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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

Waigroup sends all its readers the compliments for the season and wishes them all a very Happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year.

This months genetic saying. It is the most controversial of all the sayings:
Any animal exhibiting superiority for any characteristic, carries with it its heritability (as estimated), regardless of the performance of its parents.
This shows that it is ‘possible’ for a poor performing bull over a poor performing cow to produce a very high performing calf. This is one of the best advantages of careful and accurate records to identify this calf at an early stage. It also shows the randomising of gene selection at the moment of conception by again picking up the high weaning weight genes for this calf.

We had this happen to us when a below average cow produced a calf by one of the lower performing bulls of that year. This cow weaned a bull calf many kilos above the next best weaning weight of that year. It was interesting to see whenever the mob was mustered this calf was so far ahead.

It is interesting to note that because of the poor performing parents the recording program wrote the bull right down by taking no note of the progeny. So there was this outstanding calf towering over his contemporises which the recording figures made him out to be a cull.
We took no notice of his BLUP figures and used the bull calf as one of our sires the next two years. He was so outstanding that he made a big contribution to raising our weaning weights.

This calf appeared because he had picked up the genes for early growth. Weaning weight is 80% the ability the calf to grow during this period and only 20% from the milk.
This whole exercise demonstrates how the genes work and more still on how our whole breeding program works.
Every year when we select the top bulls of that year we are selecting those bulls that have hit the higher performing genes for that year.
This can be easily seen in any herd by using your best bull and progeny testing him against your present bought-in sire. We used balanced trait selection and have been doing it for 50 years this year.

It is a big surprise to me that this should be so difficult to understand, the principal is so simple

We had a bull that out of nowhere produced this calf which was a long way ahead at weaning This bull made a big improvement on our weaning weights. We used him for two years on two different mobs of cows and then we sold him to one of our selected buyers from which we can recover past bulls if required. Two years later we went to recover him but he had broken his leg and been destroyed.

Weaning weight which is the most expensive part of the beef production cycle is therefore of great economic importance. “Cow to grass to milk to calf.”
In the beginning weaning weight was thought to be controlled by the milk production of the cow but I remember one of our lecturers saying that in fact, calves required very little milk, especially in the beginning and it was a very poor cow who could not produce enough milk to keep a calf growing.
So that early selection was upon milk production and this misconception continues right up to the present day!

I found that milk was not important a long time ago when I was using semen from a bull which was known for his weaning weights. Upon looking at his data in my herd I was wondering how it was possible for a bull to improve weaning weights as he produced no milk. It did not take me long to work out that it had to be growth during this period from birth to weaning, therefore this was the important factor.
Weaning weight remains a very important factor in the economics of the beef production cycle.


Summer is upon us and every thing is growing well after a very wet Spring. Our country has diverted into dairying and many millions have been invested in the expensive dairy sheds, subdivisions of the land and access within farm roads. Government forgot all about the sheep and beef industry in its excitement about the demand for dairy products. Everyone thought that the prices would go on for ever, with the effect that many in the industry are very highly geared. The prices have dropped 45% which means that if these prices remain, many dairy farms will run at a loss. The financial strength of any country or business depends upon the number of products it produces and the diversity of markets that those product are sold to. Then fluctuation is ironed out.

The saying for this month is: For every characteristic you add to a breeding program your progress goes down by square roots. This does not mean you do not have a multifactor breeding program, in fact I believe that you must, because each of us should be heading off to a specific goal and you cannot achieve that goal without it.

The reason your progress goes down by square roots is that some of the characters you are selecting for are antagonistic. Growth and fertility being the prime ones. This just means that you are making progress very slowly.
It is also tied up with the randomising of the genetic take up at conception.
I have been thinking about inbreeding levels and when it becomes so concentrated it begins to limit variation.

In population genetics which is the theory you should be using if you wish to improve the performance of your whole herd, it is important you do not tie yourself in to one bull. In other words use that wonder bull on all your cows year after year.

There are a whole lot of things that you should be deciding. First you are you in the business of longterm breeding. Are you hoping for the next generation of the family at least, to carry on your herd?. If so then you must use a multiple of bulls per year to avoid getting into trouble.

What always must be remembered is that the Angus breed began from a very narrow base. This means that all the purebred herds are already closely related. This being so, then the use of the same bull year after year brings up your inbreeding levels. On the other hand it appears that if you are using multiple bulls then your inbreeding level remains close to the same and variation is not being effected.

