Speckle Park are in a very interesting position in the Australian beef industry, and all current and future breeders shoulder a great responsibility to ensure the potential becomes a reality.
Like any worthwhile pursuit, it is the small things that ultimately make the difference. The one-percenters can sometimes seem unimportant, but they are crucial to success.
A lack of attention to core values and a level of apathy regarding performance recording and genomic testing can easily see Speckle Park relegated to the sidelines like many of the breeds before them. There needs to be a diligent approach to structural assessment, performance recording and contemporary group management so that we can identify the breed’s best performers. Only then can we all move forward and supply the commercial producers that can benefit from the introduction of Speckle Park to their herds.
Not every calf born will have a future in a seedstock herd, even if it was the product of an expensive embryo. Stringent selection is required and it is a difficult thing to do presently with values of even moderate stock being so high. Adherence to high standards is never as important as when a breed is growing quickly. What is also paramount is access to information regarding available genetics.
Breedplan EBV’s for growth and carcase are of great benefit, but we need to also avail ourselves of information on the vital traits of conformation, fertility and temperament. These can make all the difference for a commercial producer and we all need to pay serious attention to them.
Independent structural assessment is a relatively inexpensive and painless process as is the grading of temperament. Even though you may be more than able to assess the conformation of cattle, a standardised approach can yield information that can benefit mating decisions and stock acquisitions going forward.
The great benefits of fertility data potentially yield the greatest advantage. Reducing gestation length and days to calving are money in the bank to commercial producers. Genetic progress of fertility is however a slow process as environmental factors play such a significant role. There is however as they say “more than one way to skin a cat”.
A significant factor affecting fertility is Mature Cow Weight. Moderating mature cow weight enables females to maintain adequate condition in order to re-conceive. An extra 100 kilograms of live weight in a cow requires about 10MJ of energy to maintain which is equivalent to about 5 kilograms of pasture per day. In terms of quality hay, it is about 500 kilograms extra per year simply for maintaining the extra body weight.
Large cows are to a great extent uneconomical, and the feed required to re-conceive post calving is enormous and any shortage often results in low levels of fertility. This is the reason there is such a push in the major British Breeds to reduce mature cow weight. It is all about efficiently and fertility. Preserving the moderate mature size of Speckle Park females is going to be a great advantage of the breed into the future as it has a significant impact on feed requirements and fertility.
Recording mature cow weight is easily done with a few minor conditions. Breedplan will only analyse the weight of a mature cow if the cow has a calf with a weight recorded within 2 weeks of when the mature weight was taken, and further, the calf was between 80 – 330 days of age when it was weighed. The easiest method is recording mature cow weigh when you record your 200-day weights. Recording of gestation length is also a great advantage but can only be done with an AI program and not natural service. ET calves are not included as contributing environmental factors are too numerous.
Measuring and recording all that we can will make a differences down the track. And mature cow weight is a very easy thing to record and can greatly affect efficiency. The one-percenters always make a difference in the end and enable Speckle Park to be as important to the beef industry as they have the potential to be.