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Our latest
(July 2016)




Variation is the necessity of progress

Summer has gone from very wet in the Spring to very dry. In fact we are staring in the face of another drought. It will be the fifth in a row.

Rain is predicted for the weekend so we shall just wait and see. The rain was a big help but not enough. It is now the 6th of December and we are having a very little drizzle so hopefully it will help the crops get better established.

The whole country is in the grip of a drought with all farming production dropping. Weather prediction is for more rain before Xmas but unless it happens soon, it will be too late. Oh, the vagaries of the weather, on which we totally depend!

My little bit of breeding information Back to basics. In any mating there are millions of genes that come together, half from the cow and half from the bull. In the millions of genes that any individual has there are some very high performing ones of any or all characters that you can name. The objective of any breeding programme is to find and breed into the herd these high performing genes.

In closed herd breeding, I used to think that the existing variation was as far as the improvement you could make, but this is most certainly not true. As your herd improves so the average rises, your variation stays the same, keeping your the same level is very important because you begin to loose it as inbreeding rises.

If you look at the best cow in your herd, it is possible to improve your herd to the stage that this top cows performance is the average. In any female the enzymes for fertility are carried in the body fats. The enzymes trigger the hormones which begin the cow cycling. This was the first lesson that I learned, when managing a commercial herd. If the cows are not fat when they went to the bulls , you got very few calves.

As fertility is the most important factor in making a profit, no fat cows no money! There is only one way to improve fertility. This it, is to cull any cows that does not bring in a calf at weaning.or cows that do not conceive They did a research trial in New Zealand where they collected a group of cows that had all twinned and tried to breed a twinning herd.

After 10 years they had not been able to raise the calving percentage at all, It would appear that fertility has little or no heritability. One of the interesting improvements that we have succeeded in achieving in our herd after intensively selecting for fertility, since 1965, is that our cows will conceive at much lighter weights. This has also had the effect of moving forward sexual maturity and this may be having some effect on fertility. This also affects the working ability of yearling bulls.

When I began some yearling bulls would take up to a week or more before they began working. Now they begin working as soon as they go out. There is much care and thought that goes into deciding which bulls to use each year, All the herd is meticulously recorded, because in closed herd breeding it is possible to go as fast backwards as it is to go forward.

So you must make sure that you keep going forward and all the important characteristics must be taken into account in bull selection. We use four bulls per 100 cows on purpose The main reason is too make sure that we get the top progeny testing bull, so that if he is really very good we bring him back for another year on different cows. It also means that poor performing bulls has little effect and if really bad ,we can dump his heifers as well as his bulls.

We have a saying in the herd “ If a bull’s progeny test is really good we can reuse him on a different mob of cows, if he is bad we do not want to know about him. Because of the randomness of genes top bulls can come from anywhere. Regardless of where they come from. They must have picked up the best genes out of the cow as well as the bull to have come out top in the herd.

Therefore bt using these top bulls we are building in those top genes residualing in the herd. This is the principal that the steady improvement in the herd comes from. Nothing is simple in anything biological but long slow improvement is being achieved This is the last Newsletter until 2011.

William joins me in wishing our readers a successful and prosperous year ahead. Remember that raising efficiency in beef cattle is a long and slow job but can and is being achieved in the Pinebank herd.

The end of spring is here. So far the weather has been kind, although grass growth has been very slow.

Due to the universal change over to dairying, the lamb and beef cattle numbers will be well down this year. A trend that is likely to get worse while dairying prices remain so high.

Sheep and beef farmers have found it very difficult to make a profit for the last 5 years. Many sheep farms are up for sale if buyers could be found. Banks are not prepared to dump farms on the market and cause a collapse of land prices.

The government keeps loading cost on the sheep and beef industries expecting them to meet them on a steadily decreasing income. Our climbing dollar is not helping. Our Minister of Agriculture is clearly out of touch in his rush to lord the dairy farmers

This month I am going to carry on the discussion on how important temperament is in beef cattle.

The Dairy Board some years ago did a study upon the thought processes of bulls. The industry had a very sophisticated progeny testing system which began in the 1930’s. Bulls from the very best cows were bought by the dairy Board and progeny tested by AI-ing them as early as possible and then waiting for the progeny test results. So they had very large numbers of bulls at any one time on standby.

