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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

We approach to the end of 2015 it has been an informative year.  Firstly the present programme has been running now for 53 years. Our herd began in 1917 the present program began in 1961, and it was 1965 that the other herds asked to join and the Waigroup was formed.  It means that our herd was always one generation ahead of the other herds.  This was an advantage because the other members were concerned about the appearance of the animals 20 years hence.  Now they could see what was evolving as the years went by and could watch what was going to happen in their herds.

There is no doubt in my mind that our present breeding program can and does fill all requirements for modern beef breeding. It is totally dominated by nature’s demands, nowhere do we cross them.

Not only does the program breed in the important ingredients but it has the flexibility to move the herd in any direction quickly should circumstances require.

Because we are using our own bulls, we know all about them. The fact that they are the best bulls of their year out of a mob of some100 odd bulls, means that they have made the best use of our environment and have a superior genetic structure.

It also makes maximum use of Epigenetics.
The fact that genes turn on and off has been known for some years. It was believed in the past that genes were stable when in a code and could not change. Genes not only can change but do change as circumstance demands, environmental shift being the major cause.

This opens up a whole new era and explains how evolution came to create all the different animals and continued to refine those still in existence. These changes when occurring are heritable and fed high concentrate foods all its life then the  ability to make use of these feeds, which are not natural to cattle may become dominant in. cattle.    This would explain why in those early days, when all stud animals were fed high levels of concentrates and often spent most of their time in stalls, these animals collapsed when purchased and put into a grazing environment.

I have explained how when my son took over the stud herd he reduced the cows level of food intake to the level where I thought that he threatened fertility. Two years later the herd was producing 98% calving and doing very well on the reduced quantity of feed in fact they looked as well as they had on the higher plane. This had of course added to its efficiency.

Fertility is the most important trait in any breeding program and the tolerating of any empty cows is not on.

In the beginning Dr Ch’ang said  the industry would demand that cows produce as yearlings, and so we should begin mating our yearlings. I began doing this wondering what my conception rates would be, because as far as I knew yearling heifers had never been mated.

Conceptions were quite low to begin with but as I learnt the management better so my rates began to rise.  No one in the group followed me but watched to see whether it would work.
Now we have reached the stage that any yearling that fails to conceive is automatically culled.  This created some interest at our Agricultural University.

I do not know whether the mating of yearling heifers is normal practice. It is normally used here in the commercial beef herds now rarely in the registered herds.  It should be standard practice.
Having a mob of empty female cows on your ranch or farm is unnecessary and wasteful especially as they can be productive.  Today we have found it be practised for a number of years in the more progressive herds and it has a number of advantages.

It gets an early look at the heifers progeny

1. You get those extra calves for sale.

2. Cows that have calved as yearling tend to be better calf rearers.

The successful mating of yearling heifers takes a little management.  Heifers after weaning must be done well but then as mating approaches they require flushing.

After mating then do not push them or you get into calving problems.  Remember that the biggest gain in foetal weight is the last three weeks before calving.  After calving they must get all the feed they will eat remembering that lactation is far harder on an animal then gestation and we must build our young cows to conceive the next year. If they fail to conceive then you have lost the advantage of that extra years production.

Some years later we began using yearling bulls.  The biggest gain in doing this was to speed up our Generation Interval, but we lost a little in performance accuracy.  We are pushing the herd into early maturity which is a good thing.

Identification of the top yearling bulls is easy if you pick “singlefactor selection” then you can come up with some unusual results.  Single factor selection has been tried and is still being tried by a number of herds in New Zealand.  The major factor selected is growth.  It is well know that growth is highly heritable at 48%.  This means that a bull that is 100 lbs above his herd average will leave calves 50lbs above average in his herd and it is possible to produce fast growing cattle very quickly.  Unfortunately this appears to carry with it some limitations in carcase conformation, which I do not think would be acceptable to the butchers or consumers of beef.

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my readers


Summer is coming but it is different this year with the temperature swinging wildly back and forth. Grass is growing and stock prices are falling. Dairy prices have taken another drop. Bad drought is still being predicted so we shall have to wait and see. Farmers are taking all the necessary precautions to be ready for the later shortage of stock food,mainly grass. Pre lamb shearing has been completed and docking has been done and it looks as though lambing percentage is down a bit this year.
Rain is just beginning to fall and this will add to the storage of grass if the predicted drought comes.

Genetic saying for this month is;
Mutation is the life blood of evolution, it is responsible for all changes both good and bad.

Mutation is the only reason we are here today in our present form all animals included.
The good mutation makes the animal more able to adapt to changes in the environment the bad, the animal dies off or leaves no offspring.
The well designed breeding programme seeks good mutations and discards the bad. The dictionary definition of mutation is’ A natural variation of a breed or animal’.

There is much discussion on the value of inbreeding as a stabilization of breeds. How to succeed and to make use of its variations.

In the human animal the one man one woman would mean the minimum amount of inbreeding as every man has the chance to leave at least one offspring. Where as in animals the dominant sire leaves many sons and daughters so over time the inbreeding level must rise.

