Progress with us!

Call today.
06 372 7041

Our latest newsletter
Our latest
(July 2016)




Variation is the necessity of progress

I have been asked by readers of my Newsletter to return to the technical material that I normally write, rather then the story that I wrote last month. So to accommodated those breeders who wish to improve their knowledge, I shall return to genetics. Explaining  how they work and how you can make best use of them. But first about our local conditions.

Christmas  creeps up on us as it always does. Summer is a very busy time for New Zealand farmers as it is the time when the sheep demand all our attention. In the Wairarapa  we are having the best season, growth wise that we have had for very many years. Grass and crops are growing steadily and it is only the constant showers of rain that is stopping the harvesting of hay and silage. That can and will come later. The biggest advantage is that the poor commercial cows have a chance to recover from four years of drought and our cows have at last got a smile on their faces. Prices of all sheep and beef farmers products  remain low but hopefully this is the bottom of the recession and the future will be better.

This month I am going to explain as simply as I can about genes and  DNA and how they not only dominate our lives but are the necessary ingredient that keeps us living .
I know nothing about human genetics nor am I at all interested but all my interest is in animal genetics, how they effect the past and how we can use them to make progress in the future.

Every population or herd of cattle has either exhibited or latent in it , some very high performing genes. In Nature the male that by accident picks up the best genes from both its dam and sire and hence becomes the best  physically superior male and can fight off its opponents, gets the females. So the calves  get half the genes of that superior sire. All animals are hard wired firstly for sex , because in nature once the sire has passed on these superior genes, he has done his job. The fact that animals are hard wired for sex is just one demonstration of the control that genes have over every living thing.  Every cell of the body has two copies of the genetic code of that particular animal and that drives their very being. In animals every thing about them is hard wired, their temperament their apperance and everything about them, even to the extent of manufacturing of hormones and enzymes is controlled by their genesGenes turn on and off as the situation  requires.  If the animal cuts itself , then the genes responsible for rebuilding its exact shape , are turned  on and  rush to the area  where they, by multipying cells, rebuild the body in its own shape.Genes provide the total elixiar of life.The energy for this remarkable process is carried in the blood, that is why when the blood ceases to run the animal  dies.

There are millions of genes in each ejaculationAt the moment of conception only one sperm is responsible for the fertilization of the female eggHalf the genes. coming from the sire and half coming from the female. If and when fertilization  takes place , the cells begin dividing along the code that has already be established at the moment of conception. These genes are selected  purely at random .Of the millions of genes in the indervidual only about half are the working genes. The others are called junk genes and their value and use is unknown

In a given population, the best performing of that population, must have picked up the better genes from both male and female. The objective of any breeding  programme should  be to collect those genes related  to economic traits. By using those top animals you are beginning to collect the better genes, in your herd, and feed them back into your population thus lifting average performance of your total herd.If you are using multifactor selection as we do, then your progress,  may be so slow that it is not visiable, but never the less it exsists and  will continue.

DNAThis is something that has intrigued me for some time.What is DNA and what part does it play.
The best explanation  I have found is this. An orchestral piece of music consist of two parts, the notes as written and how the orchestra  interprets it
The notes are the genes, and how they are expressed in the orchestra is its DNA.

Best wishes for a very happy ChristmasAnd a happy and healthy New Year

Click here for a newsflash!


Summer has arrived at last after the coldest Winter that I can remember. So much for Global Warming. Rain has been persistant and cold but if it continues it is certainly setting us up for a growthy Summer. The first for about 5 years and is very welcome.

Prices are still very low and it looks as though they are likely to remain so. The sheep and beef industries out here are in a real mess and our government has forgotten they exist. I know that we are not the only country in this predicament.

I wonder where they think that all the food is going to come from in the future Governments will wake up one day and wonder what happened to the food production but by then it will be too late . There is a lot of land for sale and plenty more to come .

I first thought about tagging and weighing calves at birth when the American Scientists who kept turning up and asking about the cattle, kept warning me that what we were doing would soon raise birth weights to dystokia ( calving problems ) an unacceptable level.

 They thought we were selecting for single factor of growth, but even then we were selecting multi factor for economic traits. I decided that weighing calves at birth was necessary to see if our birth weights were rising on a yearly basis as they had predicted. Before this time I had already begun calving yearling heifers and been in all sorts of trouble as the calves were too big because I was using high growth bulls.

