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Our latest
(July 2016)




Variation is the necessity of progress

Near the end of the year, and it has been as turbulent a year as we have ever had.  Dairy prices have gone through the roof at the same time as sheep and beef prices have dropped dramatically.

The result is that much of the land in the past that has been used for fattening lambs has gone into dairying.   The lift in dairy prices has carried with it a rise in cost across the whole agriculture industry.

Add to this the problem of the weather for the sheep and beef farmers, of which many do not have access to irrigation and many of the sheep and beef farmers could go out of business this year.

Government appears to have no idea of the problems, which is not surprising, as there is no one in Government that knows anything about farming.!!

We began with a unprecedented dry Winter and then we have continued into our normal dry months with no rain.  Lower areas of the East Coast that we are on, and below us into the South Island are already very dry with no prospect of rain.  Goodness knows where we are heading!!.

This month I am going to talk about Recording Systems, their uses and their limitations.

If you are interested in Stud Stock breeding and wish to improve your population, then some sort of Recording system is vital, as it is possible to go backwards as fast as you hope to go forward, if you do not have some method of checking what is happening.

A Recording system Brings every animal to a directly comparable bases.  It is a good system that tells you much about management, direction for selection, what to cull, and as far as I know you can get just as much progress using a Recording System as you can using one of the more complex programme available today

In 1965 when I began our present closed herd programme, there were no recording systems.

Dr Chand did all the calculations in the first couple of years and then taught me to do them so I took over my own calculations.  It became a very interesting exercise. For a period of about three years after the group was formed I did all the calculations, selected all the bulls that the group was going to use and did all the mating.

I found during the period all the limitations of all recording systems.  Computer programmes, are, by necessity ridged.  That means that allowances are static regardless of season and other variability.

 i.e.  18 month heifers get an addition of 15%, 2year cows get 10%,  three year cows get 5%, and any cow older is on her own.

If you are running a constructive breeding programme and making progress, then your 18 months heifers are the most modern part of your programme, they should be well ahead of the 15%.  In fact they are a good indication if you are making progress and how much.

I always adjusted to what I called an environmental adjustment..  I averaged all the yearling heifers and then added what the average adjustment.  I did this with all of the three ages of cows.

Next month I shall talk about The B.L.U.P.  Programme and what I see of its limitations

Happy Xmas to all my readers and a more prosperous New Year.

Green drought continues which means that the country looks vivid and green but there is no grass.  Weather is still cold which is surprising for this time of the year and we are still about 20% down on rain.  North westerly winds keep blowing and continues to dry up the little moisture that we have.  These conditions are from the bottom of the South Island right through to Gisborne.   Rain is predicted for tomorrow but I shall believe it if I see it.  Predications have been way out so far to date.  Capital stock is well down on the East Coast and freezing works have not opened as yet because of the lack of stock.  This makes the stock position worse as farmers cannot kill surplus stock and so they are left holding surplus stock that should go off the farm I remain sure that the government has no idea what is going on as there is no one in Government that has any experience in farming.  Imagine having an economy that is agriculturally based and having a government that is totally ignorant on agriculture.

My little bit on research..  If you select from a low environment, animals produced will perform just as well as those select from a high environment when put on a high environment.    But the reverse is not true.  In other word if you select from a high environment and then put them on a low environment then they will not perform. This finding has a lot of application when breeders are selecting their bull from the highly fed stud stock industry.  How many times have we all experienced highly fed stud bulls collapsing when they come onto breeders farm’s.   Unfortunately this carries on to his progeny.

Very dry Winter right through until September.  Then a little rain but not enough.  Still getting bits and pieces of rain but still need more.  Moving into Spring. A little feed around but little for the cattle.   Cows have finished calving near enough and for some reason the calves are looking very well.  

Cows appear to lactate better when they are lighter but the problem comes when you need to put them on a rising plane of nutrition when they go to the bull.   We appear to be having little trouble with our conception rates even when our cows are light.  The question is how light before we get into trouble, but calves would be suffering I think before conception rate would be seriously affected.

This month I am going to talk about the mating of yearlings heifers and calving them successfully.  We have been mating them for thirty years and so have been through the whole gamete of problems.

I began mating them in the 1970's as Dr Chang told me that as the industry was eventually going to demand it. I had better learn how to handle it and to breed cattle that were capable of calving.

There are many advantages in calving yearling heifers.  Firstly you identify any female whose fertility is doubtful.   Then every female is producing every year and so you have a much more efficient herd.   Fertility is the most important character in herd efficiency.  No calf no money no evaluations, no future.

