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Our latest
(July 2016)

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

Summer is here after what must be one of the best farming winter in my lifetime. The weather has been persistently warm enough to allow for a small amount of grass growth. All our stock have come through the winter in very good condition resulting in a good lambing and calving. Grass remains very good coming into the rest of Summer.

Written in the 5-barx and Keeney’s Corner Forum is Falloon’s Breeding Philosophy. This breeding programme and explanation is not a philosophy but a breeding programme designed by a scientist using the most modern information about genetics known at that time (1960s).
Genes are units of heritability whose movement and placement can be worked out mathematically and the programme is designed to make the maximum use of the existing knowledge to improve economic traits in our Angus cattle.

When asked "Why do we not breed cattle the same way as everyone else" the reply was "Is it not better to use a method that is proven to work, as against breeding on the existing system which we do not know if it does work. I believe does not."

Dr T.S.Chang was writing his thesis for his doctorate at the same time as he was writing our programme and he put a lot of thought into both. My job at that time was sheepherding so I had a lot of time to think while walking slowly along behind the mobs of sheep.
My study of genetics up to that stage, showed me what Dr Chang was aiming for. I could see that it could not help but succeed to slowly gather all important characters and build them into our population.

There were at the beginning four Angus herds, three others that had requested to join me. All four herds were individually closed for the first ten years. They were closed to see if any herd had any recessive genes. These had to be dealt with, and then removed . There were recessives, and they were dealt too.
Also at this stage we were using our best 2 year old bulls. We were doing this because the heritability of 2year olds was slightly higher than yearlings and we were looking at the growth potentials of each herd’s and the way their different environments were affecting that growth.

This period proved to be of the utmost importance not only in overcoming the Bulmar affect but also bringing out and overcoming recessives unknown to be residing within the genetic structure of our herds.

During this time we did a number of experiments.
We took a representative sample of each bull’s progeny after weaning and moved them onto each farm. They remained there for six months and returned to their breeder and the data was analysed. All that I remember of the results was that some herds became much more stressed than others on being moved. This stress remained with them until they were sold as two year old bulls.

After 10 years the selection goals changed and we began to select for weaning weight. This is the most expensive part of the beef production cycle.
At this time weaning weight was thought to be lowly heritable, so we formed an Elite herd. My latest findings on heritability of weaning weights is 30% so that is high. We have also learnt that weaning weights is 80% the calf’s ability to grow during this period and only 20% milk.

About this time the beef market crashed and the Elite herd became unsustainable and was abandoned. Cows were returned to their owners and breeding continued.

It was in the first year of the Elite herd that Waigroup 1/80 was born. This was the bull that supposedly went on to beat all comers for growth in the United States and cause so much consternation in the American Assn. that they have refused to release my data too me.
Waigroup 1/80 was pure Pinebank and was conceived on Pinebank before his dam went to the Elite herd. His data showed his superiority being well ahead in the Elite.
It was 1/80s progeny who performed so well and he came out in the top 2% for carcase analysis in the United States. We have retained some of his semen and he is used occasionally to check progress in the Group herds.

Happy Christmas to all the readers of our Waigroup Newsletter.


New Zealand has just had the world Angus Forum and its own 150th Angus celebration, amongst some division from within the Association. The overseas contingency of breeders which filled three buses were shown many American bred cattle.
The comment that we heard coming from the overseas visitors was “Where are all the grassfed cattle that we hear about in New Zealand.”
You wonder at the advantages of them viewing cattle so similar to the American bred they have at home again, in a different country. Why were they not able to see our commercial and grass raised stud cattle being produced at half the cost of grainfed beef and possibly of much healthier value.

In all stud breeding there appears animals that are very superior. This occurs because these animals in the randomising of the millions of genes, happen to pick up the high performing genes (sometimes) of both parents. The chance of them doing this is very rare. But it can happen,depending on the size of the base population. Obviously the bigger the base the higher the chance.

What has happened in the past is that these animals have been mated to females representing the average performance of their population and so their superiority has slowly disappeared. In our case where the selection for the best bulls is on a yearly basis , we have been slowly building in the high performing genes into our population. As a result the first “outliner bull” appeared.
This bull came as a surprise to me, but it was logical that this should happen because of the slowly gathering of our high performing genes. The first bull to appear was 1021/69 and it was 300th bull calved after the breeding programme began.

1021’s progeny grew faster than halfbred charolais on a feedlot and was the first top progeny tested bull in Australisia. He went on to be the first Reference bull of the Australian Recording programme later called BLUP, where he remained top for some 10 years.