They put university students in caravans in the middle of the field where all these bulls ran and observed them for 24 hours a day. They also did observation on individual bulls. This research ran for a year and the results were that bulls will never recognise you as a separate person even if you have bucket reared them from a calf.

So every time you walk up to a bull depends upon how they feel at that moment as to whether they kill you or not !

 Bulls recognise how you move among them, rather then you as a person.

The way that the Dairy industry looks after its handlers, demonstrates how dangerous and unpredictable the animal can be. No handler ever goes out into a field to pick up a bull on his own.

Working Bulls while out on pasture are attached to long wire by chains that come from a ring that is attached to the bull’s nose. When handlers go out to pick up a bull they first pick up the bull with a long pole with a snaphook in the end which picks up the bulls ring.

The chain that has been attached to the bull, is then taken to a trailer where the handler stands in front and leads the bull into the trailer which has a solid front. The handler stands behind the front so that at no stage is he in contact with the bull. The bull is restrained until trailer has arrived at the collection barn. No handler is anywhere near having contact bull during collection.

While the bulls wait in the collection centre they are chained to the ground by chains around their horns. They are returned to their field the same way

As we walked along the line of bulls waiting for collection the following day, our lecturer told us that if those bull did not have those chains on them any of them would and could kill us.

Some years ago the Waigroup members were invited to a new AI centre to discuss making a bull available to them. In showing us his new set up we observed that the handler had no backup.

The Group discussed this and I was designated to say something to the owner ,to express our concern. He assured us that he had worked in the Dairy industry all his life and knew all about bulls and their behaviour which we knew that he had not. This handler was killed by a Charolais bull a fortnight later.

It has been my experience that Dairy bulls are much the worst. For one thing they can and do move so fast. Either way bulls are very unpredictable and children should never be allowed near them.

Selecting quiet sires can be very advantageous. Firstly it is economic as they grow faster and fatten quicker and it could even save lives.


We are into Spring now and the weather has cleared. Calving is well underway and the calves are looking very exciting. Another year is on its way, another year of building in those high performing genes for fertility, viability, growth, carcase quality and temperament.

With tagging and weighing at birth it is essential that we are able to approach every cow confidently as she calves. In many cases we observe her calving, wait for her to clean her calf and then bond before we move in. In this way we know that our pedigrees are accurate, an important aspect in a programme such as ours.

The season was difficult for most of New Zealand this year. We had the most massive snow storm in the middle of lambing which killed thousands of lambs. The snow persisted for almost of a week and it was bitterly cold

I have not heard of many calf losses but there must have been some. We then had gales which persisted for a week. Constant wind has a detrimental affect on the soil as it acts as a giant refrigerator cooling the soil and stopping any growth. We are still waiting for growth to begin.

This months research information is.."Bull Temperament has a big effect on carcase tenderness and growth

It has been known for some time that if you rush your cattle onto the trucks or get them stressed , then it raises the level of the hormone in the blood called cortisol. This effects the meat and makes it much tougher and changes its colour Cattle that stress easily have the same effect

Flighly cattle are difficult to handle in the yards and their calves are the same. This behaviour appears to be highly heritable. Calving cows change temperamentally during calving much due to hormone imballance. Nutriment imbalance makes them often excitable. They should never be approached just after they have calved as they will attack you and keep up the attack resulting in considerable damage to you.

Cattle who are genetically more easily stressed have lighter and more poorly finished carcases and their meat is tougher. They grow more slowly due to their being constantly on the move and they spend less time grazing

Stressed cattle produce carcases that are 10% lighter than quiet cattle. They have 18% less rib fat and their meat was tougher

It is of course possible to select for quiet cattle. Make sure that the bulls that you purchase are genetically quiet and are not quiet because they have been broken in by handling.


Spring is taking its time to arrive this year, in the meantime William is getting very tired tagging calves in the pouring rain. All his gear gets so wet and the record books get soaked and hard to read when he is transposing data.

He is calving 200 cows this year and right now work is in top gear, hour after hour , day after day. When you get a drop in pressure all animals produce their young and so whenever one of these storms come through there are calves everywhere.

When we observe a birth we sit and wait until the calf is cleaned up by the mother and bonding has occurred before we move in and tag and weigh the calf. If you move in too early and it is a young cow, you can disturb the bonding process.

If you are too late you have to be a rugby player to catch the calf I noticed when I began that I had about 1 hour when it appeared to be safe to weigh the calf without disturbing the mother but if the calf is big enough and it begins to bellow then all hell breaks loose.

