The success of any business can often be chalked up to planning. It’s no different for a beef breeding enterprise; in fact, it’s probably more important.
Looking forward and ensuring your breeding the best calves for the future market is key to success.
By creating a breeding plan farmers can ensure they are headed in the right direction. The Department of Primary Industry offers the following advice for making a breeding plan.
Step one: List traits of genuine economic importance to your customers and your herd’s future productivity. Include: reproductive performance, growth, carcass yield and meat quality.
You may also wish to include traits such as temperament and structural soundness.
Step two: Think to the future. Breeding goals should relate to your vision of the likely future production environment and future customer requirements for at least three to five years.
Step three: Look at herd production targets. To optimise the use of the land and feed resources allocated to your cattle enterprise, it is important to set realistic targets for weaning rates, calving spread, turn-off weights, etc.
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Step four: Rate current performance. You’ll need to know weaning rates, percentage of difficult calvings, turn-off weights and customer feedback on performance of your stock further down the marketing chain (growth rates during the backgrounding and finishing phases, carcass yield and meat quality).
If you haven’t been collecting this data, start now. It’s hard to move forward with your herd if you don’t know where they stand now.
Step five: Think about breeding goals. Compare current performance with future herd production targets and future customers’ requirements. Focus on traits that need improvement based on your goals.
Step six: Select a breeding system. Some situations will call for straight breeding while others will call for crossbreeding or composite breeding. Straight breeding, the use of a single breed in breeding programs, is a simple system to implement a self-replacing herd. However, this foregoes the potential benefits of a structured cross-breeding program. Cross breeding is practiced by many breeders in an attempt to increase performance.
This increase in performance, known as hybrid vigour, is generally most noticeable in traits such as fertility and survival, but it can also be expressed in growth and carcase traits.
Step seven: Criteria for bulls. Base this criteria on your breeding goals and the breeding system which is appropriate for your situation. Most breeds have estimated Breeding Values (eBVs) available to help you rank potential candidate animals for selection.