Past experience had told me that weighing and tagging at birth was likely to be an exciting time to say the least , as I had been chased down holes when trying to save calves that had fallen down the past . At calving time , cows often were very antisocial.but

I was determined that I should weigh every calf , so I bought a tranquillizer revolver.

I had some trouble getting a license for this gun and when I enquired of the police what was their problem , they replied what was to stop me tranquillizing every pretty girl in Masterton and having my way with her!

I explained that the gun had a report like a .303, which is considerable, and would certainly be heard all over Masterton. Then it shot a dart 7 inches long and it took 5 minutes for the drug to work. You are sitting in your watchhouse one night and a shot goes off, heard all over the town. Sometime later a pretty girl  walks in and stops to chat to the constable behind the desk. He observes a large dart protruding from her behind ,a minute later she slumps to the floor. Who would you come looking for? I got my license next day.  It was at the beginning of the drug ‘Rompun” .

The drug company that manufactured it. asked me to do some trials for them , promising me as much drug as I required as long as I would give them a report on its success or otherwise . This, I was only too pleased to do.

The gun was very expensive, so I told the local vets that as I would only be using the gun  for one month annually and that if they needed it later, they could borrow it. The gun arrived and calving was getting close so I read the manual carefully and got everything ready . It was always my intention to use the gun only if I considered I was in danger weighing the newborn calf .

The Manual said “do away with stockyards, treat your animals in the paddock” So I invited the vets out to a demonstration of this remarkable aid to veterinary science.

I had a cow in the mob that I thought was dry, so I suggested that we should tranquillize her and they could pregnancy test her in the paddock. We gathered around the gun as it was loaded, the dart was filled with the drug, and I approached the cow.  As I have explained the gun had a very loud report which startled the cow .

The first dart went over her back and disappeared into the grass.. There was $10 worth of dart and $7 worth of drugs in the dart and I did not fancy having a loaded dart lying around in a paddock full of calving cows. So all the vets joined me on our hand and knees searching for the dart without success.

The second dart drove into the rump of the now startled cow who was proceeding around the paddock with some gusto.

I shall continue next month.

Click here for a newsflash!


Gavin Falloon  

Pinebank Newsletter - October, 2009


Spring has been very good this year with fine weather during both lambing and calving. Financial prospects are low for the year as our dollar has climbed right off its economic value.
This is unfortunately due to the falling American dollar. But I guess the American economy will stabilise soon.

 I am always surprised how all Nations and people rape the soil when it is the basis of all their food and if they ate sensibly and well, medics tell us that it would halve the hospital intakes A healthy soil has a direct relationship  with the health of the animals and the humans that live from it. Its preservation and development must be the first call on all scientific and financial resources of each country. But it is lost in the rush for consumerism

It has always been my belief that there are three resources on this planet that are vital to human existence. The soil, the sea, and the air but we abuse them all. . To sustain life we do not need weapons to kill each other. Better and better cars, boats, private yachts, planes etc. We need clean air, a biological sea full of fish, and above all a biologically active soil. But what have we got, universally a biological disaster and getting worse

Variation is the discussion for this month

Variation is the lifeblood of improvement in animal breeding. This is because “if” you close your herd you have no where to go except the best in your own herd. But where better, than your best. They have defeated all the other bulls in your environment.   They must have come out of a good cow that has picked up the high   performing genes for this conception. The calf must have picked up the high performing genes from its sire and you know that he has not been , foster mothered, or been grain fed all his life so you can be assured that it is the best bull in your population for your environment

 I took over the Angus Stud when I left school and found this constant variation hard to understand. Why were there so few good bulls and so many culls? Remember they were being run as a commercial herd, so their environment was raw. Why did I have to put up with so many culls and no matter what bulls I bought the percentage never seemed to change?
I have since learnt that variation is vital doing what we are doing having a closed herd.
Because of its importance we carefully checked variation every year to make sure that it was not decreasing.

The first indication that in-breeding is beginning to rise to unacceptable levels, is a decrease in variability. The second indication is a drop in fertility. These two factors must be kept constantly in mind.