By careful management to make sure that no sire goes over his own daughters or sire over his own mother and no mating of half sibs. Closed herd breeding does not appear to have any bad effects. In fact all those vast herds of black cattle that roamed the prairie must have been quite highly inbred, because the original angus breed from which they came began from a very narrow base of just a few animals. This base must have had no recessives or if they did those recessive, must have been quickly removed. There were few or no recessives in those herds of long ago. As far as I am aware there are no visible recessives in the present original Scottish cattle .

If there are any gene recessives then closed herd breeding can have, and often does have, disasterous results. The easiest way to check on whether in breeding is getting too high, is loss of variation.

Spring is here and the weather has been kind after a very wet and cold Winter. All that is behind us as we head into a new season. Grass had begun growing, lambing will be down a little and our calving will be average. I have not heard from the dairy industry and although dairy prices have risen they are still someway from their breakeven point. The genetic saying for this month is:

‘Weaning weight is 80% of the calf’s ability to grow during this period and only 20% is milk production of the cow.’

This mitigates the enthusiasm for breeders breeding excessive milk into their cows. As a scientist once said to me “It is a very poor cow that cannot provide enough milk for her calf.” Excessive milk only leads to early breakdown in the udder and early cow culling.

It has been considered that weaning weight is highly correlated to final weight. I do not know whether this is still thought to be so, as I have not seen any late research but weaning weight has always been considered to be very important.
All animals grow in fits and starts and anyone can see this clearly exhibited in their own children.
I have written about an experiment we did some years ago weighing our sale bulls on the same date every month. I cannot remember exactly why we did this but what I do remember was graphing all the bulls individually and being surprised about the variation of different bulls growth patterns.
I suddenly saw the implication of the data. Farmers are very conscious how grass grows at different times if they get any at all through the winter months and the growth was very different between farms. I could offer bulls that grew to fit their new farms growth patterns. No one could consider this was a great success as not one buyer was the least bit interested! Even when I pointed out that if he purchased a bull that grew at this vital time that all their calves would be bred to grow at that time.
Still nothing doing until I suddenly realised that none of the farmers had any idea of their farm’s growth patterns!

At the beginning of our program we had three breeders who asked if they could join me and that was when the Waigroup was formed.
The third year Dr Ch’ang wanted to find out more about the farms and cattle that he had landed himself with so he set up ‘The weaner exchange program’. In this program we exchanged a representative of each bulls progeny onto each farm and grazed them for three months after weaning. This represented some 15 sires as we were mating four bulls per 100 cows. I think it is a smaller number today!

This was done for two reasons:
   1) To keep inbreeding levels as low as possible.
   2) To make sure that we identified each years best bull.
All these things continue right through to the present day and we have had no decrease in our variation (an indication of inbreeding levels) and all our important economic traits have steadily improved.

The program has been operating for 53 years now, so there is only 47 years to go! After that we will move sideways a little and operate for another 100 years remembering, ‘That there is no end to the improvement in anything biological, it will slow down but it will go on.’

Collapse of the dairy industry is bringing home to our government for the first time just how important agriculture is to our country’s finances. As our basic agriculture products drop in price economic recession begins. Although the politicians are shouting that everything is fine and that our dropping dollar is compensating, will that be enough?

What the future holds economically we will wait and see but with dairying absorbing such a large proportion of the better land even recovery will be long and slow. In the meantime we will have lost a large proportion of our young farmers as they were encouraged into sharemilking which will take the bulk of the punishment in the coming crisis.

Back to the beef and sheep industry. At least the diversity of products we produce give us a lot of room to manoeuvre and American beef prices look as though they will hold for a short time.

My genetic saying for this month is going to arouse a lot of discussion and disbelief and it goes like this:

Any animal showing superiority for any characteristic carries with it its heritability (as estimated) regardless of the performance of its parent.

Your outliner bull comes from any mating. This is due to the randomising of the genes in the animals code coming together purely by chance.
This saying is probably the best and the most important saying and is self explanatory. For anyone who wishes to improve their herd this one saying covers it all.
I well remember our first outliner bull. Dr Ch”ang was doing all our calculating as there was no programme at this stage. He rang me that night in 1969 to say we have hit the Jackpot, we have a super bull!

It was bull V53 of Pinebank S.N 1021. This bull was the first proven progeny tested bull in Austrasia. When the Australians began recording they came to me to ask whether they could use our bull, as the reference bull for their new (recording) program. I was delighted, as they walked out the door they said to me “We do not expect the bull to be superior we have many better bulls in Australia”. I laughed and said that the bull could be better than you think. V53 was unbeaten for 10 years. The surprising thing was that very little of his semen was used but enough to show his superiority.

I well remember a stud breeder coming to me and telling me with much pride “that he had just bought the three best cows in the world”. Of course there is no such thing, but he was so excited I thought it best not to tell him.

