The future genetic success of Herefords Australia will be determined primarily by the quality of the young bulls and heifers selected for use in your breeding program.
One of the three key factors that influence the rate of genetic gain, is the generational interval (length). A recent analysis of the Hereford breed has shown that the average age of bulls used between 2010 and 2014 is 4.5 years. The average cow age is 5.1 years. A goal for the breed should be to bring the age of bulls used closer to 2.5 years rather than 4.5 years. Selection of the right young bulls at yearling age is fundamental to reducing generation length in Hereford cattle. The higher the percentage of carefully selected young sires used, the greater the genetic improvement will be made within the breed.
A successful young sire program relies on:
1. Selection of yearling bulls with high merit and structural soundness
2. As wide of a genetic footprint of the breed as possible to minimise inbreeding and ensure the breed the ability to continually make genetic progress
3. Use the young sires in a number of herds that have effective numbers of progeny in well described management groups
4. Use of modern genomic tools to link the performance data to genetic differences
5. Balanced selection program that focus on a combination of traits (different selection objectives)
Most members underestimate the value of high merit young bulls. A bull is only successful if he breeds sons and daughters that are better than him. It is important that as many young sires as possible are tested as yearlings and from there, only the best bulls should be used as 3 and 4 year olds. Using a bull for more than 4 years is probably restricting genetic progress.
Risk is an important factor in young sire use. At present, pedigree and individual performance information is not as accurate as progeny information. This gap is being reduced with the introduction and use of more genomic tools. One way of minimising risk for the whole breed is for breeders to use young bulls over well recorded cows. This will ensure that accuracy is improved. When purchasing semen, ensure that you purchase enough to generate at least three calves of each sex in a single management group.
In order to help facilitate the use of young sires, Herefords Australia is initiating the HAYSP (Herefords Australia Sire Program). The HAYSP is only open to bulls that are from the previous year’s drop (L drop for 2016), have full pedigree, and have been genotyped with a minimum of the LD SNP chip. A breeder can nominate up to three bulls, however they must all be by different sires. HAYSP bulls will be listed free, including the addition of photos and videos, in a dedicated section on the Herefords Australia website.
Herefords Australia will run the HAYSP for 12 months to determine the level of interest and the impact it has.
If you have bulls that you wish to nominate, please send the details to Tessa Frew at Herefords Australia, firstname.lastname@example.org
Current sires enrolled in HAYSP can be viewed by clicking here