My second problem, when I closed the herd I considered that the best bull was as far as a closed herd could go. That was wrong too. As the population improves the herd so the herd average climbs the equivalent amount.

.If you are using your best bulls every year then it works like this.   First year progeny were sired by the best bulls of their year. Next year progeny are sired by the best bulls that were sired by the best bulls, and so on.

In our case this has been multiplied 44 times and our programme has just begun.

Gavin Falloon  

Pinebank Newsletter - September, 2009


Spring is here with its gales , spasmodic rain and slowly warming weather   So far the weather has been very benign no big cold storms for the lambing ewes or the calving cows, so losses have been light. Prospects are that if the el nino conditions persist or strengthen then we will enter another drought. This will give us the fourth in the last four years .

 Not pleasant prospects in pastures already damaged by the past. Growth is slow but developing at the moment let us hope that it continues.  In my little flock of eight ewes I have 200% and they have finished lambing. Lets hope that that is a good omen.

Spare a thought for the people involved in the bush fires in North America and already in Australia,they must be terrifying. Fire is a good servant but a frightening adversary

This is the saying for this month:

“The maximum amount of progress in any breeding programme is the heritability of the character multiplied by the selection differential divided. by the generation interval”.

 I have  realised that including that saying on our web was of doubtful value as it could be difficult to understand.  After much thought I include it to give some validity to the programme for any scientists that are viewing it.  So here is an explanation of what the equation means

If we take a simple characteristic of 600 day growth , it has a heritability of 31%, .
‘Selection differential’ is the amount that the sire being used is above average in his population.

So if you have selected a bull that is 20% above your herd average, then your selection differential would be 13% and if you were using 3 bulls whose performance was 10,15, and 20% above average then you differential would be 10%.. There is the performance of the cows to be taken into account in ‘selection differential” as well.

‘Generation Interval’ is the time taken to use and replace animals. Cows, because of their high culling rate usually push out the generation interval,  whereas you can use yearling bulls which has the effect of keeping the bull side as short as possible if you change them every year..Now if you are putting pressure on fertility and nutrition then all cows that fail to conceive are culled and there is a big loss especially at the beginning. But cows as they mature and retain their performance are retained. They are the most valuable as they have stood the test of time.

When I began the programme, I bought in all the yearling heifers as the most modern part of the scheme supposing that they must be superior.  After 10 years I decided that I should analyse all the records to see if they were  superior.

Firstly I found that a poor heifer “never” left a decent calf.  So culling before they went to the bull was well worth it. Secondly I found that heifer, outliners, in other words, out the top, were often infertile.   In discussing this with the scientist managing our biggest experimental herd in New Zealand,  he had found the same thing and had come to the conclusion, that the reason was that too much male hormone had gone through the placenta. while in utero, and that was also the reason for its extreme growth. Do not cull them though, they are well worth a try.

On our web at the top of each page it begins with a genetic saying that I have collected over the years. All of them have come from one or other of senior international genetictist of my time.The only saying that is not from a geneticist is from New Zealand’s chief podsotologist(Soil scientist ) of my time and that saying is:

‘There is no end to the improvement in anything biological, it will slow down but it will go on”  

What a visionary saying  for someone trying to improve farm animals and I make no excuse for crossing it from soil to animals.

If anyone reading my newsletter is have troubles with his breeding programme he could find
one of the saying could be of interest to keep in his mind and to think about.Believe me I have studied them all very closely

So although the equation is quite simple for the “ Maximum amount of progress in any breeding programme”Its application is much more difficult and progress can and usually is very slow.  But that it is why our breeding programme is designed the way that it is.


Gavin Falloon  

Pinebank Newsletter - August, 2009


Spring is here at last and we have had a period of the most beautiful weather. Day after day of frosty mornings and the best clear and windless days. We are moving into the equinox where we normally get constant  wind from the Northwest. This  is our prevailing wind.
The damage that wind does as a constraint to growth is often not appreciated. As the wind blows across the surface of the soil itl sucks out moisture, this acts like a giant refrigerator and cools the ground thus checking any grass growth.
We have had no wind so far this year so that is a blessing.
Angus bulls have had a good year as it is one of those years when Angus is the flavour of the year. Herefords have been much less popular. Very wise decision of the  commercial breeders!