Son William has always been worried about inbreeding levels. So I wrote to the Scientist controlling the No1 Hereford line at Miles City Montana, as I knew that that herd was an experiment on just this factor. Among the data that he sent me was a letter in which he stated that in the close to 100 years of selection the variation had never changed and he did not believe that it ever would!

In our own herd the local breed association wrote a history of the local herds in 1963. I knew most of the history of our herd in that my father began it with the purchase of three cows in 1919. I found to my surprise that of the three cows the remaining herd all came from one of the cows.
This appears to be a feature of evolution, the narrowing of the base. In his book “The Seven Daughters of Eve” professor Bryan Sykes states that he has taken DNA samples from a big sample of the world’s people and that they all trace back to one of seven women.
This does not mean that there were only seven women in the world at that time, because the women were spread over about 3000 years. But that each of those women had something special about them that their children survived, overcame desease, could run fast enough to escape from predators and all those things necessary for survival and were fertile enough for their descendants to still be around.


Summer is taking its time coming this year, the grass is slow growing but the lambs are frolicking around. The season still throws the occasional Spring storms, which keep repeating. These can be damaging to all the young stock born at this time of the year.
As in all breeding programmes everything is repetitious and so you repeat year after year. When you are buying sires for stud use, then that first calving is always of intense interest to see what the new sires progeny look like. If you are weighing at birth you have of course already had a good look at them. It is interesting to note that after a number of years of weighing you can identify those calves who are going to rise to the top of your herd of that year. This is a big advantage because you find your self watching those calves when ever the herd is in. Some calves are very hard to catch often led off by their mothers even when only a few hours old. Vitality at birth is an important economic characteristic.

The first saying I have given you is Any animal is only as good as the average performance of its progeny. There fore its best son is better than its sire and its best daughter is better than her dam.
The second saying: The maximum amount of progress possible in any breeding program is.the heritability of the character or characters, multiplied by the selection differential and divided by the generation interval.

Before you hold up your hands in horror it is quite simple. If you take a simple character like growth with a heritability of 50% now we must look at ‘selection differential’ which is how high your sire is above the average in his herd. If you are buying sires you have no idea where he lies in your herd, which of course is one of the dilemmas of bought in sires! If you are selecting your own bulls and you select one +50 k then he will leave average progeny 25 kilos above the average in his herd. A bought in sire’s performance in your herd will tell you where your herd lies in comparison with the bulls parent herd! If you are not changing bulls every year, on these figures you are gaining 25 kilos for the first and only year. This only applies to an average performance cow.

This equation demonstrates how important Generation Interval is. So you cannot use the same bull year after year and make progress. In fact the kilos gained would only occur on the first year after that no progress would be made. The simple fact is that if your own best bull is 50 kilos above average in your herd then his progeny will average 25kilos above the average in your herd. Because the heritability is 50 %. Actually it is not it is 48% but 50% just makes it simpler to understand.

With purchased bulls there is another problem. You do not know whether his herd is ahead of yours in growth or behind. If it is behind ,your purchased bull may be driving your herd backwards.

My son tells me that BLUP has begun penalising old cows so I imagine that this is an attempt to speed up generation interval. It seems to me that producing a heifer calf is more expensive than producing a bull calf. A heifer requires, getting the cow in calf, gestating it for 9 months, then keeping it for a least one or two years with no profit both of which is expensive.
But the old cow that gives you a calf regularly , is either gestating or lactating , in other words she is producing profit every year. Surely it would appear that an old cow regularly calving is worth more than a heifer which conceives as a yearling if you are lucky but missed conception the second year because she is not bred for it, or there has been a nutritional problem. Therefore she should be written down not up .

When I talk about changing bulls every year, you do not have a whole lot of old bulls hanging around because you can sell the bulls off to buyers at a premium. Make sure you sell them to a buyer from whom you can recover the bull if he progeny tests very high.
So you are realising on everything each year and that makes it a very low cost and efficient herd, and you are not buying in trouble because you know the performance of your sires.

Today there are of course herds around, that have been breeding progressively for a number of years. If they have overcome the Bulmar effect then it is very doubtful that their sons progeny would be vulnerable. This would of course mean that there would be no period of static performance but improvement would begin immediately.