Cows are just a gestating medium for improvement. They produce one calf per year and in most cases there is a wide variation in those calves that each cow produces. It is a mistake to spend your life trying to stabilise your cow herd. For one thing all animals respond to their environment in a different ways and the last thing you would want, for them to be all the same. After all every progeny produced has 50% of the genes of both father and mother. Variation is the lifeblood of improvement so keep it as high as you can!

I believe that were Pinebank 1021 to be mated today he would still make the same impact. It is this randomisation that has been instrumental in the survival of all species our selves included through evolution. There has been wide variations in the climates of this unversed in the millions of years since it began, so it was important that biology as it began, had a high degree of variability. Some would die off and some would survive and those that survived are the ancestors of today’s living animals.
This is why pedigrees are so inaccurate as a selection method for improvement and constant use of them will only result in the herd or species remaining in the average of its population. Use of this variation will remain as important as it is today as we move into the future. If we do not use it constructively, then populations will remain where they are today.

Even Nature makes maximum use of variation in that at each mating the dominate males gets most if not all of the females and this domination is achieved by that variation.

It is time that New Zealand assessed where beef breeding industry is at. Scientists should be doing evaluations regularly They may know, but if they do know, they are not making it public. Probably because it has made no progress in the last century.

Remembering that the sheep industry in the last 20 years has double production per ewe run. Why do we have the difference and why has this it occurred.

The stud cattle industry is largely managed by breeders in later life, and for the most part comfortably off. There is no reason for them to change and they are very conservative and resist change. Also they think they are doing fine and making big forward progress and keep telling us the giant steps that the various cattle councils are making.

America who does a progress check regularly has shown that they are at a standstill and have made no progress. In fact weaning weights have dropped a little in the last 10 years. If they have made no progress then we most certainly have made no gain, as many of the bigger herds are attached to herds in America, often getting their bulls from that parent herd.

It is probably true to say that had the cattle breeding industry been left to nature the cattle and their performance would be much better then it is today.

It is mid winter here and the weather is cold and wet. Hopefully the dams are full again which will tell us that the soil is saturated after the long drought we have been through last Summer.
It would appear that like the rest of the world we have had some severe storms this year but being on the east side of the island we have missed the worst of them.
Stock prices are going up and down with little or no stability and this makes planning very difficult.
Lamb prices began well but dropped away as the season progressed. Wool prices gained slightly and beef prices have been good although inconsistent.
The big issue is that the highly developed dairy industry has dropped away and as the government encouraged farmers to convert sheep and beef country to dairying, the main productive side of the country is in jeopardy.

The saying for this Newsletter is:
If you are using your own bulls use the best son of the top progeny tested bull. This should be a yearly occurrence. If you are buying bulls then always put your own best bull against your purchased bull. You can gain a lot of information from doing this. If your purchased bull has been recorded then you can see where your own herd lies in relation to the stud from which you bought your bull. It is a mistake to buy an unrecorded bull.

Do not forget that any sire is only as good as the average performance of his progeny,
Therefore his best son is better than he!
To repeat. Any improvement in your herd must come from the sires you use.

I have repeated this many times but if you are trying to improve which everyone should be then there is only one way.

Because of the drop off of milk prices there are a percentage of highly leveraged dairy farmers who are in danger of being sold up. The government was encouraging the expansion of the dairy industry so has now got a problem. They keep pronouncing they are sure the dairy prices will begin to rise soon but how far away that is no one has any idea.
In the meantime they suggest the dairy herds should put the lower half of their herds to a beef bull with a low birth weight and sell the progeny as beef. This is a big boost to us to sell our low birth weight bulls to the dairy industry but there is another problem. “How does BLUP identify low birth weight bulls.” This has been a problem to us for many years and it is where the BLUP program is wrong.
We have been weighing our calves at birth for thirty plus years. In fact as far as I am aware we were the first herd to begin weighing at birth. We did it because the American scientist who came to look at the herd when we were selecting for growth, said that “doing what we were doing would make our birth weights rise until we had dystokia problems” I began weighing to see if our birth weights were rising. They were but by then we had stopped selecting for growth having recovered that that we had lost overcoming the Bulmar effect.

I must point out here,that our herd is an original scottish herd, and has no American blood... In my experience with American bred cattle it is dangerous trying to tag and weigh them, the calved birth because they will attack you when you are very vulnerable.

I think that weighing and tagging at birth must be rare because BLUP goes to all sorts of trouble giving all the calves an estimated birth weight.
We found that when we put our actual born weights against the given weights calculated on the animals weaning weight,.there was no comparison. Because weaning weight and birth weights are correlated, the high performing cows were given a high birth weight even though their birth weight’s were actual and low. It would take at; least three years before the cow would get her true position in our herd. Another problem is that the modern program is penalising old cows and boosting yearling heifers. Again this is an error in the progress towards efficiency. Is not an old cow that has calved every year early and weaned a good weight of calf more efficient that one that calves once and then is empty or calves only every second year?

