Crossbreeding is one of the most useful tactics to boost the productivity and profitability of northern beef herds, with minimum input.
It can fast-track gains in range of key economic traits by exploiting high levels of heterosis, or hybrid vigour.
One breed that can deliver exceptional hybrid vigour performance in a herd is Senepol, which is the most "unrelated" to any other cattle breed in Australia - delivering "genetic distance".
Senepols are increasingly being infused into northern region herds to enable producers to finish bullocks earlier, while retaining good fat cover, and lift the milking ability of female breeders.
Northern graziers will be able to see a range of these Tropically-adapted, Bos Taurus, polled cattle at Beef 2021, where some of the country's leading Senepol breeders will display some of the nation's best genetics.
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On show in a combined marquee will be stock from Tony Baker's Planchonella Hill Senepols, based at Yallaroi in NSW; Geoff Maynard's Five Star Senepol stud, based north of Biloela in Queensland; and Colin and Janelle Godfrey's Namoona Trig (NT) Senepols, based near Casino in NSW.
Also showing cattle during Beef 2021 will be Gary Porter's Silverleigh Senepols, based at Oake in Queensland.
Mr Baker, who is also the Australian Senepol Cattle Breeders Association president, said the breed was known for slick coats, quiet disposition, excellent meat eating quality and hardiness.
He said Senepols were gaining in popularity with northern beef producers wanting to inject a slick coat and flat back on Bos Indicus breeds.
The breed originated in the Caribbean from a Red Poll background.
In Australia, it has evolved and developed key trait improvements for heat tolerance, insect resistance, hardiness and an ability to thrive and reproduce on poor quality forage.
Senapols can help to boost a herd's performance in a range of profit-driving traits, including fertility, feed efficiency, growth, meat eating quality, temperament and maternal and milking ability.
They are exceptional mothers and, despite being only a moderate-sized animal, they have calves that can gain weight with no problem. Being able to finish weaners and steers on grass and still have fat cover is a big plus for any grazier.
Senepol cattle have a body temperature that is, on average, 0.5°C below other breeds and this means they adapt well to hot conditions, graze right through the day and start gaining weight quickly.
Mr Baker said Senepol females were renowned for ease of calving, which was especially beneficial when crossing with Bos Indicus maiden heifers, and produced fast-growing calves.
He said calves had an average birthweight of about 34 kilograms and heifers would calve as two-year-olds under typical management conditions.
"They are exceptional mothers and, despite being only a moderate-sized animal, they have calves that can gain weight with no problem," he said.
"Being able to finish weaners and steers on grass and still have fat cover is a big plus for any grazier."
Mr Baker said Senepol-infused bullocks that were finished on native grasses - such as buffel and stylo - could be sold direct to processors at about 24 to 30-months-old.
He said average cow mature weight was 500-650kg and mature bulls weighed about 930kg in grass-fed systems.
Carcases from pure and crossbred Senepols perform well in the Meat Standards Australia (MSA) system, being particularly recognised for high tenderness.
Processing results are competitive with Angus and Angus-cross cattle, according to Mr Baker.
He said JBS Australia had positively received Senepols and Senepol crossbreds for its grass-fed programs.
Mr Baker said as well as suitability to grass-fed systems, Senepol cross progeny also performed well in feedlots.
He said they were fast to adapt to feed and achieved target weights quickly to optimise returns for all stakeholders in the supply chain.
"Senapol steers have been consistent winners of feedlot growth rates in the renowned Callide Dawson Carcase Competition for many years," he said.
Mr Baker said Senepols could be crossed with most cattle breeds being used in Australia and would boost Bos Indicus productivity by increasing growth rates, herd fertility, carcase quality traits and meat yields.
He said crossbred females had been shown to hit puberty earlier than Bos Indicus breeds and crossbred progeny were polled, more tolerant of heat, well-tempered and were traditionally an eye-pleasing red through to light honey colour.
Mr Baker is one of Australia's original breeders of Senepols in Australia.
He said although the Senepol breed was relatively small in Australia, it had big potential and local breeders were using only the best of the best genetics available.
"They are focused on selecting and developing genetics for the most productive, hardy and fertile stock that will thrive on moderate nutrition in tough conditions across the nation," he said.
"But Senepols are also well adapted to crossbreeding in southern region systems, mostly to inject hybrid vigour for growth, carcase and fertility traits."
- More information: www.senepol.com.au
The story Hybrid vigour gains can be optimised with Senepol genetics first appeared on Queensland Country Life.