When Winter comes can Spring be far behind. From my office window the melting snow is off the mountains. The days are lengthening but cloud still covers the island around where we live. It has been a long cold Winter although my old bones may have something to do with it.
Feed is very short everywhere and most winter stored feed has been used up as we wait patiently for the sun, and the warmer weather. Calving is well on the way for the dairy industry and there are lots off lambs.
Welcome Spring.

Has it ever occurred to you that your own best bull is better than your stud bull?
This saying should prove it to you. I want you to think about it because once you understand it is true, getting it straight in your mind will mean that our philosophy will become clear to you. The saying is Every animal is only as good as the average performance of its progeny.
“Therefore” its best son or daughter is better that its sire or mother. Now think long and hard about that. It is logical. If you doubt it, use your best bull and progeny test against your present stud sire in your herd You will be surprised at the results. Once proven that your own best bull is superior to the so called stud sires you have in your herd then that superior sire has its own variability So his best son is superior (to that bull) and by changing and picking your best yearling or two year bull each year you are making steady progress in both sons and daughters. At the moment you are selling that bull to some other breeder thus loosing all the improvement and giving it to someone else.
That best bull in your herd represents more than that. He represents the best bull at handling your environment your soil type and your management!!
So now you can see why we have been selecting our best yearling bulls every year for 50 years and will go on doing it for as long as future generations exist.

Every farm is different as is every farmer. The climate and soil make some farms even more different requiring animals that are bred to cope with change.
Todays epigenetics have shown that animals can change to adapt to climate change with their existing genetic codes. Characteristics are represented by clusters of genes that can be identified on the chromosome at the moment cells divide.
In the case of say cow efficiency, which is a complex characteristic, then it is a large cluster of genes. It appears different genes in that cluster can take over when the environment changes. That is a big step forward in the intense selection cycle.

We, will always remain ahead because our cows have developed along with generational selection. That is why we do not sell cows or embryos. If we did anyone could come right up behind us if they knew what they were doing. If a breeder used the semen from our best bull every year, which is what we encourage them , the closest that they could get would be one generation behind us.

The generation behind, is because our cows are daughters of all those top sires that we have used every year, where as your cows are the progeny of your stud sires. When you use our semen then the females produced will carry with them all those years of selection for fertility on a low plain of nutrition and improved weaning weights of calves on all types of feed.

I have always recommended that you use your own best bull every year automatically. This will give you a lot of information It will tell you where you lie in relation to our bull Where your herd lies in relation to the herds in America.
The modern information tells us that the American., cattle have deteriorated in the last 20 years, so have the New Zealand cattle as they are largely based on the American cattle. I have been trying to point this out for years.

There is no doubt that this is the most important factor in the improvement of your herd. Building herds and improving them is a long term job.

All that “we” are doing is speeding up evolution carrying with it all the important required characters. Competion for the right to the females under a commercial environment. Ability to get back in calf , to provide sufficient milk to rear a good calf. While the bulls go on to grow fast and efficient fertility to last for many years of service. You sell your bull on after use.

Grass reared animals can and will perform very well when put into a feedlot.
In the big trial of Waigroup1/80 back in the mid 1980’s we watched with interest what would happened when his progeny went onto drylot. We all thought including, Henry Gardiner, that he would chicken out, as all his selection had been grass, but to our surprise the progeny hung for a fortnight and the took off, beating everything including the top two growth bulls in America at that time, which had been included in the trial. It is interesting to note that Waigroup1/80 was selected as a dam trait bull. I thought that Ashlands trial included dam performance but there was none. 1/80’s carcases came out in the top 2% in the American carcase cutting competition.

He was well ahead in his time and we still retain some of his semen and put it through a randomised mating group of cows now and again to check progress. He is well behind now!

When Dr Ch’ang had achieved permission to help me he said. Come to my office after this lecture and I shall give you the Breeding Programme you must follow. I shall give you half an hour to study it and if you are still there when I return , we are in business.
First quick glance at the programme was a shock but the more I studied it the more I could see what he was getting at. My father had had a Southdown sheep stud when I was thirteen years old. Because I was the last son home out of our 4 boys I did little school as I was at home helping on the farm because all the farm staff had gone to the war.
One of my fathers good friend was the top sheep breeder at that time in New Zealand and they often sat together talking during the sale. I remember even then him saying that you cannot keep using the same ram year after year because you are using the same genes year after year and you are not going anywhere. And that is back in 1940. I could see what he meant but could not see then how you could get around it. But I do now!