I can understand why they are doing this, it is an effort to improve the Generation Interval but that should be done to the bull not the cow.

I make the point about the history of our herd to show that for close to 100 years now there has been a lot of emphasis on temperament. In my youth, every year the calves were taught to tie up at the age of three weeks. During this period they were handled and a note taken of their behaviour, this continued when I took over the herd. I began the tagging and weighing at birth and at that time it was considered as it still is, to be impossible.
And I believe that this is so. If there is any resistance or temperament shown by the cow she is immediately culled and we have been doing this ever since I began. Tagging yearling cows calves appears to be less risky but after that, the danger increases as the cow’s become older.
Remember I am talking about my cows and others should not try this!!

I found that if I walked confidently and slowly up to the new born calf I would put my hand around its muzzle. Bellowing loudly excited the cow and she would be all over you roaring back and the noise was deafening but she did not touch me. On one occasion my assistant was sure I was being attacked ,by all the noise. He came running to save what he considered was left of me, only to find the cow bellowing and I was just getting on with the job of tagging. I told him to keep away because the cow must concentrate on me.
It is a mistake to hit the cow when her head was close and it was wise to tolerate her what ever she did. Only once was I rolled off a calf by the best cow in the herd, then she just gently put her head under me and gentle rolled me off her calf. She rolled me twice without hurting me and then returned to her calf. I got up and returned to the calf and finished weighing it, she did not touch me again. She never gave any trouble in subsequent weighing.

I would never expect anyone else to get away with what I did and what my son is continuing.

Don’ try it!!

Country still dry on the east  side of our island although it varies.  Predictions are for another dry year but if we go into it from the present conditions, there could be some problems in the coming season.
Dairy returns remain low and the bank responses are awaited with interest. Rumour has it that 20% of our pasture land is now overseas owned. We wonder why the government has no record of the percentage, and are resistant  to producing one, but believe that they do not wish  New Zealanders to know.
In many cases land has been moved out of our reach by excessively high prices and handed to overseas buyers. I do not believe that anyone overseas could farm our land like our locals, but as the government has heavily cut our agriculture research it looks as though it has been carefully planned.
The present government’s enthusiasm for selling our land to overseas buyers is bringing a backlash from existing farmers which could bring a rapid change of power.

Back to the breeding program and its sayings:
Pedigrees are only of value in assement of inbreeding levels.
This means that those animals with a very high so called ‘social’ pedigree are of as much value and only as good as an average stud animal.  This fuss made about pedigrees means very little or nothing.  Remembering that due to the randomising of the selection of genes in any mating, Outliner bulls come from anywhere.

When I took over the stud I was 17 years old and my father had just died. Stockagents feeling sorry for me kindly offered to take me around on their assessment of the stud bulls coming up in the following season, telling me what to look for and how to judge a top bull .
This would have been the 1946-47 season and as I had been to the previous years sale I would be able to resee all the recently purchased bulls.
I would always ask to see last years purchased bull. The owner of these bulls were mostly reluctant because when bought out from under the trees these bulls were wrecks. Obviously the letting down of these bulls from their position of being  housed and on  concentrates had not been a success in fact the bulls were terrible.
Many had gone in the feet most were rheumatic and  most looked  unable to serve a cow again. All said that the bulls had  settled all their required cows last season.  This gave me concern about whether breeding bulls this way was satisfactory.  It also put me off buying bulls from this avenue.
For the next some 10 years I purchased bulls from this sale because I did not know any better!  But that first experience remained constantly in my mind.
After some twenty years I decided to analysis all the purchased bulls to find out whether I had been successful.
There were six purchased bulls all had been used at least three seasons and all had been progeny tested.  I had three bulls above average and three bulls below average one of which was a complete disaster
This worked out that I had lost ground with the disastrous bull and had no improvement in those twenty years!  On thinking about it I began to realise that the best stud sires would lie in the commercial herds. There were big cattle farming
Owners who had been buying the best commercial bulls year after year   They had been using the best bulls in the industry and almost certainly had pick the unidentified outlineder bulls and perhaps a number of them over the years. This is why the American bulls when they first came to New Zealand were such a success being used across strong based pure bred herds. It is only when they got into the second generation that they began their troubles with recessives  appearing. 
We had a lot of dealings with the New Zealand Dairy Board because they had a beef semen division and we were supplying semen to them. The Dairy Board had just done  research on, “The anthropolic thought processes of bulls”.   They had a lot of bulls on standby,  waiting for their progeny test to come through, so that they could judge the best for semen collection ..  They put these 400 bulls on 24 hour watch to access their behaviour. They had a caravan  parked in the middle of the 400 bulls mob and had university student recording the bulls behaviour 24 hours per day  for some months.