I do not recommend that breeders should attempt to tag and weigh their calves at birth. You can get seriously injuried. The temperament of your cows is critical, your life depends upon it.

My cousin the physicist

One of my cousins was a physicist and spent most of his life in cancer research, giving patients radiation treatment called chemotherapy under a well known doctor. He also went around New Zealand installing all the accelerators.

One of his other jobs was creating new grass varieties working with Grasslands , the New Zealand head soil and grass research institute.

He added chromosomes to some of the new grasses that they were researching by irradiating the seeds.

Minute amounts of irradiation increases variation ,while too much cause mutation. That occurred at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

My cousin had one of my cottages on a farm that I had out on the coast and he and his wife would often spend the weekend ,or any holiday he had, tramping out there. If he was in residence when I was out there. I would often join him after work.

I had explained to him our breeding programme and as a mathematician he was quick to see the implications of what we were doing, and said that he had no idea that something as sophisticated as this in animal breeding, was going on in New Zealand.

As we were walking out to my car this evening he said to me “: I have something that will drive you to the moon” When we next met I asked him what he had in mind and he said “ I could irradiate your bulls’ semen”.

I was most excited as I realised the implications of such a venture.

I knew that many countries were doing work on just this subject, but nothing seem to be publicised and I wondered what was going on

At this time I knew the top beef scientists of all the major beef producing countries as they had all been to stay with me over the years. I wrote to them telling them of my opportunity. They kindly went to all the people doing this work in their country, all came back with same answer.

This work was very wasteful, that in many cases they had got no viable animals, that it was most certainly not something for a commercial farmer to be trying to do.

I showed these letters to my cousin to which he replied he would like to see their raw data. That in New Zealand we appeared to be ahead in this field and that he had reached the stage that he could predict variation. But he added it was probably unwise to proceed as any genetic changes were fixed and you did not know what you were building in, you could wake up some morning and find that your bull was sitting by the fire and you were out grazing the paddock. Playing around with the genes in any animal appears to me to be very dangerous. We did not proceed.


The cow

Having written about the importance of the bull, now it is the cows turn. It is not the cows natural job to be cleaning up the rough feed after sheep, but this is what their job has evolved in mixed animal farming in New Zealand .

If you look back through my Newsletters you will find a early Newsletter written by Priest that is the best explanation of the cow that I have seen. So in this Newsletter I intend to write some practical tips and it will include some scientific points. The grazing method between sheep and cattle is quite different as every farmer knows. But cows nutritional requirements often do not match the cleaning up philosophy of sheep as the cow should be on a rising plain approaching calving. Presently as calving approaches nutrition is dropping. Rising nutrition is necessary to improve viability in her coming calf And to get the cows returning as soon as possible so that she conceives early.

In yearling heifers it is important to feed the heifers as well as possible after calving. Firstly to bring their milk up as quickly and as high as you can get it. More important is to put fat on the heifers so that they will conceive in the first cycle. Both these things are difficult to achieve and are the causes of the failure in the mating of yearlings successfully.

One of the more interesting aspects of the cow is her offsprings variability. There are very few cows that produce a top calf every year.

I have read a paper done by our University where they state that the correlation between cows performance and calf performance is quite high.

I have always thought that the cost of weaning a high weight calf must be so hard on the cow that her next calf suffers Now I am wondering how much nutrition would effect the cow , because our cows must work so hard in the Winter we may be causing her to vary higher than is necessary .

Ranchers in America , where you have single animals ranchers may find that your top cows are more consistently producing the top calves.

Because cows only produce one calf per year and because of their inconsistency it is impossible to make much if any improvement by using them. The major progress can only be made if you have a closed herd. Then one cow can contribute a number of stud sons.

You must be careful that you do not use the same cows sons too often or you will make a major contribution to inbreeding levels. Something that must be avoided as much as you can. You can always avoid inbreeding levels by making sure that your sires come from a different cow each year.

This can be the major problem in linebreeding, as you begin from too narrow a base and you do not have the flexibility to spread ancestry to limit depression .