I have stated in the past that I am coming to the end of my Newsletters. Not quite because all through these letters I have quoted sayings from those geneticists that I have been privaleged to hear speak, many of whom have stayed with us. This is the best way to get to know them and to learn from them.
I have said before and I will repeat it again that none of those scientists are in anyway responsible for what I have written. I take full responsibility for that. During the time when I was having this contact I was at the same time studying. This was necessary so that at each discussion we did not need to begin at the beginning with the formation of the cell.
I found that each geneticist specialised in a different side of the science. This was not surprising when you think about it and it gave me a very much wider view.

To my mind the most complete scientist in genetics was Dr Keith Gregory who was head of Clay Centre in Nebraska.
This Centre as far as I am aware, led all the beef research in America at that time. It is a tragic loss to the industry that Keith should die so soon after his retirement and I cannot say how much I still miss him. We remained friends after he returned to Clay Centre and if I wanted any information I could e-mail Keith and he would always mail straight back giving me the information I required.
After the first Tour we did together, Keith had a few days rest before returning home and was staying with us. He said to me in the morning , now I wish to see what you are doing. So we went out among the cattle.
Our whole programme was designed by Dr T.S.Ch’ang from Massey University and later at the DSIRO in Australia.

In the beginning I closed the herd. “Why did you do that asked Dr Gregory”? Because I had been warned about the Bulmar effect and the way you dropped in performance in the beginning and I wished to get through this part of the program as quickly as possible.
But the herd was closed for another reason and that was because I was looking for recessives and any other physical odd bits and pieces that might appear like bad feet which has always been a problem in New Zealand and still is.

I could see Dr Gregory thinking and then he said “Of course what a good idea!”

I went through the whole program bit by bit explaining why I was doing each step. When I had finished and his questions had stopped he was silent for some time thinking and then he said “That man of yours has thought of everything. It is the most sophisticated program that I have seen.“

It was four years before we hit the bottom. I well remember Dr Ch’ang ringing me one night, to say “We have hit the bottom. We are away.” He at this time was doing all the calculations as there was no recording program.

It is worth noting that the first year the herd was closed, I used the three existing stud sires we had at that time and added our own best two year bull. It was Dr Ch’ang’s idea.

We were using two year old bulls and 2year old heifers at that time because we were selecting for growth. Its heritability was slightly higher and you could make a better evaluation of the cattle at that age for their prospective phenotype at maturity.

The result of the first year’s mating was that our own bull was top and the rest of the sires came next in their usual order. It showed me that it was well worth using our own best bull. It demonstrated bought in sires were inferior to our own best bull. That was a lesson I never forgot.

So the program began and, although small differences have been added over the years, all our own best sires have been used every year except that we occasionally add an outside bull to the mob to test him or to see where our herd lies in relation to the other herds in the country. As Dr Ch’ang reminds me the herd is not closed and never has been.
There has always been room to test outside bulls if we consider them worth testing but it has been rarely used as now no bulls show anything as interesting as our own for collective traits.

This year we enter our 52nd year of the program.

Breeders should bear in mind that the longer they wait the further behind they will be. There is no doubt that the program is working and that all the important economic characteristics are being slowly built into our herd.

In all the years I have been breeding cattle and studying research and its conclusions . I have never seen any other breeding program in use other than the one we are useing . As the scientists designed and use this program for research from the beginning, I often wondered why we did not change years ago. If the scientists use it for research and clearly it demonstrates whatever their information that they wished to know was gained, then why did we not use it?

The reason that scientists do not use the present commercial system is that it does not work. Scientifically or Logically it cannot work. And yet New Zealand breeders follow slavisly along behind.

Present evaluation done on the last 10years of the beef industry in America shows that beef cow productivity is stagnant.

If you compare the pounds of calf on the ground and the ability of commercial cows to rebreed, calve then wean a calf then breed back the lack of progress is just shocking.

Stan Beavers, Texas Agrilike,Extension, agricultural economist writes “I can find no creditable evidence suggesting the average weaning weight per calf has increased in this country in the last 10 years in fact three key measures of cow productivity are declining. For the period 1991-1999 and 2005-2009 the average calf weaning weight declined 36lbs. Average calving rate declined 1.3% and average lbs weaned per cow exposed produce of the other two measures of the cows productivity declined 25lbs.

