved and lesson learned.
As we wandered I explained each section to him.
We had been using 5 purchased stud sires representing 5 different herds most of them considered top herds at that time.
Dr Ch’ang (referred to as T.S. from now on), said in the first year “We are mating all the stud sires plus our best rising two year bull of that year. All bulls will have a representative cross section of the cows all different ages and performances.” So he had the list of cows and did that first mating to his satisfaction. We were mating 2yer heifers at this stage which was normal and each bull had the same number of heifers along with his older cows I had not begun to weigh at birth believing that it was impossible at that time.
First analysis was at weaning of the calves and I waited to see the data of the analysis of each bull believing that my most expensive bull which I liked very much would dominate them all by a mile.
The winning bull was our own bred sire. TS obviously knew what the result would be and his objective was to demonstrate it to me.
I looked at the analysis in amazement searching for errors.
I had already been recording for some years using very primitive calculations up to that first mating.
That was how TS convinced me our own top bulls were superior to anything purchased and that using our own bulls we were making progress. This superiority carried right through to 2year bulls.
It was TS.’s sophisticated calculations which were a big improvement on the rudimentary calculations we had been using. It was those same calculations that identified bull 1021 which was the first ‘outliner bull’ we produced. Later used as reference bull in the Australian BLUP program that was developed and is still used today. For the first 10 years of that program 1021/69 remained top.
This occurred after our program had been operating for some four years and this was not normal, as it takes some years to get your first outliner bull we were all surprised that it arrived this fast. The herd was still overcoming the “Bulmar effect“ at this time and the effect would last for another year.
I must admit that the Bulmar Effect (discovered by Professor Bulmar) has never been proven as far as I am aware but I had been warned about it by TS and something just as Dr Bulmar had written about this phenomenon certainly occurred.
Just a reminder on what happens in the Bulmar effect. It only happens if you close your herd and use a large proportion of your own bulls.
Your herd deteriorates. How far I do not know, and suspect that it returns to the Angus population average level. As your herd runs down all or any recessives are exaggerated. I never thought we had a foot problem in our herd as our yearly loss would be few bulls culled for feet and some times none. Replacements were few. Waigroup guaranteed feet for three years. In the last year of the Bulmar Effect, I culled 60% of our sale bulls on bad feet. I rang TS and said that I could not tolerate what was happening as it was driving me broke!
He said “hang on in there you will go over the top” the following year we had none. To this day sale bulls are inspected on owners farms and any bull whose feet we predict will fail is replaced. We do one bull every five or six years and none lately.
Rang later that night that we had discussed the bad feet to say “we have hit the bottom we are away”
and so it turned out to be.
“U.S. beef cow productivity is stagnant ,“ writes Stan Bevers.
“Looking at the genetic trend for performance in commonly used beef breeds and the steep positive slopes is staggering.
But if you compare that to pounds on the ground, and the ability of the commercial cows to breed, calve and wean a calf and then breed back, the lack of progress is just shocking.
I find no credible evidence to suggest the average weaning weight per calf has increased in this country for the last 10 years!” Writes Stan Bevers, Texas AgriLife Extension agriculture economist.
“In fact according to Southwest Standardized Performance Analysis(SPA) the three key measures of cows productivity are declining.
For period 1991-1999 and 2003-2009 weaning weights declined by 36lbs. Calving rates declined 1.3%. Average pounds weaned per cow exposed declined 25lbs. Profit per cow in 2010 was negative $47.76 American dollars with an average total of cow costs at $588 per head.”
I do not need to remind you that if the U.S. cattle industry has made no progress in the last ten years, then New Zealand is most certainly just as bad, if not worse because of its total obsession with American bulls.
In the 1960’s the, NZ Angus Council led the local New Zealand beef industry, being the first by at least a year to begin recording. It was an Angus bull which was the first “outliner” progeny tested bull. Then he was used as a reference bull in the setting up of the Australian Beef recording BLP programme.
This bull V53 of Pinebank S.N.1021 topped all the cattle in that programme and remained at the top for 10 years. But to my surprise very little of his semen was used and the Australians continued to use American bulls against him.
It is time for the Council to take a lead again by using the most modern knowledge into the future. The first Council who does, will lead the beef industry with whatever breed, and possibly lead even the world into a new era. It never seems to have struck New Zealand that they could lead the world in beef production. Here we sit away from all the world’s problems and influences, with the world’s top scientists available to us and not only do we not use them but we dig in against them.
When I first went on the Angus Council I was young, but had been running our herd for some four years. I had already come to the conclusion that the present system was not working! The average age of the council would have been in their mid- seventies.
I sat and listened to their talk and discovered to my surprise that they were just as confused as I, on animal breeding but unlike them I had been reading research.
No one doing research was breeding animals like the stud industry. If they were not breeding like us then they must consider that our method did not show them the information they required.
So just how did the scientist breed? There were no closed herds, but they used a large proportion of their own within-herd bulls. Just one outside bull may be used to give them some measure against there own bulls.
The commercial industry is still going around in circles.
We could be, and should be, the island that is exporting bulls and semen all around the world. If it was found necessary to adjust these cattle to their environment, this could easily be done. The basic breeding would have been already achieved, and selection for all the important economic traits would have been built in. Beef production would have been at least doubled and these animals would be running at half the cost.
There is no risk in what is suggested, as there are no observable conformation changes and Angus cattle remain the same. Within New Zealand there are already some herds that are well down this track. The results of their long term selection for productive traits can be seen. A large part of the country is in drought and to see the way these cattle bred the modern way can, and are doing, with little grass has to be seen to be believed. They are still calving in the mid 90% and it would be an education for any farmer.