The main requirement for all your cows is to conceive then to produce a live calf and after that to wean it to a reasonable weight

Our herd for some reason has a high twinning rate if we hit the season right. which is having the cows on a rising plane of nutrition when the bulls go out. Twinning to me is a pain in the neck. I have found that the only way that the cow will rear twin calves is to chain the calves together with a short length of dog chain. The calves seem to suffer and the cow finds the biological cost of rearing them both, too high so that she misses next year and is gone. Now, we grab one of her calves and bucket rear it

Pressure on low birth weight has had the effect of shortening gestation. This is a side effect, as we set out to breed curve benders. Now we have discovered that short gestation has many advantages. Calves do the most growing in utero in the last 3 weeks. So short gestation allows you to have a bigger calf born early so that you have no calving trouble.


It is becoming very wet, and the ground is becoming soaked and puggie. Beef and lamb prices are rising worldwide but not over here. We are becoming controlled by monopolies as are many of the agriculture commodities in other countries. There is rapidly becoming a time when we must control our own commodities. Probably the time is now! Fractionalization within our industries are holding up progress and with too many egos at stake. In New Zealand we must be approaching the time when the dairy industry has taken all the best land and the sheep and beef industries will be down to a minimum size. Whether that will be sustainable it will be interesting to see. “ Those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it” so round and round we go. Have we no one of intelligence or vision in this little country, history tells us that the dairy industry will have a large downturn. If the sheep and beef industry has been allowed to lose its inrostructure it can never be recovered.The economics of any country depends upon the multitude of products it produces and the diversity of markets to which those products go. So round and round we go, always behind because of the stupidity of our politicians.

My newsletter this month is about the bull.

The theory says that “ the bull not only controls the amount of improvement but also its extent.” If you have a one sire herd then each year half the genes of the whole herd are contributed from that one bull. That means with the one bull, you either improve your herd or the herddeteriorates. With a new bull it very seldom stays still.

The bull is of the utmost importance, and every effort should be made to get an improver bull.

In the wild the male animals go through the most stringent tests before they get the females, but now since humans have interferred, they make arbitrary decisions sometimes totally irrelevant to what is required.Natures demands are totally aimed at survival as it is with all animals. That is why nature tests male animals so hard to make sure that the very best and fittest gets the females.In Nature animals are constantly moving to adjust to changes in the environment.But again since humans took up the sire selection process, they are selecting some animals that can and often are, right outside environmental demands

Bulls should be carefully observed when they are turned out with the cows.This applies especially to virgin bulls but to old bulls as well. Newly purchased bulls often take some time to begin working and occasionally they do not begin at all. If they have been semen tested at least you know that they are viable and should go straight into service.But this does not mean that they should not be observed as they can have accidents, slipping and ricking a back leg or their back, getting a corkscrew penis and any manner of things that will put them off working.Never forget that this is the most important time of the whole production cycle and your profit depends on your live calving percentage so anything and every thing you can do to raise that percentage is well worth it.

It is unwise to turnout out a number of bulls in one mob of cows as the loss in bulls can be high. Bulls have a high and defined pecking order but competition exists all through the season for the cows that are coming on.As the season progresses the number of cows cycling become less and less making more competition from the bulls. The bulls are most vulnerable while up working and another bull come charging in and easily break a back leg or a stifle.

If you are using a number of bulls on a mob of cows, then it is better to put them out one at a time or when you observe that the present bull is beginning to tire. Put out your most favoured bull first because if he is working as he should be, he will get a large proportion of the cows in calf in the first cycle especially if he is an experienced bull. A first season bull will service the same cow a dozen times, an experienced bull will complete the service once and then go on to look for the next cow.

Cows will come looking for the bull whenever they are coming on, an and old bull will often be in a place where he is most comfortable waiting for the cows to come to him.

Watch the cows closely in the mating season especially as the first 21 days are coming up. Ifyour cows are recorded then take a note of a cow that you have observed that has been successfully serviced, making sure that she does not return. Beware if you see a number of cows around the bull.It could be that he is not settling them.

Bull behavior

All male animals have a territorial space around them that if infringed, can be dangerous.You too can infringe their space and can be at risk. You have noticed that mobs of bulls can be settled in a field but when you mob them to shift them to another area ,or for yarding, they begin to fight and to become very unsettled. This is because other bulls are infringing their territory.All mobs of bulls have a strated society in that there is a boss bull, and if his rights are infringed he is most likely to react violently. Females are herd inclined, this is an ancient trait for protection when in the wild. All males are essentially loners and are biologically consciously or unconsciously competing for females.