After 1021 came Waigroup 1/80. He was an outstanding bull for both bull’s and cow’s calves and was used in all the studs in the group at that time. His semen joined the International Progeny Test trial undertaken by Henry Gardiner’s at Ashlands Kansas. There he was compared to the two highest growth American bulls at that time.
I was informed that our bull came out top but the American Angus Society. Will not release their records too me so I can only go on heresay.

Our next bull was 100 kilos above average at weaning weight. Weaning weight is 80% the ability of a calf to grow during this period and only 20% dam milk.
Because this bull’s parents were not high performers BLUP penalized the calf very highly. We ignored the figures in Breedplan and used the bull extensively with a big improvements in our weaning weights.

There have been a number of superior bulls since then all of which have been added to our semen team. All these bulls have performed very well in our own herd where they have been used extensively.

As I stated the first “outliner” bull appear after approximately 300 hundred bulls had been born. The rate frequency wityh which they appear has increased until we are getting at least one per year. As the performance of the herd slowly creeps up so it requires the outliner bulls to be even higher performing.

The chance of this happening was never spelt out to me by the scientist. It is of course the manifestation of the high performing genes being slowly built into our population and the continuation of such. Where will it end? I have no idea. But the theory is that there is no end.
Remembering this performance is on the same commercial nutritional level.

There are two new bulls to add to our exsisting semen team.
The top; bull is Pinebank 64/10 he is some distance ahead of 41/97 who has done so well internationally.
64 is accompanied by bull Pinebank 85/05 this bull is not pure New Zealand and has one cross of American blood some 10 generations back. He too has progeny tested very well and has more than earned his place in our semen team.

We continue to climb slowly for all the important traits in the beef breeding cycle. From our semen you can expect an improvement in fertility in their daughters. More efficient drymatter conversion. Better ability to recover from stress.
More massive carcases in the bulls for the same food intake and higher cutting carcases.

In two years time we shall have been operating the programme for 50 years. There has never been any deviation from it since it began. During this time we have seen the cow herd increase its calving from low 80% to 98% on the same seasonal grass nutritional levels.
We have produced bulls that have been internationally highly successful in fact in most cases beating their opposition in whatever characteristic they were competing. All economic characteristics are steadily improving. The work is safely in the hands of the third generation of owners and hopefully many more.

We face the future with the utmost confidence. As we go into the next 50 years.


I have often written that I do not consider the present system of animal breeding works for the improvement of beef cattle.
Beef cattle are animals for the production of high quality beef at the lowest possible cost that is tender and nutritious. It is not the plaything of the rich to sell bulls to each other at exorbitant prices for their own satisfaction.

Why do I consider it is not working and never has? All the graphs show a steady increase in growth but it is only one factor. What is the cost to the other factors such as fertility? Growth is known to be antagonistic to fertility. How fertile are the female progeny of these very high growth bulls? After all fertility is recognised as being three times more important than growth. It is most unproductive to have fewer calves and cows that are becoming less and less fertile.

The only way to truly check progress would be to introduce semen from old bulls whose performance was documented and re-run that through existing herds . Only then would you be able to see accurately whether there has been any progress.

Lets take growth. This is a simple trait and popular at the moment because it is highly heritable, easy to improve and all the commercial breeders can see its advantage. Then breeders just go out and buy the highest growth bull that they can find. They do not realise that the fertility of these bulls’ daughters is going to start dropping. They do not notice the dropping rate in their own herd because they just raise the amount of concentrates that the cows are automatically getting. It is not until the commercial breeder realises his cow fertility is dropping and he will no longer purchase his bulls from that breeder, that it is bought home to the stud breeder. By that time he has been breeding for 20 years but in truth the fertility has been dropping steadily from the beginning.

This may not be a genetic problem but a biological one. There appears to be no heritability in fertility. But there are complex problems. The enzymes and hormones that trigger oestrous are carried in the body fats. High growth animals tend to be leaner and so the daughters will be likewise. This could mean that the cows fail to come into oestrous. I am just explaining the reason for the antagonism between high growth and fertility.

But this is not the main reason why the present system does not work. The present breeder rushes from single factor to single factor. On finding he has a fertility problem in his cows he returns to selecting for fertility. He finds now that he has lost all the growth he gained in 30 years of breeding, only to discover he has arrived back where he began. This is what Dr Ch’ang meant when he told me “Is it not better to breed on a system that we know works than to breed for a lifetime only to discover that the system does not work!”

The same thing applies to all single trait selection programmes. The only way to have a progressive ongoing programme is to decide what are the important traits to select for and then have a programme that builds them all in at the same time. This of course means that you come up against antagonistic traits, but in this case they can at least be overcome, but progress becomes slower.