Findings of the Research was:
Bulls each have a territorial space around them.   When you move into that, you are at risk.  This  shows when moving mobs of bulls as  they gather they begin to fight.   Their territory is being infringed.  Strange bulls when yarded will always begin to fight because their territory is constantly being challenged.
You will notice that four or five bulls in a paddock are never together, but each selects his own territory and remains in it.    When bought together they begin to fight.
It is dangerous to try and slam a gate on two fighting bulls because one or other will try to escape through a partly closed gate swinging the gate open and hitting the person trying to close it.
You can bucket rear a bull and he will never recognise you when you approach him. If you are feeding a  bull every morning,  whether he kills you or not depends on how he is feeling at that moment.
A bull is very conscious about “how” you approach him. 
You must never run at any animal especially bulls because they will immediately turn to face you and prepare for an attack from you.
Bulls will kill you,  spend some time roaring around on the blood and then forget all about it. But on discovering the blood again will begin roaring and spend some time there. But they are not aware that he is responsible for that blood.
Bulls charge , some distance from contact, they close their eyes, so it is possible to side step them. Not so the cow, whose eyes are open all the time and if you sidestep she will follow.

To show how dangerous  the dairy industry considers its bulls , just study their precautions that they take to protect their handlers.

Dairy handlers  never pick up a bull on their own,there are always two of them.  When they go to pick up a bull to bring him in for tomorrows collection all bulls are on a long wire.  The bull is fastened to  the wire by a  chain to a ring in his nose.
They approach the bull with a long pole with a snap hook in the end.  They pick up the bull with the long pole in the nose ring only then is the bull taken off the wire. A horse trailer is taken out to bring the bull in so the bull is led to the trailer and a long chain is attached to the ring in his nose and he is led into the trailer by the chain which is treaded through the trailer while the handler is outside the front of the trailer.
On arrival at the collection centre the whole process is reversed.  At no stage are any handler in physical contact with the bull.   While on standby the bulls are tethered by the ring in his nose to the ground also if he has horns then a chain is wrapped around his horns to the ground. The bulls have some slack and they are hard fed on the night before collection.  As we walked down the line of restrained bulls we were told that if the bulls were not tied down as they were, there is nothing  to stop them killing any one of us.
The same thing occurs, handling collectors are guarded by pipe rails.   At no time are they in physical contact with the bull! Because of our close involvement they kept us informed of their latest findings for which we were very grateful.  I was involved at one time looking at fertility in bulls and again was privileged to be able to have some time with the Dairy Boards Scientist doing this study.

Our breeding group  was once summoned to a new entry into the semen market to contract a  supply of beef semen.   This gentleman had built a state-of-the-art  collection centre with new holding paddocks and every thing was bright and new.
In showing us around we could see that he had no wires and no protection for his handlers of which there was only one.  Our group discussed whether we should bring our concern for his handler up, and it was left to me. On bringing the subject up the owner blew his top, telling us about his vast experience in handling all cattle including semen centres.  We were very doubtful about the accuracy of what he was telling us. There was nothing we could do and one month later his handler was killed picking up a Charoalis bull.

The farming industry is depressed. Droughts have been localised and severe. Dairy price have been steadily dropping and there is nothing to say that they have finished yet. Thirty percent of the industry is very highly geared and many of them will not hit credit this year. Dairy farmers are wondering how much the banks will stand increasing mortgages before they begin to sell some of them up. This would cause a crash in land prices, something that the government does not want but probably would not be a bad thing as farmland is very overvalued. Sheep and beef farmers in drought areas have had a bad season and a lot of capital stock has been killed. I do not think that the government has any idea how low the taxtake will be this year.

The Genetic saying for this month is “Every animal is only as good as the average performance of its progeny. Therefore its best son is better than his sire”. This is the reason why the best bull in your herd is superior to his sire.

This is the reason why evolution means a steady and continued improvement in its biological species.
I have explained how every animal has a code and this code is given at the moment of conception. The genes are randomised into this code.
It should be the object of every breeding program to try to collect these high performing genes and build them into your population.
Nature with her stringent tests in the wild, determines which is the strongest and the best by competition and when the sire tires the next best takes his place to fertilize the females.

It wasn’t until man came along and replaced Nature with what he thought were the best cattle that things began to deteriorate.
But man did not select on vigour or athletic ability he began by selecting on what he thought a good bull should look like. These judgements persist to this day.
It is interesting to find out that Nature’s system resulted in the surviving animals coming from a steadily diminishing number of original females. This occurs to overcome physical and recessive and other weaknesses being propagated through the females.

Evolution has narrowed down the base of most animals including humans. This means that only the ones that are most suited to the environment have come through to the present day. Every human who has been DNA tested can be traced back to one of seven women.

This rather contradicts how all breeders think they must widen their gene pool.
Angus is believed to have began from a very narrow base, some half a dozen cows and old Jock had a big influence in the beginning. This means of course that all those vast herds of pure Angus cattle that roamed the plains of years ago were closely related. Yet there appeared few signs of recessives or other problems in those cattle.
Does this mean that Nature was a better breeder than man, I leave it to you to judge? What is sure is that we can use nature much more productively.
We should let the environment dictate the size and shape of our animals.