Studies hve been done on bulls in the dairy industry where they had some hundreds of bulls on standbye awaiting their progeny test results.They had student on 24 hour watch studying their behaviour who found that cattle have no human recognition, even if you bucket rear a bull calf all its early life it will not recognise you when you approach it. And whether it kills you, or not, depends on how the bull is feeling at that moment. Bulls recognise how you move around them, not you as such. Movements should be slow and premeditated, no jerky or sudden movements, if your cattle are unsettled then move slowly into the middle of the yard, stand still for such time as it takes for the cattle to stop moving and turn and look at you.Then begin working with them and if they become frightened then stop again and let them settle.Never have young children around bulls no matter how quiet you believe the bull to be. They are unpredictable and can and will move very fast.

There is an exciting and new project that scientist are working on at the moment where they think it is possible to predict bulls progeny test in their DNA. It is being developed for the Dairy industry for milk production at the moment.If it proves accurate then they will move into the beef industry.

A bull is of no interest as such.It is his progeny that is of total importance. If this can be predicted in a calf it will speed up generation interval by three years and makebull selectionthat much easier and accurate.

A final measure for bull buying. If you are selling grassland beef, then selecting bulls with the alleles for tenderness makes a very big difference in the eating quality of the beef. This was where the reputation for scottish beef came from in Angus. These allels appear to reside only in those cattle that retain their old scottish ancestory. Having eaten both beef the difference is considerable and will win you buyers that will stay with you forever.


Winter has arrived with snow covering the mountains that surround the valley that I overlook.

We have gone from being dry to having a surplus of rain. Trouble is that it has been very cold and so we have had little or no Autumn growth But after that growthy Summer that we have had looks as though we will make it through the Winter with enough feed.

As far as I know the farm has not begun feeding hay to the cows yet. Bull sales are in full swing and prices appear to be ahead of last year with a good demand for Angus bulls.

The economics of mating yearling heifers

1) Having no mob of unproductive females having to be carried through winter

2) Getting an early look at fertility of the next generation of females

3) Being able to cull any biological missfits early and get them off the farm

4) Able to access their progeny performance a year earlier and cull poor performers

5) If you have a progressive programme being able to assess them earlier

6) There is a lactating advantage in calving as yearlings in that if you rear your heifers to the stage that they lay on fat, then most of that fat is laid in the udder, reflecting in lower lactating rate for the rest of their life.

I began mating yearling heifers in the 1970's. I began because my advisor told me that the industry would eventually demand it and I had better be ready for it when it was required.

Surprisingly there is very little of it done in the Angus Stud industry over here. Some have tried it and most have given it up. I suspect that the major reason is that their heifers are late maturing and they can not get them in calf. Or they may have had calving problems because they used bulls with too high a birth weight, which case you can easily lose heifers by having to pull calves, that may injure the heifer and make her permanetly infertile. They may have decided that it is not worth the cost. There is also the mith that calving as yearlings stunts their growth, this is untrue as by three they have overcome any lack of size and you want a small cow who produces a big calf to be truly efficient. A smaller cow requires less energy to keep it warm during the Winter.

For many years I mated the total drop of heifers working on the theory that they were the most modern part of our breeding programme and therefore superior.

After about 10 years I thought that I had enough data to anaylsis what was happening, and I found that a poor performing heifer never left a decent calf. That the old method of culling the bottom 10% was the best.

I also found that a heifers that had performed right out the top are often dry. This is a well known fact and thought to be because too much male hormone went through the placenta during pregnancy which was the reason for her extreme growth . Heifers like this are well worth trying as they may be just top performers.

One of the effects of our programme is that all the cattle mature sexually earlier. When this occurs I have successfully mated them and got them in calf down to 280 kilos in weight but it is important that they be on a rising plane of nutrition after they conceive. After they are incalf keep them on just above even plane remember that the major growth in the foetus is in the last three weeks to calving. So make sure that they do not get too much feed at this time.

It is vital that the minute that they calve you begin to feed them as well as you possible can. You can not feed them too much at this period because you are now aiming at getting them in calf next year, and that is the hardest part. Also you are aiming to make them produce as much milk as they possible can.

If you manage them correctly then you have no trouble and if you do have trouble then probably you have made errors in your management or have a sire whose birth weight is too high. We do not use bulls whose birth weight is over +2 and preferable under.!