Back to the Recording Systems. The second type is a “Herd Improvement Programme”
This is designed to improve a given factor to reach given goals in a given period of time.
BLUP is of course is one of these but is very open ended, in that you can improve any factor, and there is no limit in time.
I have explained how or why for every factor that you add to a breeding programme your progress goes down by   “Square roots”. This makes  multi factor selection programmes very long and slow and takes many years to make much progress .   So it is not much use for senior breeders to begin now.

I have explained that recording is very important for a number of reasons.Pedigree is only important to show  inbreeding levels.This necessity is paramount.   The next big advantage is that you can constantly check to see if you are making progress.
Recording of birth weights is important if it can be done safely but no risk should be taken because injuries can be considerable and permanent .i.e spine injuries ( we have a number of cases  New Zealand).   Failure to be able to weigh calves means that you must rely on estimated weights correlated to weaning weights, so if you get a high weaning weight or yearling weight you automatically get a high birth weight even when you have an actual weighed low weight.
This of course immediately  distorts all your subsequent data on that animal plus all your averages..It takes about three years before progeny test show up their real birth weigh for that bull  By that time the bulls have used and have gone.
Data and recording must be accurate so that you can easily identify superior bulls.There is no doubt that there are many very superior bulls bred each year that are never used because they have not been correctly identified.

When I was doing all the Group recording and adjusting weights, some 800 cows and their progeny, so disturbed was I about the accuracy   that I had identified the best bulls of their year, that I ran them through three different breeding programmes.  If they matched across the three I knew that they were the best bulls of their year.  Don’t forget that we were using our best bulls each year and changing them every year. Some outliner bulls cannot be identified on their own performance and it is not until you have progeny tested them that their true worth is demonstratedThis is why we use four bulls per 100 cows. To make sure that we find the best bull of their year. If he is good enough on progeny test then we bring him back for another season and probably give him different and more cows.

BLUP as we know has a component of historical data which is used in the calculations of each animal.
It is “my” belief that there is no place for historical data in progammes designed to improve highly inheritable traits.I make this evaluation on the basis of our experience, where a bull which I have written about in the past , who’s antecedents were low performers. Produced this bull which was an “outliner” for weaning weight.BLUP gave the bull a very low ranking, based on his parentage.It took 6 years before BLUP recognised his progeny test and began to write him up.
One of my ‘genetic sayings’ which heads each page on the Pinebank Web is as follows   (any Animal exhibiting a superior characteristic, carries with it its heretibility ( as estimated) regardless of the performance of its parents.)  I rest my case

Many superior bulls are lost to the industry because they are never properly identified.

Gavin Falloon  

Pinebank Newsletter - July, 2009

The season has been again difficult. We went straight out of a drought into very cold storms, which prevented any grass from growing. As far as I know there is a shortage of feed is all over the country. The succession of storms has kept the cloud low and high moisture content has kept the cold very penetrating. Everyone is becoming depressed as we wait for some sun. The present economic climate is presenting more problems as it is world wide. We are of course in the middle of Winter with all its vagaries but I am always conscious of the saying “ When Winter comes, can Spring be far behind” We have just got our first lamb, one of the first signs of Spring a very welcome sight

Recording and Recording systems

There are two recording systems A simple recording record where every animal is told just as it is. This is the basis of all identification. You can use it to see if your herd is improving by comparing one year’s yearling heifers weights with the next and by how much. It will also tell you whether you are going backwards or forward and is very handy if for this reason alone. It is also important to control inbreeding levels, watching pedigrees to keep away from the close breeding of relations  The second system is “Herd improvement Programmes”. These are designed to reach prescribed goals in a prescribed time.

At the beginning, our geneticist did all the calculations. Then he taught me how to do them and for number of years I did all the calculations for the four herds in the Group at that time. It taught me a about the limitations of calculations and made me see that the more calculations you bring in, the more errors appear. The other fortunate thing at this time was I knew all the cattle, and as I calculated I could see errors creeping in and so I would make an effort to overcome them . Let us look at the weaning weight sums and it goes like this.  Actual Weaning weight - actual birth weight ( divided by the number of days from birth to weaning) multiplied by 200 ) + birth weight. This brings them all to if they were born on the same day and were 200 days of age. You repeat this for 400 days and this gives you yearling weights and the same for 600 days The adjustment for heifer calving as 2years old is 15% so you took out all the 2year heifers and their calves and adjusted them up by 15%. The adjustment for three year old heifers 10%, so you took out all the three year olds and their calves and added 10% to them and so on. Three year olds adjustment is 5% and after that the cows are on their own. These are old figures and they may have now changed, as has hereditabilities.