Our herd is run under commercial conditions, so our cows must remain fertile in all adverse conditions. At the same time we are making slow progress in growth. We are now calving 98% which is high even for a commercial herd but the bulls are still growing faster. The old saying that “If you select from a low plane of nutrition the cows will perform just as well as those selected on a high plane, when subject to a high plane. But if you are selecting from a high plane i.e. feeding your cows concentrates, then they will not perform on a low plane.” They will not get in calf, let alone milk in the odd season that they happen to conceive.

We have had pressure on the fertility of our cow herd since the present programme began in 1965. It would be in 1967 that I began mating yearling heifers because Dr Ch’ang commented that sooner or later the industry would demand that yearling heifers can and should rear a calf so we had better start now.

The other three members of the Group began mating their yearlings after seeing it could be done successfully. I do not know whether anyone in the social industry does it, and I do not care. It certainly makes for a very efficient stud cow herd. As of course they are the most advanced females in the herd, always the top bull out of a yearling is used as a sire. But what is more interesting is that many of our top bulls are born to yearlings who are out of yearlings.


Sping is dawning after what must be the best farming winter in my lifetime. The weather has been persistently warm enough to allow for a small amount of grass growth. All our stock have come through the winter in very good condition and every thing is set for a good lambing and calving. These north island conditions are not general as parts of the island have had little rain and are still dry with little or no growth.

Written in the 5-barx and Keeney’.s Forum is Falloon’s. Breeding Philosophy. The breeding programme and explanation is not a philosophy but a breeding programme designed by a scientist using the most modern information about genetics known at that time (1960s).
Genes are units of heritability whose movement and placement can be worked out mathematically and the programme is designed to make the maximum use of the existing knowledge to improve economic traits in our Angus cattle.

When asked “Why do we not breed cattle the same way as everyone else” the reply was. Is it not better to use a method that is proven to work, as against breeding on the existing system which we do not know if it does work, I believe does not. Is it not better to breed cattle on a system that is proven to work, than to breed for thirty years only too discover that that system does not work.

Dr T.S.Chang was writing his thesis for his doctorate at the same time as he was writing our programme and he put a lot of thought into both. My job at that time was sheepherding so I had a lot of time while walking slowly along behind the mobs of sheep, to think. My study of genetics up to that stage, showed me what Dr Chang was aiming for. How I could see that it could not help but succeed and to slowly gather all important characters and build them into my population.

There were at the beginning four Angus herds three others that had requested to join me. All four herds were individually closed for the first ten years.
They were closed to see if any herd had any recessive genes and to deal with, and then to remove them in that ten years. There were recessives in some of the herds, and they were dealt too.
Also at this stage we were using our best 2 year old bulls. We were doing this because the heritability of 2year olds was slightly higher than yearlings and we were looking at the growth potentials of each herd’s and the way their different environment were effecting that growth.

During this period we did a number of experiments. We took a representative sample of each bull’s progeny after weaning and moved it onto each farm. They remained there for six months and returned to their breeder and the data was analyzed.
All that I remember of the results was that some herds became much more stressed than others on being moved. This stress remained with them until they were sold as two year old bulls.

After 10 years the selection goals changed and we began to select for weaning weight as the most expensive part of the beef production cycle.
Because at this time weaning weight was thought to be lowly heritable, we formed an Elite herd.


A fortnight of misty rain turned into a fortnight of the most superb Spring weather. Day after day of warm still days and of course the grass began to grow again. Winter was always predicted to be warmer that usual this year and that prediction has been certainly true.

This month I am returning to the cow.
There has been some discussion about my comment that all the improvement comes from the bull but all the efficiency come from the cow. Every bull produces half the genes of many calves bulls and heifers annually.
Every cow only produces half the genes of one calf per year. This does not mean that she is unimportant, but she most certainly has the most difficult job. In New Zealand she is used to graze off all the rubbish pasture so that fresh pasture begins to grow for the later lambing ewes. Then she must build up condition quickly in preparation for calving. She must produce enough milk to rear her calf to its growth potential. She must have the ability then to lay on fat so the she can conceive in the first or second heat.
All these factors makes for a truly efficient cow. A biological miracle and yet she can and does achieve these goals.

The bull works hard during the short period that the cow herd is cycling. If you are using a new set of bulls, every year, as we are doing. then he must be carefully watched to make sure firstly that he is working, then that he is completing the service and lastly that his cows are not returning.
Then he retires to a quiet corner of the farm where he lies around all day, building up his strength for the following season.