We have been doing this for over 50 years although one of our council members told me that we would end up with something that looked like a camel! All we have ended up with is a much more classical looking Angus.

Let us return to a more natural way of breeding. We let each of our environments dictate size and shape. We return the cattle to a grazing animal like of old, when it had to survive on its seasonal feed.

We are putting semen into various different environments and I anticipate the cattle will adapt to different soils and systems. They may change a little, or perhaps a lot, it will be interesting to follow.

Recognising the fact that after 50 years of environmental selection and lifting production by 20% our cattle are beginning to fit the New Zealand environment. The big thing is that animals have the ability to adapt to changing environment. It can take time but the animal must run under the environment in which it is expected to perform.
“Never forget that there is no end in the improvement in anything biological, it will slow down, but it will go on”.

The constant feeding of concentrates can never last into the future. Those animals bred that way will be left behind and this could be happening more quickly than you think.

It has been an interesting year in the sheep and beef industry. The falling dairy prices have thrown finances in the country into disarray. This plus the drought which forced decisions to be made and quite a lot of breeding stocks has been sold across both industries. Beef prices began at record levels which temporarily relieved the situation only to begin to drop away later, so early sellers made most of the gains.
It does not appear that the falling dairy prices have ended yet due to increased production overseas. This only served to show once again the importance of having a multifacet economy.

I have often been asked, ‘Why do you not mate your best bull to your top cow?’ I have always known the answer to this but have never reiterated it.

Firstly due to the variability of cows’ performance, because a cow is top this year does not mean that she will be the top next year!
The next reason is that the bull would have to be at least three years old because he must be progeny tested to prove his superiority before being used. Picking your best four bulls every year and using 4 bulls per 100 cows, means you have almost certainly picked the best sire that will progeny test top, in your herd, when you read their test next year. And the last reason is because you are tying yourself to too small a gene pool. If you do this then you may find later that your bull came up with a recessive and you have lost a large percentage of your cattle Also he may not have been as good as you thought. Either way it is not recommended.

I am talking Population Genetics here because I imagine you are setting out to improve a whole herd.
Our programme was originally written for a very highly inbred herd, and doing what we do, decreases the inbreeding level each year.
Our program is particularly clever for long term benefit and you can keep on improving all those important characteristics without getting into trouble.

I recommend changing your bulls every year, this has the effect of scrambling your total gene pool. At the same time that you are building in your high performing genes, you are reducing the concentration of gene. This allows you to carry on with a semi closed herd, selecting for performance, building in those economic characteristic forever. Preventing any of those problems of recessives or loosing fertility or varation due to genetic concentration.

If you are still confused then I suggest you draw up an false extended pedigree with each new bull going to different cows and you will see how the total gene pool in your herd is reshuffled. Every cow has a different bull each year and so a cow has an equal chance of going to any bull.
You make sure a bull does not go to his dam.

I know that this takes some thought but it will become clear to you, that Dr Ch’ang has thought of everything.
The big advantage of this system is that you can sell your yearlings after use to known breeders with the right to recover them if required. So it becomes a low cost more efficient herd.

Those breeders facing the Bulmar affect should realise that by using our bulls will mean that the Bulmar affect is avoided because our bulls have been through and overcome it.
Also you have 50 years of selected breeding.

I notice reading the publicity that there a number of herds who have begun using their own yearling bulls. I wonder how many breeders went through the exercise I have recommended which is testing them against their own stud sires. It is based upon the saying that I shall be quoting next month.

Next month I am back to the final of the list of genetic sayings I have picked up over the years. Once I could have named all the scientists who were responsible for the saying, but unfortunately their names have slipped into the past.

Neither the weather nor the market has served us well this year and now we are in the middle of a bad drought.
Everyone has had to drop stock, and the prices are falling. Farmers began with a lot of confidence but as the weather remained very hot and dry every thing went down hill. It will have to rain soon but it is getting late. Today is the10th of April and the drought has broken!

I have stated that I would begin at the beginning to tell you what we have done and the reason for doing so:

On the introduction to the programme we used the 4 original sires that we had on hand. Adding into the list our own best bull of that year.
This was interesting for many reasons. Firstly it showed the position our own best bull was in, in comparison to our original purchased stud sires, and showed the order of the stud sires. All of this we achieved by progeny testing all the sires, something we do every year automatically now.
Our own sire came out top demonstrating Dr Ch’ang’s comment: “Our own bred best sire would be better than any of our purchased stud sires.”

Since that demonstration we are using all our own best bulls as our stud sires, changing them every year and using them as yearlings. This makes the maximum use of generation interval.

In 1965 three other Angus breeders applied to me to ask ‘could they join me in my programme.’ The reason I agreed along with Dr Chang, was to give us some political power in the Angus Assn. Instead of having 100 registered cows now the group had over 800, a group that had to be taken seriously and became, as far as I am aware, the first animal breeding group in the world. Also I wanted a bigger population because the larger the population the faster the progress you can make.