Recording systems are of necessity rigid. That can cause errors as the seasons vary and there is something called environmental interreaction, which means that different cattle perform differently under different feeding and seasons , The only way to be accurate is too make environmental adjustments to fit the seasons This goes for the cow adjustments too. If you are making progress with your breeding herd then the heifers can be right up with the mature cows, as the heifers are the most modern part of your breeding progamme. Twice this happened while I was calculating, if I had given the heifers their 15% they would have been well out in front of all the cows. Something that they clearly weren’t Rigid programmes have errors as they must have. To be accurate you must adjust to the seasons.

There are two types of breeding programmes. There is the recording programme that I have been explaining and there are “ As far as I know I have never seen an analysis or comparison of breeding programmes and their correlation with progeny performance. BLUP programmes are very sophisticated with hereditablity, repeatability, approximate economic values at the various stages, all built in plus historical back records of antecedents. Unfortunately there is nothing static in anything biological and so there are more errors.

Next month I shall talk about Herd Improvement Programmes and their limitations.

Gavin Falloon  

Pinebank Newsletter - June, 2009

The Cow, its use and place in the Beef Industry The cow has little effect on improvement in the herd because she only provides one calf per year but of course she still provides half the genes in each of her calves.

She is the hardest working part of the beef industry, because she is always doing something important. She is expected to conceive while lactating, in itself a biological miracle.

Lactation is far harder on an animal then gestation. Lactating drains all the minerals, and enzymes,. strips all the fat from the animal. Yet it is expected to conceive. Incidentally the enzymes for fertility are carried in the body fats.

The enzymes trigger the hormones which begins the cow cycling, so you can see that it is important that the cow is carrying some fat when put to the bull. Then all through the Winter while she is gestating her calf, she is cleaning up the poor quality grasses and surviving the storms.

To achieve this she must be tough, fertile, and very efficient. The cow provides the income for the year by producing a live calf. Cow’s calves vary from year to year. One year she will have a very high performing calf and next a very poor calf .

I have said that the cows performance covers the full spectrum of variability. In other words if you have a variability of 100 kilos between the best and the worst cow then the each cow will vary around this amount. One cow will vary along the bottom and another will vary along the top .

It is the variation that exists that is important and just because the calf happens to out of old Betty Black does not mean that it is the best. In my experience I only had one cow that produced a top calf every year. Her first 4 calves were all 25% above herd average, so that in her first four years she had produced an extra calf equivalent.

Every one of her bull calves became an elite sire. She always calved first and never missed calving in her 14 years. She had two heifer calves neither of which conceived as a yearling and so were culled. The reason for this variability is that there are millions of genes in the egg that the cow sheds and at the moment of conception both the bull’s and the cow’s genes are sampled purely at random the resulting progeny tends vary around the average.

It is possible and in fact probable that the worst cow in the herd, put to the worst bull can produce an “outliner” calf, because of this randomising of gene selection. I have written about this happening in the past.

The cow that I have written about above, made a greater contribution to improvement in our herd than any bull. She produced many sons , each by a different sire that produced sons that carried on the collecting of the high performing genes in our herd and feeding them back in.

Son William tells me we have produced a similar cow in the herd at this moment and it is expected that we will get more in the future as the programme progresses. Animal breeding, as anyone who is practicing knows is a very complex and difficult skill. What continues to surprise me is, that, in our programme where our environment dictates size and conformation, we are producing are the very best of the old Scottish cattle only with more size and much more bulk.

This indicates to me the those old breeders who established and stabillized the breed used their environment to dictate the phenotype.

It is only in our modern cattle that humans are deciding what sort of cattle that is needed, and I fear losing many of their more important traits in the process.