Come and join us we offer to you something that no one else in the world can offer.

40 generations of selected breeding, Outliner progeny tested sires available, You will have no Bulmar effect, no recessives, because our cattle have overcome them Cows that will survive on grass alone if required.
Give you fertility and trouble free calving and be easy to handle. Program will continue so that more bulls will always be available for you to continue improvement.


Winter has been very easy on man and beast so far this year. There have been few frosts and few storms but As the days lengthen the cold strengthens. So the worst is still to come. Economically we keep hearing that wool and meat prices are going to rise, but the only thing that does rise, is our dollar while commodity prices steadily decline. Even dairy prices are beginning to drop and if that continues the government will wonder again what hit them. When will they ever learn!

I am beginning this Newsletter with an equation. The maximium amount of progress in any breeding program is, “The heritability of the character selected, multiplied by the selection differential and divided by the generation interval”. That seems very complicated but it is not. The heritability of the character (say growth is 48%). The selection differential is how far above average in your herd the bull is that you are using. The generation interval is how quickly you can use the bull and then replace him. That is why we turn our bulls over each year. As long as the breeder keeps using the same bull year after year then he is not going anywhere. In fact if there is one reason why no improvement has been made in the beef industry in the last 10 years it is because there has been no generation interval.

The selection differential can not be identified in a bought in bull because you have no idea what the average is in the herd from which you purchased your bull. Even if you were told his environment could be so different from yours that any data from his herd would be irrelevant to yours. Also if he has been fed on grain rations and your cattle have not then the environment would be of uncalcuable difference. If you are using this equation in breeding then the bulls you using are the fathers of your cows , so the cows are showing the same amount of improvement as your bulls but a generation behind.

Now I return to the fact that the more factors you add to a breeding programme causes your progress to slow by square roots. So progress is not easily made and sometimes even not discernable but never the less it is there.
What is happening in the herd is that the environment is controlling the size of the animal. Due to picking the best bull every year they are gaining weight. This can only mean that they are building more muscle which is showing up in EMA.
Dr Butterworth in the 1970’s did a lot of work on muscling he found that all muscles were interrelated.

The limiting factor against all breeding programs is that life is short and if it is your intention to make some contribution to beef production then you have to hurry.


As we approach the shortest day the season remains benign. Grass is still growing albeit slowly but at least we are still getting some.
Americans keep telling me we live in the best farming country in the world. It makes me wish that they could join me on one of our penetratingly wet cold days. I must admit that looking at the weather now that I am in my dotage from inside is far better than mixing with it in the storms we get.

It would appear that the Angus breeders are beginning to question their Council members on their administration of the breed and the accuracy of their recording programme.
Every program has an “Index.” This is a mathematical calculation that aims the program in the direction that is the requirement of that particular country. The “Index” can and does change as the requirement of each country changes.
Ideally Australia should have its own index to cover its dry climate Also, it should have an index to cover the variability of the various districts.

The stud breeding industry is there to improve the commercial production of the various breeds in their country, this should never be forgotten. It is not an avenue for rich business men to try to make a clean out of money, but is a very serious job with very long term goals that requires dedication and determination to achieve success. It is not the place for fly by nighters who come in and, think that they know all about animal breeding. They spend a lot of money buying high figured social bulls looses a lot of money and get out.
There is a saying in America, that the only way to make a small fortune in cattle breeding, is to start with a big one.
Cattle breeding requires long term goals, a lot of experience in cattle handling and in breeding. The possibilities for improving the performance in the commercial cattle herd is very high, but not the way that they are going about it at the moment. We only have to look at the improvement in the sheep industry almost 100% in ten years, and where has the cattle industry has gone, I suggest backwards.

Looking at the figures in America, the commercial cattle industry at the moment has lost ground in the last four years. Whereas they suggest that the stud industry during this period has made spectacular progress. This makes you wonder how this has occurred.

Although science has not, as far as I know tried to do an assessment of the NZ industry, I would suggest that it would at least be as bad if not worse. This occurs because the present system of beef breeding just does not work. The present system of single factor selection has some factors that are antagonistic the principal ones being growth and fertility. The higher your growth becomes the less fertile the resulting daughters.

