During this challenging time it’s easy to lose focus on the forward trajectory of our own breeding programs, and the breed’s advancement in general. There are plenty of more important matters to concern ourselves with right now, but if we do have the opportunity to plan and strategise, the benefits to our programs may be significant. As the great racehorse trainer C.S. Hayes said, “The future belongs to those who plan for it”, and I couldn’t agree more.

Here at Te Mooi Speckle Park we are planning our next flushing programs and our 2020 joinings. Last year where we made use of Minnamurra Leander, JAD Nutcracker, Minnamurra Norton, Minnamurra Nestor, River Hill Line Drive, Spots ‘n Sprouts Stands Alone, Caja Zeppelin, SPKNZ Falcon, River Hill All In and Six Star Royal Flesh. This season will see the addition of Maungahina Northern Light, Mainstream Eldorado and Mooven Zpotsz Dart. We will also be on the hunt to add to the line-up over the coming months.

It is a great time for our breed as I believe Speckle Park have the qualities that will benefit a large number of commercial beef producers, although it doesn’t really matter what I believe. What matters is what we can prove. For our breed to move forward we need to spend the time and effort to measure and performance record as many traits as we can, so that we can improve our programs and prove the benefits to commercial producers.

In order to advance the breed and capitalize on the inherent strengths in Speckle Park we need to be able to identify the best performers. This is the key to making genetic progress, and performance recording is the path to identifying the true breeding value of individuals. You can’t just eyeball IMF%, gestation length, days to calving and EMA. The days of “buy them good and breed them better” are gone without the ability to thoroughly analyse the resultant progeny. As with our own siblings and children there can be great variation in individuals, even if they are full siblings. The variation in the progeny from the same matings becomes evident when analysing the many progeny of a single mating.

Codiak Unique 8R

There are three very interesting cases that demonstrate this. They show that there can be significant variation in a mating, and that performance recording is the way to identify those animals with the traits you desire to build in your herd. Spots ‘n Sprouts Stands Alone is without doubt one of the most important influences in the establishment of Speckle Park in Australia, as are the grand matrons Codiak Unique 8R and Upto Specs Tori 10T. The joining of Stands Alone with these remarkable two females has been nothing short of prolific. Minnamurra Speckle Park are astute, wise and fortunate enough to have 10 daughters of Unique 8R and 13 daughters of Tori 10T by this great sire. All of these females have been performance recorded and have had progeny weighed and scanned, giving us a wealth of data to analyse.

In the Minnamurra herd Unique 8R’s 10 daughters have had 44 progeny analysed, so the data has some weight behind it. The birth weight EBV’s range from the 15th to the 90th percentile of the breed, their 400-day weight EBV’s range from just above breed average to the top 1%, and their eye muscle area EBV’S range from the top 10% of the breed to below breed average. Diligent performance recording by the team at Minnamurra has revealed who is who. They are not guessing – they are identifying the traits they want, and they are using the information to plan future generations. They are getting it right too. 12 of the 44 progeny come from the cow with the lowest birth weight with above breed average growth and carcase, and 14 individuals are from the female with the highest growth and the best IMF%. That’s how to make genetic progress.

The Stands Alone daughters of Upto Specs Tori 10T at Minnamurra also show great variation, and the data provided by their 55 progeny give confidence in their diversity. If however, you take the time to look at them in the paddock they are peas in a pod. Their birthweight EBV’s range from the top 15% to the bottom 15% of the breed, EMA ranges from breed average to the top 5% and IMF% ranges from the top 3% to the bottom 1% of the breed. Without scanning progeny there is no way to identify who is who, so how do you plan and provide a consistent, reliable product to your clients? Our ability to compete with Angus and other breeds hinge upon us being able to demonstrate the strengths of our breed and the strengths of our individuals.

There are many good examples of the uncertainty that a lack of data creates. One such case is the mating that produced Fish Creek Farm Storm and Fish Creek Farm Lightning, both Royal Show Champions. This mating looks to be a beauty and there are 19 registered progeny from it, but the lack of data available prevents us from assessing the individuals. 17 of the progeny from this mating have no performance or scan data recorded so their EBV’s for EMA and IMF% are identical. There is no way to differentiate between them as they have not been scanned or had progeny scanned. Identifying the best carcase performers out of this entire group is a guess at best. Their growth data presents similar problems as only birth weights have been recorded.

Fish Creek Farm Storm

Both Storm and Lightning had not been performance recorded themselves, but both now have progeny weighed and scanned with the data being submitted to Breedplan. The data helps find the true breeding value of these important herd sires. It reveals that Lightning is a short gestation, low birth weight bull with above breed average growth, and that Storm has a little more growth, a little more muscle, and has a slightly higher IMF%. They are both valuable individuals and more data will uncover their true breeding value and guide us how to best use them in our herds.

There are very exciting times ahead for Speckle Park, but to achieve our full potential we need to verifiably establish the qualities of the breed, and this needs a plan. The plan starts with performance recording. Regardless of your numbers, your data is valuable and can help identify the best performers and the true breeding value of individuals. This will, in turn, give buyers confidence and facilitate the spread of our wonderful breed throughout the Australian beef industry.