All the individual herds were closed in the beginning. The objective of doing this was to check for any herd that was carrying recessive genes. We found dwarf genes in one of the herds. This was promptly dealt to by Dr Ch’ang and it was a valuable lesson in how to deal with recessives. This herd was a new herd and the cows had just been newly purchased.
The stud who sold the cows to our breeder obviously sold cows that were known carriers of this recessive. I had no idea how generally dwarfism was known in the breed at that time having never had to deal with any recessives even with our very close inbreeding.

The next reason was that we wished to know how each of our herds responded to its environment within its growth patterns. In our herd I weighed the bulls each month and found that all the bulls grew at different times. On graphing this growth out I could see that this had a degree of relevance to their farms pattern of grass growth. I offered our bull buyers the chance that if they told me when their maximum grass growth was, I could supply them with the relevant bull. Not one of my buyers was interested so I abandoned the offer.

This was how we laid the foundation for our long term breeding programme some 50 years ago.

Saying ‘Mutation is the lifeblood of evolution and is responsible for all animal changes good and bad’. It can be seen from the basis of our programme how we were prepared to deal to the bad mutation and build in the good.
All evolution changes have been achieved by this saying. When mutation produces a superior animal and its progeny survive and are good enough, then it is slowly built into the population. Although much has been lost in the building in, what is left is superior, then that becomes the normal for those animals thus improving the species.

Defination of the word mutation is ‘a natural variation of a species.’ All this means is that by chance an animal picked up those superior genes best suited for its environment, so superior that it affected all the other animals of its species in this case cattle.

For those of you who have been reading my Newsletters and can understand how to improve your breeding systems you can see just how sophisticated Dr Ch’ang’s program is and why a leading American Geneticist said to me after much thought “That guy has thought of everything.”

Autumn feeling is in the air. It is still dry and the worst of the drought has not broken yet. All stock that has been left on the farm has come through well after careful management. Our dollar is again strengthening and prices on farm are continuing to drop. All agriculture will be worse off this year only the dairy industry which has irrigation and can retain its stock and have a good year. All dairy farms without irrigation are in trouble, most of them having dried off already. Dairy prices are beginning to rise again.

Last month I explained the preparations for the selection part of our programme. There are two parts I failed to mention: In the beginning we were largely selecting for growth. A simple character with high heritability (48%) so easy to make rapid gains. As the herd’s production had dropped while we were overcoming the Bulmar effect it was important to at least recover our previous level of growth. To do this it was better to use our two year bulls as they had a slightly better heritability for growth, to allow us to make a quicker recovery. It was here that we began using the four bulls per 100 cows and changing them every year.

This had some long term effects. Any single bulls effect on the herd is minimal. You aim to get those characteristics you desire and the bull can pass them on to his sons. His other and undesirable characters are scrambled in the mass of genes redistributed into the herd. Once this changing bulls every year is in operation, there is a complete scrambling of genes for the next generation selecting only the top genes being bred into the herd. You just stop and think about it. Once you can see what is happening on a yearly basis then you can understand why you can go on for many generations, probably for ever before there is any problem with genetic concentration.

It was after some ten years that we moved into using yearling bulls to speed up ‘generation interval’.

As the years progressed we increased the number of selected characters into fertility: ribeye area , muscle fats, temperament, Carcease, alleles for tenderness and any other character that we consider important in a well balanced herd of beef cattle. This selection has continued for the last 50 odd years. During this period we have produced the only bull that we were able to get progeny tested in America.

This bull Waigroup 1/80 I entered in a progeny testing herd that Henry Gardiner of Ashlands Kansas was collecting from all around the world as I understood!

I had anticipated that the bull’s progeny test for which we paid $5000 American dollars would cover all important aspects of cattle efficiency like fertility, daughter performance carcase anaylsis etc.

The bull whose semen I sent was actually a dam producing sire. I was very surprised to find that Henry had included in the test the two highest growth bulls in the States at that time. So I could see that it was a straight growth test. I did not expect my bull as a dam bull to be competative.

Henry kept me in touch all through the test where our bull kept up with the best right up to when the progeny went into Dry Lot. Neither of us expected our bull to do any good in Dry Lot because this was never a selection basis in New Zealand and he was a dam bred bull. The progeny of our bull hesitated and then took off beating the fastest growing 2 bulls of that period. Unfortunately I have been unable to see by how much because the American Angus Association. refuses to release that data too me. I have never been able to discover what other nationality’s bulls were included. No Pinebank or Glanworth bulls of Waigroup have been progeny tested in the States since.
Waigroup1/80 also came out in the top 2% in carcase analysis.
Again I do not know whether this was for all the cattle in the States of that year or just the cattle involved in the test.
It has been a costly exercise for the Pinebank Angus Stud and it is disappointing for us to have got none of the data from the Americn Angus Association

Neither the weather nor the market has served us well this year and nw we are in the middle of a bad drought. Everyone has had to drop stock,and the prices are falling.
Farmers began with a lot of confidence but as the weather remained very hot and dry every thing has gone down hill. It will rain soon but it does appear to be late.