So economic is mating yearling heifers that we have special heifer mating bulls, and we use our top yearling heifer’s bull each year as a sire

When I began , I got into all sorts of problems with calving problems. I was primally selecting for growth at this stage and the bulls that I was using were too high in birth weight.

Your scientist told me when I began, that doing what I was doing I would eventually get Dystokia ( calving problems ) until it became untenable.

That is the reason why I began weighing at birth to see if your scientists were right, and what was happening to our birth weights. I found that they were climbing at a much slower rate then had been envisaged , but if I was going to mate yearling heifers I would have to have low birth weight bulls so it became one of our selection criteria.

One of the problems is that high growth is correlated to high birth weight, but what has happened is that selection against high birth weight has resulted in shortening gestation period so bringing the birth weights down, this appears to be quite heretable 7%.

We now pick low birth weight bulls to mate to our heifers and now have no trouble calving. It is possible to breed low birth weight and high growth bulls and these are called curve benders.



Weather is continuing dry which is most unusual. The other surprising thing is that a lot of areas in NZ are being affected by drought. The Bottom of the South Island is having floods while Dairy farms in the North island are still dry, incredible diversity for such a small country .

 It is getting late enough if we are going to get growth. At least in the Wairarapa, where I am writing from, we had what must be one of the best Summers on record. The only problem we have had is that a plague of cluster flies.

What a mess and it appears to have been general in the farming areas. I suppose you cannot have everything. Now we are back in drought with dairy cows dried off early and the grass from last Summer all but finished. Day after day of clear blue skies that everyone would enjoy if it was not so late.

This month I am going to talk about Closed Herd Breeding. There are two sorts. Line breeding and Population Genetics and I suppose that they are near enough the same. Population genetics classes the whole herd as one big line. Where as I have always taken Line breeding to be a line within a population.

A general discussion to begin with. The major problem in all closed herds is “Inbreeding Depression” taken too far, this can be serious, affecting both growth, fertility and variability. Depression is caused by too close a relationship between mated pairs. For this reason pedigrees must be kept, to avoid mating a bull to his mother or to half sibs.

 For those who have read my history, and see that I mated my original bull, with his own daughters ,and then with the resulting cross again, please don’t think that you can get away with this

. This is NOT what you do It was a big mistake and was done out of complete ignorance My reason for doing it was that we had purchased what we classed as an exceptional bull and had been using him for 4 years. He was purchased as a mature bull and was phenotypically ideal for our bull market.

I was constantly conscious that he was getting old and wished to make the maximum use of him before he became too old. That is the reason why I began to seek scientific help and while I waited it was the only way I knew to get as much use from the bull as possible
Our programme is based on dissipating that amount of inbreeding. We continue to limit it as much as possible. Scientists tell me by changing our bulls every year we should never have trouble with inbreeding levels. But in order to be able to do this you must have a population of at least 120 cows. You must use a minimum of at least 2 bulls per 100 cows.

Probably a larger number of bulls would be more desirable. We use 4 bulls per 100 cows. We do this to make sure we get the best bull each year. After each bull has been used then we examine his progeny test. If he is very good in all important traits, then we will recover him and use him for a second year in a different mob of cows.

We try to give every bull an even lot of cows, in that they are the same average performance and the same mix of ages. We do this so that their progeny test is comparative and we know which has the best progeny test and how much he is ahead

Line breeding, I take to mean taking a number of preferred type of animal , or a particular blood line and keeping it separate for the purpose of fixing body type or concentrating blood lines. The trouble with this is that your numbers tend to be too small and after a short period of time you cannot help using too closely related animals.

Highly inbred animals are easily discernable to anyone who has had experience and appears to show up more in the males than the females.

In this form of breeding the keeping of pedigrees is most important so that a careful watch can be kept on relationships

The biggest problem in closed herd breeding is the long time it takes to overcome the Bulmar effect, approximately two generations. Then just after, recessive genes begin to appear and you are faced with overcoming them and that can take at least ten years.

Most populations have genetic recessives latent in its genetic codes. If you buy bulls regularly this tends to hide these recessives because the likelihood of your purchased bull having the same recessive is remote. In buying bulls you do of course add any of his recessive genes into your herd plus any other problems that herd may have. Of course the purchased herd may have no recessives or troubles.

 It is not until you purchase a bull carrying the same recessive as you already have in your herd that you are heading for trouble.