Also if you have a breeding programme going, the heifers are the most modern part of your breeding programme.  In our case we take the top bull calf out of the yearling heifers and use it, and we have been doing this since the 1980's.  Many of our top sires and outliner bulls come from this age group of cows.

You also get a look a year earlier at cow performance.  We give the yearling two calming before culling , so that we get a better look at their ability.

We mate all yearling heifers except for the very worst, perhaps 1or2%.  Do not forget  that if your breeding programme is any good these heifers should be superior.  You can also get a better look at your bulls performance.

After twenty years of using the total drop of yearling heifer I would have to analyse them and have a look at where the subsequent top performers came from I found that the bottom 10% never left a decent calf.

That the top 1% were likely to be infertile and that the top producing subsequent cows came from anywhere in the middle in a total unpredictable fashion.

I shall discuss what is required in successfully mating yearling heifer next month.

When I began the present Angus Breeding program I was on the Angus Council and it is interesting to note that our cattle were only one vote from being barred from registration.  I had retired when it came to the vote.  The chairman was on my side and it was his casting vote that allowed us to keep registering.  Mind you, I would have taken the Council to court had I known of their apposition and it had been successful. Their concern was that I would breed something that would become far removed from the Angus that were then known.   Knowing their concern, I had suggested that they appoint an inspector from Council that watched the cattle that were evolving. Something that they never took up. In fact no-one ever came to the farm to see what was happening.  Pinebank had a Field day some 40 years after the programme began and one of the Council that had been on with me, turned up early for a private viewing of our cattle.   By this time, the American cattle had begun to flood the Angus breed in New Zealand with its change in type. The Council member expressed surprise that the cattle had not changed in confirmation as such but just represented a very much improved original Scottish type . I was returned to Council that years voted on nationally and a number of council set about implementing recording and the beginning of the new systems. As I voted off a second time I took the opportunity to give a little speech to Council which went like this... Never decry a young breeder that sets out to do something different.  He requires all the support that can be given him.   He is putting his money and lifes work on the line. He may not be successful but what he is doing may hold the seeds of what is successful. What no breed needs, is everyone doing the same thing.   There is no progress in that! All this comes about because everyone in N.Z is still doing the same thing, and time and again, I hear the young breeders being denigrated and it makes me so angry Having suffered the full volume from all quarters of being constantly told that it would not work.  I know how it feels and can and will check the expansion of new ideas I take no joy in being successful.   In seeing the industry selecting man made and often foolish goals.  In our case the environment dictates what animal appears and what can and will handle the ups and downs of normal environmental change


Constant cold frost and cold southerly storms have kept the soil cold and so have held back grass growth. Many stock on the East coast are still being supplemented something that is most unusual in New Zealand. Still Spring cannot be far away and today is a beautiful day with temperatures predicted to rise to 16 degrees which will begin growth a little.   Sheep and beef farmers have had a difficult year with 70% shown to run at a loss again this year.   All prices have been rising a little as our dollar drops which we all hope will continue. All meat marketing in New Zealand is abysmal with meat companies competing with each other to see who can sell our product the cheapest..  Something must be done and soon.  The Dairy industry is a constant reminder of what can be done, if only we had that much intelligence in the Meat industry


 It takes four and a half of the amount of feed to put on a kilo of fat as it does a kilo of meat.  Fat is an unfortunate product and is constantly being abused but in the animal production cycle it is vital.  The enzymes for fertility are carried in the body fats.  Not to be confused with the hormones, enzymes trigger the hormones which begin the animal cycling.  This is why the fertility in thin cows is low hence the problem with fertility in the dairy industry.  Sheep farmers have known this for years.  Fat is also important as storage of energy and is important to maintain as a buffer for the winter months. In the young animal while it is gaining weight fast it is using its genetic ability to grow in that period.  As soon as it stops and gains weight much more slowly it has reached its genetic potential and is beginning to lay on fat. Pushing an animal hard during its formative years will no increase its skeletal size but becomes a waste of feed. Feeding young animals to make the most of their genetic potential is important, inadequate feeding will effect their lifetime production


Wairarapa weather has remained difficult.  We have gone straight from late drought into very cold temperatures and so restricting grass growth.  Much of the on farm stock are being supplemented, something very rare for us.   I do not remember ever having to supplement ewes at this time and for this period before.  There is still little or no grass growing. Let us spare a thought for the South Island that has just disappeared under snow for the third time this year.  Where has the warm winter that the met predicted gone?  Some districts in the centre and on the West coast are having a good season.  Poor old stock being challanged again.

