Diversity for endurance in future genetics game

Taking Stock column: Composite beef breeds building the future of beef

COMMENT
Beef
The Santa Gertrudis section of a cattle show in NSW. Perhaps it's time for other indicus/taurus combinations to take centre ring, as they do in Queensland?

The Santa Gertrudis section of a cattle show in NSW. Perhaps it's time for other indicus/taurus combinations to take centre ring, as they do in Queensland?

Aa

Time's long gone when a cattle breeder should be afraid of mixing and matching a few genetics. Composite breeders do the job, provided you don't muddy the waters.

Aa

Composite breeding within the beef industry has an exciting future and I see it changing ways like it already has with lamb, pork and chicken.

Maybe we'll see composite breeds face off against each other at the local show, and not just Charbray or Braford.

Cows for country will always be a breeders' mantra and that won't change because it makes no sense to do so but for bulls it's different and they don't have to be straight bred.

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The AACo is most famous for its composite program that included Senepol/Charolais over Santa Gertrudis on the Barkley Tablelands and Senepol/Charolais over grey Brahman in the Gulf, with the cross from St Croix bringing African taurus into the mix.

Yallaroi breeder Tony Baker is a fan of composite genetics, and enjoys teasing out attributes that benefit the grazier.

"The more crosses you have the greater the hybrid vigour will be in subsequent generations," he said and points to research by Canadian poultry pioneer Donald Shaver, who rebuilt his flock of egg laying hens in 1946 after a disastrous fire and sourced genetics from a wide range of birds provided he thought they would perform well.

The resulting composite, Shaver288 named for the potential number of eggs a layer might deliver, went on to become an industry success.

Of course, a breeder can lose the gain as quick as it comes by putting a first cross animal back with an original bloodline and for that reason a lot of breeders, especially on the North Coast, run first cross cows, Brahman/Hereford or Santa/Hereford and put Charolais or Angus bulls to those vigourous mothers to get progeny for fattening, but not breeding.

This F2 Speckle/Friesan heifer looks the business as it takes advantage of diverse taurus genetics.

This F2 Speckle/Friesan heifer looks the business as it takes advantage of diverse taurus genetics.

The best producers keep a young herd of F1 cows and many buy their breeders in, making an industry for those who can produce the right article.

I see this trend as only growing in the future as producers of beef concentrate on kilos while breeders with flair deliver the best parent - not only the bull but the cow.

Dairy is an area where composites are also playing a role in profitability, with many Friesian herds now running with Jersey bulls to bring in fat and protein characteristics of their milk.

Speckle Park, already a stabilised composite, put over a Friesian produces interesting progeny and New Zealand dairy farmers reckon the bobby calves have real market potential.

The Braford has long been recognised as a vigorous composite.

The Braford has long been recognised as a vigorous composite.

A breeding program in the1960s through the CSIRO and assisted by staff at the Wollongbar research farm near Lismore experimented with a composite dairy cow for the tropics that had tick resistance and production ability.

The new breed was made by crossing accepted dairy breeds on the Indian sub-continent - Red Sindhi and Sahiwal - with Jersey to produce a first cross milker. To maintain vigour the experiment put the best of each first cross together to come up with another generation.

The sires were selected by progeny testing at Wollongbar with some of the cows billeted out to local farms. The outcome produced a new and stable breed named the Milking Zebu. that in some cases produced more than a Jersey while surviving heat and ticks.

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Aa

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