Gavin Falloon  

Pinebank Newsletter - May, 2009

This month I am going to write about the Bull, it's value and it's use.
The Sire is the most important animal in the herd.  He can control any improvement in the herd , or be the cause of the herd  deteriorating.

If you have a herd of 30 cows or so and only have one sire then 50% of the entire genes for that years production come from that one bull.   His weaknesses as well as his strengths he carries into that generation of calves.   If you use the same bull year after year his impact on your herd is considerable. It can be seen just how important selection of your sires is.

Pedigree examination is important to check that there are no known recessive genes in his back parents ,if there are that the herd has been cleared by DNA testing otherwise you may be building genes that you know nothing about and thus giving yourself trouble in the future. Trouble of this nature can be considerable

Remembering the effect that your new bull will have on your future.  You must meticulously check that the bull is structurally sound.Look to see that the feet have not been clipped and that the bull stands on his feet evenly.  Hocks and back legs must be well shaped as the bull could be working on uneven ground and back leg breakdown results in  infertility.

Spend time all through the mating season observing closely that the bull is completeing service.  Write down numbers that you consider have been successfully serviced and check  they do not return. This is one of the two most crucial times in the beef cycle year.  No calf no profit

Determination of long term goals is very important i.e, do been you wish to improve Dam traits or go for growth.   Total selection for growth has shown to be antagonistic to fertility ,so much thought must be given to direction.   Once decided,  direction should not be changed unless environmental or economic demands, force it.

Now we come to the next problem.For every year  you use the same bull you remain on square one.You are not going anywhere.You are annually contributing the same set of genes into your population year after year.   Can you afford the time

Bull purchasing time is approaching.Best of luck in your purchase

Gavin Falloon  

Pinebank Newsletter - April, 2009

The difference between Hybrid Vigour and Inbreeding Depression

-Gavin Falloon - Angus Pinebank, New Zealand

I have been guilty of saying that “ there is nothing magical about hybrid vigour, it is just the recovery of inbreeding levels!”.  But this is not strictly true. It does explain to a large degree what heterosis is in a simplified form..

When you cross two different breeds of cattle you are making use of hybrid vigour. Hybrid vigour or heterosis come in various degrees depending on how distant the base cattle breeds are.  It is well worth using  and should be used by commercial cattlemen .   It is economic and it cost nothing

Hybrid vigour has  a number of  advantages. For instance when you cross Angus and Hereford the heterosis is 5  to7 %.this manifests itself in added fertility and in calf vigour at birth so more live calvesIf you cross Angus and Shorthorn the heterosis is only 1%.The reason for this is they think that the common heritage was too close.I know nothing about what heterosis there is between crossing one of the base herds ie Angus or Hereford with the so called exotic breeds of charolais or simmentals etc.

  Its main advantages are an increase in fertility, more calves born alive and faster growth generally.The higher inbred the two base herds are, the higher the heterosis   ( hybrid vigour). Hybrid vigour can best be explained by the following: Imagine that one of your herds is a  sheet of paper  that all the weaknesses in that herd are represented by Black holes.The other herd is the same but the black holes would be in different places, so that when the two sheets are put one on top of the other the chances of any of the black holes meeting is very remote.So the resulting progeny has all the best characteristics of both breeds.

This also shows  the problems you get when you cross the crossbreds.    Some of the crossbreds will exhibit all the black holes and thus have all the worst characteristics. Very few will have a clean sheet so in the mating all the heterosis can be depleted in the crossing of crossbreds.

It take about 20 generations to stabilize half breeds and that in most cases is a lifetime.The best way to keep the hybrid vigour at its maximum, is to keep feeding in alternative purebreds into the resulting crosses.   Some heterosis will be lost but not much.

There is some performance lost in inbreeding in closed herds.Losses depends on how closely related the animals are to each other ..Son mother, half sibs etc. When inbreeding comes up to dangerous levels , the first thing that begins to drop is fertility.
This is followed by loss in variation.  Most breeders tell me that they want their herd to be “even as peas in a pod”.This is not a good objective because if they are that even, then there is no where to go if you wish to improve.The greater the variation in a herd the faster the progress you can make.