Some time ago there was a craze for the mass screening of cow populations to get the top cows and bring them into a breeding programme. This was working on the principle that those cows who produced a top calf this year would continue to do so every year. This is not true and in fact if a cow produces a top calf she often has an average or below the next year. This could be due to the biological stress of the previous year. But never the less, in most cows the variation is total.
I have always written that if you average a variation of say 100 kilos between the best and the worst cow in your herd then the best cow will vary approx 100 kilos between the years. But the top cow it will be on the top side of your average, and the worst cow will do the same but on the bottom side of the average. Look at your own average.

Most of the herds being screened were straight bred herd of either Angus or Hereford. The owners of the screened herds were provided with bulls from the nucleous herd. This was how the mass screening worked?
Upon thinking about this I could see that because of this cow production variation his idea would not work.
So I went back in my own data and mass screened cows historically and then followed these same cows forward for four years. I found that you might have just as well gone to the yards and bought a random mob of cows.

I forwarded my data to the scientists which they examined and agreed with me. The mass screening was abandoned!


We have passed the shortest day. ‘As the days lengthen the cold strengthens ‘ is an old saying in our country. Certainly seems to be colder to these old bones. Climate prediction was for a warmer than usual Winter but no sooner said than we had one of the worst storms for many years with a metre of snow in the mountains in the South Island. This creates all sorts of problems with much of the stock disappearing under the snow. This requires choppers flying men into the mountains to tramp tracks through the snow to get the animals to lower levels where the stock can be fed. The rivers are running full and in many cases flooding the low land.

When I took over the Angus stud at aged 17, I used to look at the mob of bulls and think why do I have to put up with so many poor bulls? Why can’t they be all be like the best?
In other words I was becoming conscious of variation.
My next problem was. Is the best bull in the mob improved as far as possible? After all, the present best bull was the product of 35 years of breeding. Was this the ceiling? This was when I decided to seek help and began writing to geneticists.

The first thing I discovered was that variation was not the disaster it appeared to be. It was very important because your speed of progress was dependant on the degree of variation in your herd and it had to be constantly under watch to make sure it was not narrowing.

Reducing variation was most likely an indication of rising in-breeding levels.
The further ahead your best bull is , the better the genes he must have picked up. Therefore he is the best bull to breed from.

Generation Interval
We had set about picking our top yearling bulls and changing them annually. Carefully plotting their performance. The result was that the top bulls were moving out and the bottom cattle were dropping off.
This is of course where the saying ‘There is no end to the improvement in anything biological, comes from. Very comforting too me!

The other interesting thing we are discovering is that when our A.I. bulls are used in outside herds, their performance is much further ahead . Thus indicating that our herd average is rising. It would be very interesting to see how they perform internationally. Unfortunately there appears to be no way that we can plot what our herd average is internationally.

We know that our cow fertility has risen considerably. Calving percentages were in the mid 80% when I began. Now William has it up in the high 90% . This alone has a big impact on the efficiency of the herd.

The next thing in this efficiency is the ‘Generation Interval’.
Most if not all breeders when they get a bull whose progeny impress’s them keep using the same bull year after year.
This is no good as you are putting the same general genes into your cows each year so you are standing still.


Drought conditions have turned slowly to Winter and temperatures are dropping fast now. We have had enough rain for adequate grass growth before the soil temperature drops.
With any luck we shall make it through winter without having to feed out too much hay.
Our dollar remains obstinately high and economic forecasts predict that it will remain so for the next four years.

This month I am going to discuss animal breeding in more general terms ..

If you go to our Web and look at the top of each page you will find a “Genetic saying”. These sayings were collected by me in conversation with some of the world’s leading animal geneticists of the 1970’s through to the 1990’s. Geneticists like any other scientists specialize in different aspects of animal breeding, so if you print out all those ‘sayings’ you will find the answer to any breeding problem you come across in the managing of your own stud.

To begin with
‘There is no end to the improvement in anything biological, it will slow down but it will go on’ This saying is very exciting to any breeder, but appears to be an anachronism, How can anything go on for ever, so it throws into doubt any of the other sayings. If you cannot get your mind around this saying, how can any of the others be true, and your confusion is justified.

The reason that this saying is true is that every animal has millions of genes. At the moment of conception these genes come together purely by chance which means that there are billions of different combinations of animals produced. This also explains why all animals and humans are unique.

Among these millions of genes are some very high performing ones. Every breeder will spend very many years trying to find them and build them into his herd. This also explains why if you ever began to plateau then you can move sideways and carry on. This also explains why top animals can come from anywhere.

