Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Motivated to multiply

Beef breeds are sitting behind other animal industries through a lack of genetic advancement according to Australian farm owner Euan Murdoch. Murdoch hosted the Platinum Primary Producers conference at his Nindooinbah property in Queensland in April and said beef was behind the pig and poultry industries because of reliance on natural mating rather than using sophisticated artificial breeding programmes.  

“The reality is in the beef space, I believe, we are a long way behind the other protein producers. If we look at the pork industry, they’ve been using genetics and defining their genetics for many years.

“I think what we need to be doing as an industry is be producing better genetics and in large numbers.”

Murdoch said the beef industry needed to get more similar genetics coming through the supply chain in order to offer a better product to the consumer.

Nick Cameron, left, and Euan Murdoch – accelerating beef genetics in Queensland.

Bigger producers were the ones to make big impacts on the industry, and they needed to access top genetics to accelerate genetic change.

Murdoch is relatively new to farming. Having sold his pharmaceutical company for $123 million, in 2005, he and his wife, Kay, stepped into the cattle breeding business and bought Nindooinbah – an 1800ha property an hour from Brisbane. They gave it a multimillion-dollar overhaul including state-of-the-art cattle yard facilities, installing dams and irrigation systems, and running an extensive pasture renovation programme.

With an open chequebook and a motivation to multiply top genetics down the beef supply chain, Murdoch now has the largest artificial beef breeding centre in Australia.

A longer gestation period in beef cattle added even more pressure to ensuring you were using the best genetics, Murdoch said. If left to natural mating, it was three years before you saw the results. Breeders should be trying to accelerate that process as much as they could.

At Nindooinbah, genetic improvement is accelerated through selecting outstanding females with top traits, mating them to the best sires available, then using a high number of embryo transfers (ET) over the rest of the cattle. Only performance recorded stock are used in the ET programme.

Murdoch originally bought 650 top stud Angus cows, but the property now has nearly 3000 cattle, including 1600 cows. The Nindooinbah breeding programme is designed around Angus, Ultrablack and Brangus – all variants on Angus and Brahman cattle. The aim is to bring the leading Angus genetics into the northern beef industry in Australia, crossing it with the heat-resistant Brahman breed.

Nindooinbah manager Nick Cameron said those first Angus stud cows were a massive resource to start the breeding programme with.

“We wanted to start with the best genetics we could find and then try and adapt them to the Northern (Territory) environment – to try and utilise some of the great work Angus breeders have done up till now getting that breed cranked up and trying to get some of those genetics further north.”

Nindooinbah is pushing the boundaries, using advanced technology in its programme including sex semen and split embryos.

Cameron said they were constantly trying to improve with these technologies to continue to breed the best genetics possible.

Nindooinbah’s mission statement is “Identify the best animals through performance recording, genetic evaluation and physical assessment, multiply through world-leading reproductive technologies, and deliver bulls and heifers that have a positive impact to our clients’ bottom line”.

“That’s basically what a stud breeder needs to do – identify, multiply and deliver.”

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