All closed herds have inbreeding depression to a greater or lesser extent.   The closer  the herd is bred the higher the inbreeding depression.It is possible to have very low inbred levels in a closed herd, this is of course desirable.For one thing it means little depression and secondly if inbreeding is kept to a low level it is possible to keep the herd closed for a great many years, which of course is the objective.To this end you must not use one bull year after year ,or bring the same cows sons in, annually, just because she is perceived to be the best cow in the herd.The minimum size for closing a herd is 120 cows.But the larger the herd the less inbreeding you should  have.Using a number of bulls per year and making sure that they are as unrelated as possible is another method of keeping inbreeding down.
Inbreeding effects can be largely disguised by selection pressure never the lesser depression remains residual in the herd but can be recovered by outcrossing   Inbred herds when used outside their own common  ancestory recover most of that depression and this is an added gain to their performance..

When I began closing my herd I believed that the top of the herd variation was as far as I could go.I soon came to realise that the variation remained the same while the average of the herd rose until the   worst cow was as the best cow had been,  and the best cow was way out in front by the same amount.   This is the way that closed herds work.But it is a long slow slog and it takes many years.

My learning was done in the late 1950's and through the 1960's.During this period I was privileged to be in the research loop.Some of the heritability have changed now and so some of the heterosises could have changed as well.

The theory remains the same

Gavin Falloon  


Pinebank Newsletter - March, 2009

Every animal is the product of its genetic code. :  What it looks like, whether it grows fast or slow, its temperament, its fleshing etc., is coded into it at the moment of conception and nothing can change it.Within the many genes contained by animals are some very high performing ones, but most have picked up about average. This is the law of mathematics.

At conception animals get half the genes from the bull and half from the cow and these genes are  picked up purely at random. Those animals that demonstrate superiority  for any characteristic have just happened to pick up the high performing genes from either or both parents. So every mating is a lottery.

Populations are very hard to shift genetically. It is very easy to shift animals phenotypically but that carries with it the same standard  of performance. ,ie a larger animal will just eat more in relation to its size.

All populations have approximately the same or average performance, regardless of whether they are very large or small. Subjecting them to a very concentrated selection to collect the high performing genes  is the only way that it can be successfully moved. genetically

This is what Population Genetics is all about.  It is the gathering of the high performing genes together from within the herd ,feeding it back into the herd , and culling out the low performing genes. Its objective is too keep lifting the performance of the whole herd.   It is important that pressure is applied to both sides, both cows and bulls.  Just putting all the cow selection onto bulls alone,  will  then just go to average cows , you are rapidly on your way back to returning to average herd performance.

I have stated that it is necessary to lift your cows performance at the same time as pressure is being put on your bulls. You do this by selecting your own best bulls annually: ‘ They must have picked up the best dam genes to have become the best bulls of their year, so these bulls are a combination of superior genes from both parents.

You change your sires every year so that the first two years nothing happens at all! This is because those first calves are one year in uterus, then one year growing.If you are using 2 year sires which you should be doing to begin with, then nothing happens for three years.   All the bulls are then by the best bulls of their year, who are out of your best cows of that year.

Next year the bulls are by the best bulls of their year who are by the best bulls of their year and so on.So you are building in your high performance genes.

The cow is different! All cows’ production varies from year to year.Only one cow in my whole lifetime of breeding has produced a top calf every year, and even she had her weaknesses.

She first calved at 18months and her first 4 bull calves were all 25% above average.In other words in those four years she had produced and reared an extra calf.She calved first cow up every year even in her 14th year. She was the dam of the bull Waigroup 1/80 that was progeny tested at Ashlands Kansas and did so well back in 1985 or so..

Her failing was that in all her life she had two heifer calves.   All her sons were used as studs.   Neither of her heifer calves conceived at 12months and were culled.  How good was she ?

This is a Newsletter on how Population Genetics work. If you examine our web on the breeding programme  , you will see how every things is aligned to make maximum use of this theory.

“But” to do this is very costly.  Firstly you have to get through the Bulmer Effect, this can take three to five years . Then you have to overcome Recessives , this can take 12 to 15 years and sometimes more. During the Bulmer Effect you go backwards.  This can and does have the effect on sale of bulls and buyers confidence in your cattle and breeding methods.  It can and does take years to overcome that problem


Pinebank Newsletter - February, 2009

The season has turned out  below average in   moisture. Having been very dry last week we have now had a decent rain and more to come this coming week. Cows have picked up and calves are reasonable.This coming rain , if it comes next week as predicted, then it should begin the Autumn growth which will be a nice surprise as we have not had a good Autumn for some time.