When I have stated that after 100 years we will move sideways and carry on. This did not mean that I thought that we would be beginning to ceiling, because we would have hardly begun. After 100 years we will just carry on improving the herd with no necessity to move sideways or any other way.
The only thing that is true is the longer we carry on the better the herd becomes. After all we are just speeding up evolution while still working within the laws of nature.

Dr.Ch’ang told me that there is no chance that you will get any benefit from our breeding Programme in your lifetime ..
It is your son and grandson that the future belongs too.


The drought has broken and we are having good grass growth. How long it continues will be the question and whether it lasts long enough to build a base of grass for winter feed. At the moment it looks promising Stock in our area is looking remarkably well considering the short amount of feed that has been available. Long may it last. Rain has not been evenly spread over New Zealand and some of the country remains in the drought. Mainly the centre of the north island which is unusual because it is high and often the first place to get rain.

The topic of this month is ‘Outliner Bulls’, where they come from, and how best to use them.

The randomisation of genes that every animal gets at the moment of conception tends to be average for that population. There are some animals who will receive good genes and some who will receive poor genes. This is of course the normal spread. As I have explained the bigger this spread the faster the progress in improving your herd. Because the poorer genes make the bottom worse and can be culled, the better genes are farther out the top so the selected sires are farther ahead.

If you are setting out to begin a programme such as ours then the base cattle should be as diverse as possible. Something our herd most certainly was not, but a big effort was made to diversify it in the beginning. This is necessary because as the years progress, if the programme is still running there is a risk of inbreeding. Something you wish to avoid as long as possible.

As you begin to feed the high performing genes into your population by selecting your top performing bulls, and changing them each year., the concentration will begin to produce these outliner bulls. We produced our first ‘outliner’1021/69 nine years after the programme began. He was the first progeny tested bull produced in Australasia. His progeny proved superior to half-bred charolais for growth and carcase analysis in a dry lot. He became reference bull for the beginning of the Australasian Recording Scheme, and remained at the top for ten years.

Outliner bulls do not come regularly and neither do you expect them too. Sometimes there will be a period of three or four years before you get a new one, but each one must be superior to the last. Of course these bulls are used in the stud and go through the normal progeny test system. It is not until this has been completed that we can evaluate how good the bull is.

Sometimes the bull is bought back for a second mating but he has to have demonstrated his high superiority, then he is kept for the A.I team. All bulls in our A.I. team have been outliner’s in their year. It is expected that as the programme progresses, we will get better and better bulls, the cows will be dropping behind although the bottom performer will be dropped off.

With bulls you only take the very top, with cows you take the total drop, and they must calve a number of years before their worth can be realised. That is why the cows’ keeps dropping behind and the bulls keep forging ahead.

This does not mean that I do not have the greatest respect for the cow. She has to work for the whole year. Firstly she must never miss a calving and then she must bring a live calf in at weaning. She must also cope with the vagaries of the feed and weather and keep her calf alive. Our cows run under standard commercial conditions, so no hard feed in the winter. Perhaps it could be argued that they are under just as much selection pressure as the bulls . The respect that we have for our cows is manifest in the fact that we do not sell cows or embryos because we consider them to be unique. It is easy enough to change selection direction with the bulls but almost impossible with the cows.


Drizzling gentle spasmodic rain is trying unsuccessfully to break the drought. New Zealand dollar keeps rising. Sheep and beef farmers income keeps dropping. Dairy prices keep on rising which Government takes as meaning that farmers are having no problems. Once the Minister of agriculture was either Prime Minister or Second Minister, but now he is either on the backbenches or just above them. Once New Zealand’s income was derived by the production of high class food and we had the second highest standard of living in the world, now we are nuch lower largely through poor decisions and poor Government management.

This month I am going to talk about Phenotype verses Genotype. One is of no importance the other of vital importance


This is what an animal looks like. There is no way this will tell you how an animal will perform Yet it is the most popular method of selecting sires for your herd.
Phenotype is largely produced by feeding and its main criteria is the ability of the animal to lay down fat evenly. Neither of these characteristics have anything to do with the ability of the bull to pass on economic characters to its offspring.
The main reason for the purchasing of the bull working on this principle is that ‘like tends to produce like’ .
It is important in any designed breeding program that the cattle herd is recorded, as it is just as easy to go downhill as it is to make progress. So constant checks must be kept to make sure that you are going in the right direction. I suspect that there has been very little improvement in the national herd in the last 40 years.
The only true way to find out, would be to bring back a number of very old bulls and float them through the existing herds to see how they compared today.
Probably little would be gained by such an experiment except to illustrate whether the present system of breeding was making progress. I suspect not!