I have stated that I would begin at the beginning to tell you what we have done and the reason for doing so. On the introduction of the programme we used,the 4 original sires that we had on hand. Adding to the mating list our own best bull of that year.
This was interesting from many points of view. Firstly it showed the position that our own best bull was in, in comparison to our original stud sires and showed the order of the stud sires. All of this we achieved by progeny testing all the sires, something we do every year automatically.
Our own sire came out top demonstrating Dr Chang’s comment that our own best sire would be better than any of our stud sires.

Since that demonstration we are now using all our own best bulls as our stud sires, changing them every year and using them as yearlings. This makes the maximum use of generation interval.

Then three other Angus breeders applied to me to ask ‘could they join me in my programme. The reason that I agreed along with Dr Chang was to give us some political power in the Angus Ass. Instead of having 100 registered cows now the group had over 800, a group that had to be taken seriously and became as far as I am aware the first animal breeding group in the world. All herds in the beginning were with in herds closed. The objective of doing this was to check for any herd that was carrying recessive genes. We found dwarf genes in one of the herds. This was promptly dealt to by Dr Ch’ang. This herd was a new herd and the cows had just been newly purchased and the stud who sold the cows to our breeder obviously sold cows that were known carriers of this recessive.

The next reason was that we wished to know how each of our herds responded to its environment in its growth patterns.

In our herd I weighed the bulls each month and found that all the bulls grew at different times. On graphing this growth out I could see that this had a degree of relevance to their farms pattern of grass growth. I offered our bull buyers the chance that if they told me when their maximum grass growth was, I could supply them with the relevant bull. Not one of my buyers was interested so I abandoned the offer.

This was how we laid the foundation for our long term breeding programme some 55 years ago saying ‘Mutation is the lifeblood of evolution and is responsible for all herd changes good and bad’.
It can be seen from the basis of our programme how we were prepared to deal to the bad mutation and build in the good.

Predictions are for another drought. The dairy industry is in a mess and with the dry season some of those that have just joined the industry will be at risk, because many of them are highly geared. It looks as though we will make it in our sheep country. As the drought gets a grip farmers in the sheep and beef industry are dumping stock! The Government who were banking on a good tax collection year will be running a deficit again.

They just never learn!

I am adding two sayings to this month’s newsletter. They are both short and easily explained.
Every individual has within it, high performing genes for any or every characteristic that you wish to improve or develop. Conversely it has low performing genes as well which if it happens to pick up in the randomising of selection, then the animal is lower performing. It is possible for a low performing cow to pick up the high performing genes and have a good calf. You just never know where your best bulls will come from.

There are many thousands of genes. In the past I have spoken of them being in the millions but I think that it is in the thousands. I do not know whether they have ever been counted but I think every one in their code has approximately the same number. They lie in clusters, (depending on the complexity of the character) in the same position on the chromosome. This is your code and can be read at the moment that the cell divides. This is your DNA and reading the code can tell the performance of the individual.
It is the randomising of genes at the moment of conception that is the most important part and is the reason why population can change, whether by climate, soil type, or feed as required. This is evolution and is happening all the time.

In the wild the strongest males with the genes which are the most appropriate to the environment, survive to mate with females.

Selective breeding programmes are just a method for speeding up evolutionary change for the better.

The second saying is:
Every new being’s code carries within it 50% of the genes of each parent. These are part and parcel of the new animal’s makeup.

It was the old method of selection, ‘like tends to produce likeness.’ It in many cases this remains the same today.

The sophistication of nature demonstrates her ability to cope with any or every problem. We can not beat nature, only work within her confinements.
So we go on step by step into the future.

Population variation demonstrates again its necessity in the improvement in any or all animals. The bigger the difference between the best and the worst the greater the speed of the improvement.

One of the successes of our present breeding progamme, is the fact that we make maximum use of, and build in the superior factors of our best cows.

With the present stud breeding method the progeny of the top cows are sold to someone else. So someone else gets the use of that top cow for as long as the purchased bull is used.

With us the son of the best cow is used in the herd and if she is good enough her next son by a different bull is used again and so on. So half the genes in the next bull are different. Then if she is one of those once in a lifetime cows that produces a top calf every year, and all her bull calves are used as studs, then that top cow contributes as much to your herd as any single bull.

It is clear to me from the questions arising from of my Newsletter that our program plus its implications are not clearly understood. Or the relevance of what we do and why, appears to be a complete mystery and yet the basics are so simple and each move is completely logical. It is part of the present demands for progress in all the important economic traits.

At the moment, and historically, all the cattle breeding has stood still and in some countries has actually gone backwards.
The reason for this is not hard to find.

There can be no progress with either bull or cow when you are putting the same basic set of genes into the population. The constant use of single factor selection for growth, only to find that it is antagonistic to fertility in the high growth bulls’ daughters, negates any progress as fertility is four times more important than growth.




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