I still hear the comments made by breeders at bull sales that the bull that they are eyeing is going to make them famous. The sooner that they learn that there is no such thing the better .Each individual is nothing in himself  “it is what he produces” that is important.   Breeders work on the assumption that like begets like in other words what you are looking at is what you are going to get.  This is hopelessly optimistic and extremely doubtful.

Every bull or cow is only as good as the average performance of its progeny.  Once you get your head around that, then its best son or daughter is better that it’s sire or dam and there of course is your method of improvement

Not only that but it is doing it in your environment under your conditions under your management etc. How much better can you get then that! How much more can you be sure to make improvement then that in what ever direction you wish to go.


My apologies for last months Newsletter.  I sent it, but the server failed to receive it.  It was only when one of my readers enquired, that I found out that it was not up, thus it was a bit late

The Wairarapa is very dry .  Unprecedented for this time of year.  Farmers are unloading Capital stock as we move into Winter without the reserves of feed that we normally have.  We will have to hope for a warm Winter (which has been predicted ) and that we will get some growth of grass.. In the meantime young stock are suffering.  We will have to make maximum use of “compensatory growth “ this year.  You remember the saying  “Every animal is genetically coded to reach a given weight at a given age, and that weight can be achieved at any time”. Cows will not return from grazing until just before calving so that means we should be able to save some feed of calving.   Country is our district is usually shut up at the end of May . For cows calving in beginning of September. For some reason the rising 2 year in calf heifers are holding on well.  All our yearling heifers are put to the bull and those failing to conceive are culled.   This is the first culling of our female stock.   The second cull comes after their 2nd calf, when calf weights are considered.

My bit of research.  In the present system of breeding where the breeder regularly purchases bulls, that bull carries with it all the recessives and instability existent in its parent herd.  The same applies to a cow of course. You can improve growth by this method of selection but that growth carries with it the extra food demand relevant to the extra growth.   If you cannot or do not supply that food, then the first thing to suffer will be fertility. Fertility is the most finely balanced trait in all biological species. We are now entering a period when we will be making use of the two genetic sayings “Every animal is genetically coded to reach a given weight at a given age and that weight can be achieved a any time”, and hopefully “the young cattle will be making use of compensatory growth”. It has begun to rain, steadily   Now we just have to hope for a good growth.

It has been a dry summer on the East Coast and we still have not had enough rain to start the grass growing.   Added to a very low lamb schedule means that our coast has had a difficult season. Cows have gone off grazing which is unusual for us because of the treat of T.B. or other diseases.  We have our fingers crossed that we shall get away with it on this occasion. It is our cows that I consider is our strongest asset.  Year after year they are subject to the harshest conditions and year after year they conceive with out effort. I have been handling cows all my life, some 60 years now.  In the early times if your cow was not fat they failed to conceive.   If you took too much fat off them in the winter they would not come back in time.  Now they are a different animal.   The pressure that we have been having them under for all those years is showing us just what can be done Fertility must be the main economic character. 

No calf, no profit.

I have some 20 genetic sayings that I have picked over the years from Geneticists that have been to stay.  Over the next period I shall discuss these sayings and explain them -

“For every characteristic that you add to a breeding programme, your progress goes down by “square roots”!

If you have a simple breeding programme and are selecting for one character ‘Growth’ then the heritability is 50%.   So if your bull is +20 and he is mated to an average cow, his progeny will be +10.

That is straight forward enough.  If you have a multi character selection programme and add Dam Traits then you are down to making under 1 kilo per year at the most so you can see how slow progress becomes.  This does not mean that you should not be in a multi selection programme because you must.   There is no economics in having the fastest growing bulls if your fertility is so, that you only have very few of them.   Dam traits are more important, then growth but less heritability.


Autumn is upon us and the trees are turning.  Their golden leaves make a beautiful sight in the valley below me.   Grass is short and the country around me still dry.  There has been a little rain but not enough to start the grass.   However more rain is predicted for the end of the week. We will have to wait and see. From where we are we will go into the winter short on grass which will make it hard on the cows again.   Not much rough feed around to clean up this year as well so the cows will end up living on rushes and rubbish. Calving weights are about a kilo down this year owing to the very poor winter last year. The calves should soon compensate.   “Every animal is genetic coded to reach a given weight at a given age and that weight can be achieved at any time” - A genetic saying.

Monthly research: In my wandering around the country, I have been constantly reminded about the concern commented by the older breeders” is the present Breeding Programme pointing their selection in the right direction.”?  If you use the best bull identified on your programme you have a faster growing bull but it also requires more feed.   The object of any breeding programme must be to produce faster growing bulls on the same amount of feed.