It is the code that we all get at the moment of conception. This is the genetic structure of the animal and this can be most easily seen by looking at his pedigree.
Gathering the high performance genes in your herd is the objective of any breeding program, and how successful you are can be seen in the pedigree.
Generation interval will quickly show whether progress is being made. I have explained how every animal has many high performing genes for every important economic characteristic in the many millions of genes in his genetic code.
The secret is to design a program to get at those high performing genes and build them into your herd.

It is interesting to note that after approx 50 years of selecting these genes all the many outstanding bulls that we have bred are beginning more and more to look like the bulls shown in the very old photos.
This indicates to me that in the beginning the selection of the early animals and the intense inbreeding while they establish colour and type was breeding a high performing animal it was only subsequently that we let that type, which I suggest was ideal for that environment, slip away.

In the modern rush for single trait selection we have distorted the animal.
The desire for greater growth changed the type from thickset to large framed narrow cattle with little muscle and fertility dropped right away. ‘Giving credit to the saying if you move an animal outside its environmental shape the first thing that happens is loss of fertility.’


The drought continues. Most of the North Island has been declared a drought area.
We hope that we get some rain before the cold weather sets in, otherwise we are in for a very difficult Winter.

Making the maximum use of herd sires.

Many herds have a number of herd sires because the number of cows warrants it. Have you identified which bull is the best and by how much is he superior?
The ideal in any herd is to single bull mate, if at all possible
Amongst other things you have a number of options. You can set out to have a nucleus herd consisting of the best cows going to the best bull with the intention of using the nuclei bulls sons as sires. You can use him across all ages with the objective of lifting the average of the herd.

One thing I would suggest is that you select your own best bull and add him to your sire list, trying him, for one year. Then replace him with next years top bull and add one of our bulls to your mating groups. This gives you some interesting information about your own herd. It tells you where your herd lies in relation to other herds. Comparing your bull with the other stud bulls. Remembering that you considered that your selected stud bull was well above average if not top in the contributing herd.

I do not recommend that you put a number of bulls out in the same mob of cows. While bulls work they are very vulnerable to damage of a serious kind. eg Broken hips, broken penises. and just being prevented from working by constantly being picked on by other bulls, some of whom may be less fertile than the enthusiastic hard working bulls.

Here is a method you can use to avoid putting out a number of bulls with a mob of cows. Keeping the mob of bulls close and on standby you put out your best bull on his own.

Experienced bulls will serve one cow and then move onto the next. If there are a number of cows in season, this bull can and will settle a lot of cows. After one week you then bring that bull in and exchange for the next best bull and so on. Using this method you get the most out of all your bulls. And certainly the most calves from your best bull A new and inexperienced bull will serve the same cow a number of times thus wasteing himself.

In our herd each selected sire gets 25 cows. Taking out his dam and half-sibs each bull gets a random mob of mixed aged cows. This is done because we are always looking for that high progeny testing bull which we recover and bring back for a second year. We have a number of buyers who are watching what we are doing. We sell bulls too which we consider we are likely to recover.
If we are recovering a bull we replace him with another of the same performance from the next year’s set of sires

Recovered bulls get a different mob of cows next year and then we see if he can still retain his superiority over the next generation of yearling sires.

Probably our biggest problem with our system is that brinigng in a new set of yearling sires per year, is that they must be watched carefully for some time to make sure that they are achieving a completed service. Then we must take numbers of the cows when they are served to make sure that they do not return. Mating is a busy time for us!

Some years ago our Dairy Board did a study on the thought processes of bulls. They had about 400 bulls on standby at any one time, waiting to be progeny tested. The research included having students living in a caravan studying the interrelation of bulls one to another 24 hours per day.
Their findings were that bulls do not relate to people in that you can bucket rear a bull and it will not recognise you when you appear each morning. Whether it kills you or not depends on how the bull feels l at that moment. A bull will kill you and roar around on the blood created for a couple of days and then forget all about it. What it does recognise is the way you move around him,. You must move slowly and with confidence this applies to all cattle you are working with We always work with the cattle on foot. This is a lifetime habit, because we think that it quietens the cattle. We do not have any horses on the farm now.

Incidentally dairy bulls are the most dangerous of all bulls that I ever handled. All bulls are very unpredictable all the time and dairy bulls are much the worst.

I use to go to all the Dairy Conferences as they knew more about cows and bulls than I would ever know as they lived with their animals all day every day. Also they had done a lot of research on behaviour studies and how to be handling cattle safely.

The protection they provide for their bull handlers is complete and demonstrates the danger that these handlers are under.

The working bulls at the artificial breeding Centres are grazed out in their paddocks on long wires and the bull is attached to the wire by a ring in his nose attached to a long chain which is attached to the wire.

