Selecting suitable bulls and managing their acclimatisation is vital for a bull to deliver reproductive and genetic impact to herds in northern environments.
This was the key message from northern development officer Jen Peart at Angus Australia's Autumn Angus CONNECT Research and Development Update that premiered last month.
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Ms Peart discussed the considerations that should be accounted for in finding, selecting and keeping Angus bulls in northern operations.
"Given the magnitude of a bull's impact on a herd and burgeoning bull prices, it is vital that producers in the morth get results and longevity from Angus bulls they are investing in. The initial step in finding suitable Angus bulls is defining what you are looking for," Ms Peart said.
"Having a defined breeding objective, three to five traits that you choose to prioritise in your breeding operation, that takes into account your environment, profit drivers and target market is vital to identifying suitable bulls to your operation. Regardless of the traits your operations focuses on, for your breeding objective it is important you know what traits you want to improve with the bull selection decisions you are making."
Once a breeding objective is defined, tools such as SaleSELECT (available through angus.tech) enables users to sort and filter bulls offered for sale by Angus Australia members by information such as EBVs, location and animal age and can form the basis of a shortlist.
Understanding the production environment that a bull is coming from is vital to managing its acclimatisation.
Ms Peart encourages contacting the seedstock producer to discuss their operation and the breeding objectives they have for their herd.
"Seedstock producers have a wealth of knowledge and experience that it is worth leveraging. Conversations should include understanding a bull's pre-sale diet as well as health treatments to date and vet assessments results," she said.
From this point it is all about managing the bull's physical acclimatisation, including:
- plan their relocation in the cooler months
- provide time and the appropriate nutritional supplement while making the transition to new feed
- confirm that they have all the appropriate health treatments
"A minimum of 14 days is recommended to allow a bull and the rumen microbiome to adjust to pastures in a new environment, but it may take four to six weeks for a bull's rumen to fully adjust to a change in feed. With appropriate management, there is also a growing preference to select bulls at an age of 12-18 months old as they have been found to acclimatise more quickly leading to greater longevity in northern environments," Ms Peart said.
Managing a bull once he is at work in a herd also requires know-how.
"Due to their strong libidos, Angus bulls are best suited to controlled mating situations and work best when grouped with bulls of a similar age. Ideally, they should be observed regularly during joining and it is also recommended that mustering Angus bulls during periods of extreme heat should be avoided," said Ms Peart.
Post joining should see the bull removed from the breeding herd to regain body condition. He should be provided any treatments necessary such as booster vaccinations and an annual BullCHECK evaluation should be done.
The information presented in the session was largely based on the Northern Bull Protocols, available on the Northern Focus section of the Angus Australia website.