To make matters worse all the good fattening land for fattening cattle has been taken by the dairy industry. This has moved beef cow into the back country where feed is poorer and the going much steeper and difficult.
This is no place for grain reared bulls and their resulting cows. The cow must have the ability to graze poor grass and make the best of it. Recover from adverse climatic conditions ( not by having a bucket of grain fed to it every day) and still get in calf. Beef industry requirement today is probably smaller cows and both cows and bulls reared on grass so that their true potential can be measured and used.
Nothing is static in this world and sometimes changes are forced upon industries.. Those who do not meet the necessary changes will suffer.
As I said there is great improvement available in the beef industry those who do not meet the challenges of today will have no place in it tomorrow.


There is no doubt we have had one of our better seasons. Every time our grass has become short it has been followed by warm steady rain which not only refreshed the grass but has germinated the crops. , Stock are looking well and except for the remaining high dollar everything has gone along well.
It is going to be interesting to see what the bull prices will be like this year.

In this letter I am beginning to explain all the sayings that have been given to me by the top geneticists over the years. What they say and what they mean. There are approximately 28 of them and if you keep them around, they will answer most of the problems no matter whether you are following our system of breeding or not.

The first and the most important must be :
"There is no end to the improvement in anything biological. It will slow down but it will go on."

This sounds impossible but it is true. There are many millions of genes and so their combinations are endless. At the moment of conception they come together purely by chance. If you are picking the best bull in your herd , then he can only have got there because he happened to get the best genes in that mating otherwise he would not be the best.

It is always a good idea to select your best bull every year and try him to see where he ranks against your herdsire.

So you have selected the best bull in your herd, in that generation, and you are beginning to select some of the high performing genes . Again because of the randomisation of genetic selection there is no other bull like him in the whole world.

It is this randomisation and the millions of genes involved that makes the combination able to go on for ever. As you go on selecting the top bull slowly collecting and bringing together the otherwise hidden top genes. you are moving your population towards greater efficiency because the cattle are improving. They are doing it in your environment.

There is no end to their improvement. This is a very interesting concept with which I am very confident, because I can see the reasoning. The fact that we can continue for another 100 years has gone, then move sideways and set off for another 100 years is exciting.

So we press on into the future with great confidence knowing that our program is working and that our cattle are steadily drawing further and further ahead.

The number one Hereford Line at Miles City Montana has been closed since the 1930’s so has been going much longer than we have. We have been followering our program for approximately 50years and they have been going for appoximatly 89 years. They have been estimating their inbreeding level and checking their variation (these are the factors that can stop you from making progress). According to information I had from them some 10 years ago, variation has not dropped 1 lb and they do not consider that it ever will.

What has been the most surprising thing to me is that no one has seen the simple logic in what we are doing and making full use of our bulls to be coming up behind us. Anyone can see exactly what we are doing and I have explained why, this was the demand of our Government for the use of their geneticist. We have hidden nothing from those breeders who have been prepared to read both our website and my newsletters.

Another 100 years to go, here we come! Semen from the three latest bulls is due in America any day:

They are
Pinebank 89/05
Pinebank 64/10
Glanworth Waigroup 1213


Autumn has arrived and although the weather has not changed greatly the trees are turning and the nights are cooler. New Zealand is having one of those patchy years when parts of the country has remained in drought and others have had a good season.
Prices for agriculture products have risen slightly giving a little relief to the sheep and beef industry. Any improvement in prices has been quickly overcome by rises in the currency. The dairy industry has had good prices but some areas have been effected by the drought. Something that cows dairy and beef cows do not appreciate.

In this newsletter I am going to write about bulls, their patterns of growth and its effect on their management.
I explained how one year we wasted a lot of money supplementing our weaner bulls to see if they became any bigger as two year olds at sale time. Having them 100 kilos better at yearling made no difference to their 2 year old weights and they were just the same weight they had always been at sale time. In other words we had wasted all the hard feed that we had put into them. Their genetic code did not allow them to get any bigger.

It takes four and a half times the amount of feed to put on a pound of fat as it does a pound of muscle. These are old figures but I do not suppose it has changed in the intervening years.. What happens is that the animal’s genetic code controls its pattern of growth and each bulls growth pattern is different.