Every environment has different requirements and cattle must fit their environment if they are going to become more efficient.   If you close your herd, as we have done, then your environment becomes dominate.   If anyone wishes to see the type of animal that is productive to a high stocking rate of sheep, and is fertile and able to stand the fluctuating feed condition and remain fertile, all they must do is to come and see our herd.  Not only that but you will see bulls that compete, on a lot less feed, then so called best of the American cross cattle and is up with the best of them.

Having cattle that are able to handle an environment is vital if you are going to raise efficiency.

I have noticed latterly that a number of breeders have begun to use some of there own bulls. If at the same time if they demand that every cow calves every year then they will begin to start producing more efficient environment friendly cattle as the years go by.

It is getting very dry and no reasonable amount of rain is being predicted until May.  Just the thing to cheer up farmers in a year when all stock prices except beef are down!  Summer has been cold and cloudy until the last month but now it is making up for it.  It is surprising how such a small two islands can host such a variation in the weather.  The mountain range that bisects both Islands has a dominating effect.  Wet in the West, dry in the East. It is water as is always, that plays an important part in keeping the animals going and contented.  Plenty of good clean water and some shade and the animals will keep going. Environment how much does it control our lives as much as it does animals.  An interesting observation is that all humans are the same genus and if you can believe the book the “Seven daughters of Eve” we all trace back to 7 women.  Which means that all the observed differences among us is caused by our environment

My bit of research is going to be a comment   Let us define a breeding programme and its objectives.  Firstly we must define to ourselves whether we wish to improve the animals or we wish to make money.  Unfortunately they are quite different (Making money requires following fashion and giving farmers what they think that they want.

(Improving animals requires often deciding what the industry needs which can be quite (different and may require cutting right across fashion.  This can and often is expensive.

I do not and never have recommended, closing a herd as we have done.  It takes many years , during which time you are unlikely to sell many bulls.   Scientists said to me when they heard that I had closed my herd “My goodness you are game” I did not know what they meant, but soon found out.

In all populations there are high performing genes residing in the population.  I suspect there is the same proportion of high performing genes in the least fashionable herd as there are in the most fashionable. The objectives should be to improve all those characters that make you money, and as in our country, cattle have always been used to keep sheep pastures at their best ,, then the cattle must be able to perform while living off the left over rubbish.

Modern breeding programmes have shown us how to raise our animal growth, but as the growth has risen so has the food required.  We are now at the stage when the cost of supplementary food is making beef production unsustainable. Where have the Range cattle gone?  Because they most certainly have gone!

How can we get them back? That is the test of the modern breeder!!

It has been a funny season, but then I suppose that most of them are. After all they are all different. A very long cold winter put a lot of stress on cows especially as they began to lactate as they were already in low condition.  Calf weights are down this year demonstrating the cow condition effect.  This calf effect is very hard to overcome demonstrating how important nutrition is at this period.

Much to our gratification, at Pinebank, we have come up with another outstanding bull in Pinebank Pinebank 14/02. He demonstrated his superiority in the Glanworth Herd where Joe had borrowed him for the season. 

His progeny test is Calv Ease -0.6 Ges.length-2.2   Bth Wgt+2.8200 dy wgt +27   400 dy wgt +67   6ooDy Wgt+81.

This is only one herd’s progeny test and we are anticipating that he will improve on this, when other herds are included.  Also like some of the Group Herds it is a high performing herd and as such will tend to disguise his true performance.

Either way we have a very real replacement for 41/97 when he has to be replaced.  So much for the future.

My bit of research.   It is clear that many breeders have not read about or do not know that “80% of weaning weight is produced by the calfs ability to grow during this period.  Only 20% comes from milk.”

 These findings comes from Trangie.  Which means that selection for milk is a waste of time and could be detrimental to long term fertility in the cows.

Some years ago I used a bull which had a dramatic affect on weaning weight. I thought to myself how could this be.  The bull does not produce milk, it has no control on fertility or gestation.

The conclusion was its calves grew faster during this period.  So I had no trouble accepting Trangie’s finding, in fact I have know this for many years, with the result that milk production has never been a criteria in my Bull selection, provided that milk was of course adequate .

High milk production in cows lowers their fertility.  This is straight biology.  Lactation is far harder on an animal than gestation, and if your cows are run under commercial conditions then you will find that excessively high milk production cows will keep missing conception owing to failure of cycle.


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