All our thoughts are with the farmers in Australia who have suffered the most horrendous bush fires. I see that predicted losses of sheep is 40,000 .  They do not mention cattle but they must be very bad too. It will take years to recover.

Before returning to the Population Genetics that I began to discuss last month there are two sayings that you must keep in the back of your mind:

  1. Every Bull is only as good as the average performance of its progeny .
    Therefore his best son is better than his sire.
  2. Every cow is just a gestation medium for improvement.
Very rare cows do contribute to the improvement of the herd by having a number of high performing sons that can be used as sires.  Do not forget that like the bull, their very top sons  and daughters are better than their mother.

By now you should have a better understanding of  our programme,  why it works and how it works.  It is clear when you think about it that time is the essence and the more years that we go the further progress we make.  The theory says that we should begin to gather speed as we gather the high performing genes and add them to our population.

When I began, the geneticists informed me that he had no idea what was going to happened Because as far as he new it had never been done before all he knew was that it worked and he did not know whether other systems did!

There is a  research herd of Herefords at Miles City Montana that has been closed since 1935 thirty years ahead of ours and is still going strong with no indications of inbreeding levels becoming a problem.
Because we knew that is was going to take many years,  we went to great trouble to make sure that the foundation bulls were as physically and temperamentally as sound as possible

What has pleasantly surprised me is that the programme is producing better and better classical conformation animals.Both cows and bull are becoming  more bulkier probably in response to seasonal change and their necessity to adjust to their grasslands environment.

I shall continue on population genetics next month.

A drought has been threatening on the east coast of New Zealand again this year, but in our district it has been narrowly avoided by light rain at crucial times.  We were becoming very concerned two days ago but it is raining today and it began last night. The country is already beginning to change colour and if the rain continues until tomorrow as predicted, then it will be a big help in flushing the ewes for this coming lambing. We require a good percentage of calves and lambs this year as product prices are continuing to retreat.
Like all countries the economic crisis is beginning to bite and I predict that it will get much worse.

American Ranchers continue to show interest in our breeding programme, we get a number of them turning up to see what is happening and what sort of cattle  we are producing each year .
We suggest that Americans or any other overseas cattle breeders  wishing to see the cattle should warn us, as Summer is a very busy time. It can take sometime to arrange for someone who knows the programme to be available with the cattle you wish to see.

My bit of research for the beginning of 2009 is “Population Genetics” which is what our programme represents.

We do not line breed because our whole population within a herd is one line, and is treated as such.  We do not mate son/mother and very seldom mate half siblings.
Our sire bulls come from anywhere in the herd, One of our problems is to use a top cow’s offspring sparingly, even though they are by different sires, . We must not tie ourselves to any particular female line because of the inbreeding co-efficient.

Every cow’s production covers the full spectrum of variability.   By this I mean that if you have a cow herd variability of, say 100 kilos between the best and the worst calf,.then every cow can vary that 100 kilos.Just because a calf is out of  your best cow it, does not  mean that it  is necessarily  a great calf .

Remember the Genetic Saying:

“Any animal demonstrating superiority for any characteristic, carries with it its heritability for that characteristic(as estimated) regardless of the performance of its parents.”

This theoretical point, negates the use of historical records used by the existing BLUP recording system,   and in fact, means that many high performing animals are lost to the industry because they are written down by BLUP.

I have quoted in the past our experience with a calf which at 200days weighed 100 kilos above the next best calf.  The BLUP programme wrote him to below average because of the past poor performance of his parents.

Regardless of BLUP we used the calf as a sire and he had a dramatic effect on the weaning weight of his progeny.Had we taken BLUP’s figures we would have culled the bull and he would have been a great loss to the industry.

What occurred, was what  happens rarely, in the sampling of the genetic material of both parents he happened to pick up all the high performing genes for preweaning growth.

Remembering that weaning weight is 80% the ability of the calf to grow pre-weaning and only 20% the milk of its mother.”

Gavin Falloon

Archive: 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005