Autumn leaves are colouring the countryside with slashes of gold and red  making picturesque splashes in the valley below Winter is coming on fast and at least it means the end of the cluster flies that we have had in abundance this summer New Zealand has gone  mad on dairying.

This has cost the sheep and beef cattle industry  dearly  numbers dropping steadily and there is no end in sight.  Years of experience have shown us that all products are cyclic and what is going to happen  when dairying hits another down cycle? There will not be neither the sheep nor the beef cattle to convert back.     The short sited perversity of humans, Those who do not read  history are doomed to repeat it, so round and round we go. Always behind.

Back to the beginning on Genetics

When I persuaded our geneticist to help me, I asked, why do  we not breed like everyone  else.
He replied that we do not know whether what they are doing works.  We do know that what we are setting out to do does  work.  ‘Is it not better to spend 60 years doing something that we know is working than to spend 60 years  and arriving at the end to discover that what we were trying to achieve had  never worked’.
I could not argue with that and began to adopt  his programme totally and have done so ever since.

Every animal has thousands of genes. Only about 20% are used in his code the rest are called junk genes and their purpose is unknown.

Among the coded  genes are some very high performing genes for what ever trait that you wish to improve or all the traits that you wish to improve.

Every animal’s code is formed at the moment of conception and come half from his father and half from his mother and these genes are sampled purely at random. This means that in the normal mating of purchased sires, going to the normal cow, the sampling of genes tend to be average.
Every Ranch or farm has its own particular environment specific to that soil type, weather patterns, the way that it is farmed etc.
For any animal to be the best within a herd, on any particular farm or environment, those animals must have picked up the superior genes from both parents

In Pinebank we have been using the best bulls since 1965 so for three years nothing  happened while the herd went through gestation  weaning and yearling .  Then we used the best yearling bulls of their year as sires.  Next year we used the best  yearling  bulls who were by the best yearling bulls and we have been doing this for 46 years. Changing bulls every year building in those best performing genes.  This system carries with it the cows in the population so both sexes are lifting in performance annually

Every now and again at some unspecified time we get what we call an “outliner bull”  This is a bull that progeny tests  a long way ahead. All bulls go to a randomised  selection of cows of all ages with the exception of its dam and half- sibs. This allows us to progeny test all the sires of that year and if a bull is well ahead in progeny test, we recover that bull and use it again on a different selection of cows. 

It is my belief that animals are very difficult to shift genetically and this is the only way that it can be done.      I also believe that breeders who are prepared  to use our bulls or semen  would be able to avoid the known  problems of, over- coming, recessives and the Bulmar effect , two known  problems that hold up progress in the beginning of closed herd breeding.
If you are carrying recessives, as most herd are, then to become completely clean  would take about 10 generations of our semen and you would most certainly not be wise to use your own bulls.

Remember the “Genetic saying that for every year that you use the same bull you remain static”, you are not going anywhere.     So you can not keep using the same bull year after year there if you wish to make progress.



The Passing Of Bull Pinebank 41/97. It is with much regret that  we note the passing of bull 41/97. He must be one of the most successful beef  bulls  bred in New Zealand, in export  semen, to date.

His progeny are spread far and wide and represent the following countries :

  • 4500 straws to North America, and Canada
  • 1100 straws to  South America
  • 2200 to Australia.

Order  were received from Europe which could not be supplied for disease restrictions making all semen from New Zealand ineligible for any European country.

He was used first in the Pinebank herd as a yearling and progeny tested well.  He was then sold and went into commercial service for one year, as all our bulls do. His progeny test  was enough for us to recover him and his subsequent  physical development  was impressive and led to the beginning of his semen collection.

A number of his sons were used in the Pinebank herd but where he made his biggest impression was with his daughters.  Many of which have become top cows and are making their mark in the forward progress of the Pinebank Stud. He was the favourite at the semen centre.  Always behaving as a perfect gentleman and was always quiet and cooperative with plenty of character.  They tell me that he will be missed.

He first entered the Collection Centre in May 1999 and  was first collected on 13th August 1999.  His last collection was on May 18 .2009. During the period  he remained in the Centre his semen remained of high  quality never fluctuating, a tremendous  recommendation of his fertility and constitution.

His weight on entering the Centre was 1184 kilos (2604 lbs) on a frame score of 5.2. His weight quickly rose to 1222 kilos ( 2688 lbs). The Centre decided that he should be kept at 1170 kilos (2688 lbs ) for his health.