No handler is allowed to pick up a bull for collection on his own. Two men go out with a trailer attached to a utility. The bull is picked up by one of the men with a long pole with a snap hook on the end. The snap hook then picks up the bull so the handler is protected by the bull being held at some distance by the pole. Meantime the other handler takes the long chain off the wire and leads the bull to the trailer passing the chain through a hole in the front of the trailer. Neither of the two handlers are at any time in close contact with bull. Bulls are taken into the collection barn and are chained up for the night.
As we walked down the line of bulls who were ready for the mornings collection our lecturer told us that if the bulls were not contained as they were, then any one of them could kill us, and would not remember anything about it in the morning.

Not long after we had had our lecture from the dairy Board about the danger and unpredictability of bulls, our breeding group was invited to a newly established A.I Centre to supply them with bulls. We were shown around by a very proud manager and we observed that his handler had little or no protection. On questioning the owner , he assured us that he had been handling bulls all his life and knew all about them. The handler was killed one month later by a charolais bull.


We are experiencing the hottest driest Summer for some time. The drought has returned and water is becoming short. NZ usually has plenty of water because we have large rivers running from the mountains to the sea.
We may be running out of water but our dollar defies gravity and keeps on rising pushing our exports lower and lower. Our politicians seem to think this is good as all our imports are cheaper but they do not appear to have realised that their tax will be much lower this year.

All improvement comes from the bull. The number of cows the bull covers, will control the value that he has in that herd. If you have a small herd and only one bull then that one bull controls whether the herd makes any progress or goes backward. He is responsible for a total generation. With all bulls it is important you know as much about them as possible. Your future and your herd’s future depends on it. For every year you use the same bull you remain on square one. You are contributing the same genes into your herd each year so you are making no progress, good or bad.

All herd efficiency comes from the cow. She is responsible for conceiving every year and rearing a good calf.
To my mind it was when I began tagging and weighing at birth that I really began to get a grip on raising the efficiency of the cows.

Our cows are very quiet and we select to keep them that way. I began identifying at birth because the American scientists told me that what I was doing would lead straight to calving problems. They thought I was selecting only for growth. They also told me I would not be able to tag and weigh during calving. I began tagging and weighing at birth to see if our birth weights were rising. Now it has become an important part of the breeding programme. Important but too dangerous to try if your cows are likely to attack you. You are too vulnerable while you are dealing to the calf and can get seriously injured. I do not recommend it.

There are a number of advantages in tagging at birth. The first being the positive identification of calf to cow, you see it born. You wait until the cow and calf have bonded which it takes about five minutes while she licks and nuzzles the new born calf. then go in and tag and weigh the calf. I consider that I had about 10 minutes in which time I appeared to be safe.

An interesting side bit to this was that New Zealand became involved in dealing with a recessive gene many years ago and one of our scientists developed a test to identify the carriers of this recessive. When scientists came to DNA test the herds for carriers they found that the only herd whose pedigrees were accurate were Pinebank because of the tagging at birth. This is many years ago. So they asked me if I would run a research mob of identified carriers of the recessive This I did and the scientists collected a mob of cows known to be carrying the recessive Every calf born in the research herd was bled at birth and any calf that was born dead was rushed through to the Veterinarian University for Post Mortem. It worked out a perfect mathematical model. 25% were clinical so carried two copies of the gene 25% skipped the gene so were clear and 50% remained carriers of the gene with a single copy of the gene I cannot remember how big the research herd was it is so long ago.

I found other advantages that came from the tagging and weighing at birth. I had the biggest cow culling that the herd had ever had after that first year was complete.
Because being around the calving herd all the time and watching most of the cows calve I learnt a lot. Very rarely cows will attack their calves just after they are on the ground. My impulse was to rush in to prevent what appeared to be damage to the calf, but in letting a cow complete its roaring and rolling the calf around I discovered that it was the cows method of stimulating the calf to begin its breathing.

Next I found calves lying in the rushes that appeared to have had little or no milk. I took the calf, found the mother took her down to the yards and found that the cow had mammitious or bad milk,another reason for culling. Then I found that cows that had been recorded as having calved, appeared at mating to have a bag and was being suckled, was remated but turned out not to have a calf at foot. Upon checking back on the records, she had been doing this for some years, so she was in the next lot for culling. The last lot to go were those that failed to mother satisfactorily, the calf was doing badly because the mother had little milk or was reluctant to let the calf feed.

Our herd is derived from the old Scottish angus. Many of those herds were very small herds living inside all winter and were constantly in close contact with humans I imagine ,that temperamental cattle were not tolerated. I culled any cow that showed any signs of attack right from the beginning and we still do.