We once did a trial where we weighed all our bulls on the same day every month for 8 months. Bulls were stood over night in the yards before weighing in the morning. We found that each bull grew at a different time. So interesting was this to me, that I graphed out all their growth patterns on a graph paper to see exactly what happened.
Looking at the growth patterns it occured to me that I could offer my buyers bulls that grew when their grass growth was at its best. Not one buyer was interested!.
This is another example of genes turning on and off and can be clearly demonstrated in your own children where they suddenly put on a growth spurt and grow very fast for a period.

When an animal is growing they require a certain amount of feed but they will stop , and remain at their code given size. If you attempt to make them bigger you require concentrates and you are beginning to lay on fat. Fat is of course stored energy. Animal naturally lay on fat as nature demands when feed is abundant because in nature food is often hard to get and so it is important to store it when it is plentiful.

In males there appears to be evidence that excess fat can be detrimental to fertility as excess fat can be stored around the testicles preventing the cooling that is necessary for the production of high class semen.
This also occurs in yearling heifers when fat can be stored in the udder effecting the milking ability of the cow for life. A small amount of fat is required in the cow to bring it into oestrous and begin it cycling.

The result is every animal is genetically coded to reach a give weight at a given age and this weight can be achieved at any time.

All my writings have been based on 18 sayings that geneticists have quoted to me over the years and it is my intention to work through explaining them, in future newsletters. Most of them are at the top of entry of each article on our web.
I suggest you print them out and pin them above your desk because they will have the answer to any problems you may have in animal breeding in the future.

They are pinned to the wall above my desk and I referr to them often and add to them occasionally.
They have been said to me by all the top brains in animal breeding of my generation. They apply today just as much today as they did when I was studying genetics.
Which I still am.


Today is 15 March 2014 and it heralds the beginning of autumn in our country and spring in America. It has been an average summer for us and the grass is holding on in our district, but not all have been this lucky. Some areas are very dry and it is especially in the dairy farming area where I understand the milk flush is already beginning to drop.

In this Newsletter I am covering heterosis verses recovery of inbreeding and how to make the best use of these two factors.

All established breeds of cattle and sheep began from a very narrow genetic base. To establish consistent phenotype close inbreeding was necessary and this led to a certain amount of inbreeding depression. It is incredable to recognise that the vast herds of cattle we see today began in many cases from four or five original cows. It also means that all those cattle seen today are closely related.

This is not so surprising as in researching early history of our own herd , I found that of the three cows purchased in 1914,and now numbering about 100 all traced back to only one of the cows. This happens in all populations especially if they are under selection pressure.

Let us look at heterosis. This is the crossing of two different breeds of cattle that are totally unrelated and the normal one that we see is the Angus Hereford cross. Heterosis represents 5 to7% in fertility in this cross and about 2% improvement in growth. As fertility is four times more important than growth then the crossing is very viable in commercial herds. These figures are very old and it could have changed by now but the crossing of herds remains viable commercially.
The Angus Shorthorn cross has almost nonexistent improvement, this is because they think that the common parentage was too close. I have not seen the heterosis between Bos Taurus and Bos Indicas so I cannot quote anything upon that, but as there has been a lot of crossing going on latterly the data should be easy enough to find.

Outcrossing within a breed is different and because of so much common parentage, existent crosses are very hard to find. Changes are likely to be small if at all because you would be within any breed where the bull of common parentage is some distance back , and differences in background pedigree are impossible to find now.

The late Dr Keith Gregory of Clay Centre told me that the only way to retain heterosis in a composite herd was to keep feeding in pure bred animals You would use a pure Angus then a pure Hereford etc and it is unwise to try to stabilise the crosses. This can take up to ten generations which in cattle is about a lifetime to get consistency, and the offspring is likely to remain highly variable, If you wish to keep the retained heterosis it is a one off and it does not increase but it will dissipate if you do not keep adding the purebred . Then you must keep alternating the pure Hereford and the pure Angus bulls. Or whateverbreeds of cattle you are using in your composite.

There are a number of factors that are important in the building of a composite herd. Firstly it is important you select breeds that can cope with your environment . Clay Centre Nebraska who developed the composite herds can tell you what is best far better than I can.


Although the New Zealand dollar is stable at the moment, sheep and beef farmers are making little progress.
Dairy prices keep on rising which Government takes to mean that farmers are having no problems.
Once the Minister of Agriculture was either Prime Minister or second Minister, now he is either on the back benches or just above them. Once New Zealand’s income was based on the production of high class food and we had the second highest standard of living in the world. Now we are much lower largely through poor descisions and poor Government management.