The amount of feed required to keep him was negligible. As even the smell of hay would make him gain weight. He was the only bull on the centre that was not allowed ad-lib hay.

Pinebank 41/97 was just a bull along the way and we know that each year the cattle will improve and that they will continue to do so.

Pinebank keeps a small amount of semen from our most successful bulls in store. We use this semen in the years ahead to check the progress of the herd and sometimes to recover some characteristic that the bull had in particular strength.

This year we have identified a 2 year old bull with a  progeny test of +98 kilos and he is doing this on a 5.1 frame score  This would be the highest  testing pure New Zealand beef bull ever bred.

This bull will be recovered this year and we will begin to run the tests that we do on any A.I.bull before  we decide that he is good enough to be collected.

These tests include making sure that the bull has at least 3 allels for tenderness,

that he is completely structurally sound in all physical aspects, feet, jaw,  testicles etc.

If and when he passes all his tests then we will consider him for collection.


This remarkable season continues with grass every where and not enough stock to eat it.
The last four years of successive drought has cleared off a lot of stock so that there is now a shortage. No one is complaining though, because they are just happy having some grass at long last.and the cows have a smile on their faces for the first time for years.

The recession continues to bite and the sheep and beef industry has slowed right down as farmers hang on.    I do not think that it is very different worldwide..

In the last Newsletters I have been trying to explain how genes work and how they are the mainspring of the whole biological system. Genes  are responsible for building the embryo into the total animal along the code built into them at the moment of conception.
In an animal all behavioural patterns  are hard  wired as are appearance, muscling etc  are all controlled by the animals genes.

Every animal has millions of genes  some of which are very high performing , for every or all important characteristics.     A  breeding programme should be aimed at collecting these high performing genes and feeding them back into the herd,  and in doing so, the average performance slowly climbs.  In every so many matings,  purely by chance you get an “outliner” bull which is a long way ahead of its contempories.  you use this bull to make  bigger advances  forward.

   After you have  designed a programme that does  this. You  must persist year after year and never give up and never change.   Time then is the essence, so as time  advances slowly, you add  more and  more of these superior genes to your population thus bringing the  even  better genes further forward.

Remember “ there is no end to the improvement in anything biological, it will slow down, but it will go on”.  We , in the years that we have been going have overcome all the problems, residual in our population and  have begun improving, in a process that has just begun.

We invite those of you who can see the logic in what we are doing, to join us, to help build an Angus that is faster growing more fertile and more efficient on grass, as we go forward into the new millennium

So if you wish to make maximum use of our programme, you use our latest sire over the daughters of any of our bulls

If you take the time to go through our website, take out our programme, study it carefully you will see that the design covers all important aspects
The logic of what I have been telling you is.that every year we will breed better and  better cattle.    Each year is one more year of collecting the better genes.

When I persuaded the scientist to help me and  he drew up the present plan, I asked” why do we not breed like everyone else”. His reply was   “ We do not know whether it works, and I suspect that it doesn’t, but  is it not better to breed for 100 years doing something that we know  works, than to arrive at the end of a lifetime of breeding and discover that it does not work”.

I was convinced and could see the logic of the plan. What we are doing does  work.

Therefore  then of course the most modern bull is always the best. It may not be in a desirable trait like growth it may be  adding another 1% in fertility of his daughters. One of the biggest advantages that you will get out of using our semen is the cows performance.  It is not only the bulls that improve yearly, but behind them improving in all the dam traits are the females. 

There is of course much to be learnt for us as well as you.  It has become clear, because we have insisted that environment selects the type of animal that suits our or your grassland  that if you wish to produce grassland  beef, our sort of animal is what you  will produce and I suspect that there is no other type.  It appears that our phenotype is narrowing but our  variation in performance is not. Those that grow faster, just appear to get more muscle and  more bulk. This is a feature of handling climate extremes I suspect.

This year we have identified a bull that has progeny tested at + 92 kilos at 600 days for growth.    This we believe to be the highest performing pure  New Zealand  bred bull to date and  it has been done on a frame score of 5.2.

This bull still carries with it all the important dam traits plus tenderness genes and is not a terminal  sire . We have used two of his sons this years and the bull himself is being recovered next year.
Although he appears to be another “outliner” he remains just another bull along the way

Happy and  prosperous 2010 for all our readers
From all at 


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