The other method I used in my day was that all calves were taught to tie up . Mobs of cows and calves were bought in three days in a row. Calves drafted off, caught and tided up with a leather halter. The staff and I would handle them until they stopped pulling back. After they had stopped pulling then we would let them go and return them too their mothers. We did this three days in a row if possible and notes would be taken on their behaviour. This had a number of advantages. You could catch a calf in the paddock and deal to it if it was injured, also the cows or the bulls never forgot and could be tied up if it became necessary.
The cattle are not now taught to tie up economics, labour, and time are the reason.

Today any or all animals can be DNA tested to positively identify parentage and all semen collected must be DNA tested.

All these things can be done without tagging at birth of course, but I have just mentioned them to show what I learnt when I became closely involved with the calving cows. A dramatic improvement in efficiency occurred. Calving is the most vital time of the year and the whole season must be aimed at it.


What began as a potential servere drought has temporally eased as we have just had close too an inch of the most perfect gentle steady rain. All the supplementary feed crops have greened up and it looks as though they will survive. The grassland farmers will pull through another year although it depends on whether the drought returns which it has in our district.
Most product prices are abysmally low due to our steadily climbing dollar
It is estimated that many of both dairy and beef farmers will run at a losses this year.

This month I am going to identify those factors that make for efficient beef production and what you can do too improve yours.

The first factor must be fertility. No live calf. no profit. The cost of running an empty cow through the Winter is high and cannot be justified even if she is a pure bred cow. In fact the pure breeding industry which supplies the commercial industry with bulls , certainly must not tolerate dry cows.

Fertility in cows appears to have no heritability. I do not know about repeatability.
This was the finding of a scientist out here who collected cows that had twinned and mated them to a twin bull. After 10 years of selection he had not succeeded in raising the calving percentage by even one percent so the trial was abandoned.

There are however some things that you can do to raise the number of calves born in your herd :
1) Cull every cow that fails to conceive i.e. pregnancy test after the bulls come out.
2) Cull every cow that does not walk in at weaning with a live calf.
3) Mate and calve yearling heifers. This allows for the early identification of any sexually malformed heifers.
4) Overmate at turnout time to allow for those cows which fail to conceive to be culled and you will end up with the number of cows you intend to Winter
We have been using these suggestions since 1965 and are now averaging 98% calving.

Our herd of cows has a high twinning rate depending on the season. If our cows have a mating season of abundant grass and are flushed during mating then we get a number of twins. To our mind these are of doubtful value because we find that the cow will wander off with the strongest calf leaving the weakest behind. We then have some difficult identifying the calf’s mother. If the cow mothers both calves then she will fail to conceive the following year. This is due to the biological stress of supplying both calves with a full supply of milk. Milk production is far harder on any animal than gestation as it drains all the minerals and proteins from her system.

Some cows are more efficient then others namely they consume less dry matter per conception and lactation .. The problem is how do you identify and breed these more efficient cows into your herd so that your herd is on a steady rising plane of efficiency.
If you are selling all your best bulls then you are giving all your bull buyers the benefit of all your best cows, and you are going backwards. Admitedly the bull you purchase from some other breeder could be out of his best cow, but do you check to make sure, and how do you know that it is better then your cows who are bred under your environment and farming conditions. Chances are that they are out of a cow that has been under considerably higher feeding and could even be foster mothered or the cow could have been of low fertility.

To my mind raising efficiency in your cow herd is one of the major improvement possible to lower your cost of production and steadily improve your herds over all performance.

In a breeding programme such as ours the more efficient cows are automatically used and make their contribution to progress. As I have stated many times our stud herd is run under commercial conditions. We consider this to be important because the bulls that we produce must perform in the industry under the conditions that the farmer runs his farm. Certainly I have seen a marked improvement in the cows ability to conceive under drought stresses and come through rearing a good calf.

According to the research I have studied and the period we have been in the programme, I consider that our cows at the moment are at leased 20% better than when we began. I also consider that the National herd has not improved at all because there has been no selection on cow efficiency and the present system that the stud cattle breeds under selection for female efficiency could not be applied anyway

One of the measures that makes me confident about the superiority of our cows is that we have at various times purchased cows often from dispursals. None of these cows have lasted more that one year they just calve and then are gone they just do not compare. We do not sell cows as we consider them to be unique.

I have not succeeded in getting a heritability for efficiency in cows from any scientist world wide that I have applied too but have seen a quote of 40% in an American Forum. If this quote is correct then it is high and plenty of progress is available when correct methods are used.


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