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


This is what an animal looks like. There is no way that 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 bulls 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’ unfortunately this is rarely so!

It is important in any breeding program that the cattle herd be recorded as it is just as easy to go backwards as it is forward, so constant checks must be kept to make sure that you are going in the right direction.

I suspect that very little improvement has been made in the international herd in the last 40 years. The only true way to find out would be to bring back a number of old bulls with proven semen and run them through the present population to see how they compare today.
Probably little would be gained by such an experiment except to iIlustrate whether the present system of breeding was working and if not why not ? I say that it is not working and in my Newsletter I have explained why!


It is the code that we all get at the moment of conception.
Up until now the only way you could tell anything about this code was to progeny test and even that was not very accurate.
Today in the latest research DNA testing can and does identify all the important economic characterists. Not enough evidence of its accuracy has been collected but the CAC which did the Australian and New Zealand research assure me that they have run many checks to assure us of its accuracy.
For those that wish to use it, it opens up plenty of potential but lets hope that the new breeders of tomorrow have the intelligence to breed an animal with balanced importance and that it does not encourage the present rush for single characteristics breeding with all its present problems.


Beginning of a new year and so far a great beginning. Last years drought cleaned out a lot of stock so it is in fairly short supply this year, which means pushing the price of store stock higher. It is early yet and much can happen so we shall wait and see.
Overseas countries seem to think that we live in a climatically perfect farming climate. Our winters are mostly very wet cold so the cold is very penetrating to both humans and especially to stock whose nutritional demands rise considerably. But then all stock are that way.

I often wonder why we think so little of our own herd’s performance that we rush off and buy some overfed bull often worse than our own. When I was 12 years old father ran out of money so he decided to use one of his own bulls. A big move creating much discussion. That bull turned out to be a great success and so I wonder now what stopped us for doing it more often.

Let us stop and look at our own herds. It consists of cows. Cows that have demonstrated the ability to produce a calf every year on our environment and our soil type against often extreme climatic change. Then we go out and buy a bull, in most cases it comes from a vastly different environment. It has quite likely been fed grain since birth and in some cases put in a shed when it is wet and cold. We put this bull out with cows that have just calved and are lactating hard so feed uptake is high. Into this environment this new flash expensive bull for the first time in his life must compete for his feed. The results are horrifying.
And yet we will often go on using this bull year after year while the herd is standing still because of putting the same genes into your herd every year.

Life is very short and so if we re going to make any progress then we must hurry and make best use of the time available. So what are the important characters in building an efficient herd.

Firstly is ‘Generation Interval’. You cannot afford to use the same bull year after year so the ideal is to change your bull every year. How do you do that, you pick the best bull in your herd and use it once. What do you achieve by doing that. You have picked up the best performing genes of both the sire and the cow in your herds population.
You must have otherwise he would not be the best bull ...
If you still have your existing expensive sire then you are competing your best bull against your old sire and that will tell you all sort of things. Like where your herd lies in comparison to the purchased sires herd. I suggest that you will be surprised.
“Every animal is only as good as the average performance of his progeny”. Therefore his best son is better that his father. Not only that but you can sell that bull next year and pick next years best bull. So your stud sire has cost you nothing and what is more you can charge more for him next year as having been used as a stud sire.
What are you achieving , in the first 2 years nothing and then your bulls were by the best bull in your herd and the next year they were by who were by the best bull of their year and so on.

If you are nervous of such a suggestion just try it for one year to see what happens.

In the first year of our programme we retained the existent stud sires, carefully divided the herd into the relevant number of mating groups all ages inclusive and added our best 2year bull . The idea was to progeny test our top bull and to see where he lay in the progeny test.
Our bull came out on top not by much but he beat all those very expensive bulls.
There is a saying “every animal is only as good as the average performance of his progeny” try getting your mind around that and when and if you can, then take this one on board “therefore his best son or daughter is better than his sire or dam”.

This saying is the mainstay of the breeding programme.
Every bull that you use is better then his sire that you used last year. Carry on doing that for 100 years and see what happens.
How about if you are not prepared to use your own bulls then take your best bull and put against the sire that you are so please with and see what happens. You will be surprised!

You cannot use this system on a commercial herd it will result in a general detritions of your herd.



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