A new project to boost the efficiency and marketability of the northern cattle herd by accelerating genetic improvement has kicked off in the Kimberley and the Pilbara.
The three year project is part of the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development's Northern Beef Development initiative to assist the Western Australian industry to become more profitable, resilient and sustainable.
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DPIRD development officer Rebecca Butcher said the project would work with pastoralists to gather intelligence, share experiences and extend learnings about the use of genetic selection data to drive breeding objectives.
"There has been varying use of genetic evaluation and management tools, like Estimated Breeding Values, known as EBVs, in the industry for some time to inform herd breeding programs," she said.
"This project will harness that knowledge to get a better understanding of the needs of the production system and how breeding traits, like growth rates, carcase weight and fertility, and heritability can be better integrated to refine breeding programs."
DPIRD has contracted established livestock genetics consultants Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit, a joint venture between the NSW Department of Primary Industries and the University of New England, to deliver the project.
Six Kimberley and seven Pilbara pastoral stations have already signed up to participate in the project, while there is still opportunity for more to join.
Ms Butcher said it was important for pastoralists to make informed decisions when purchasing bulls, which could generate substantial gains to pastoral enterprises.
"Bull selection is the single most important factor affecting herd productivity and profitability," she said.
"With pastoralists paying $6000 to $8000 for a good bull - or up to $60,000 in some cases - it is imperative that money is well spent on an animal that has economically important production traits that advance the businesses' breeding objectives."
DPIRD's Northern Beef development officers and the AGBU team will discuss the use of EBVs with participating Kimberley and Pilbara pastoralists and how they could be refined to benefit their operation.
The intelligence will be used to develop tailored selection indexes for northern beef producers aimed at cattle destined for the live export market, as well as the emerging north-south supply chain.
The selection indexes will be developed using the BREEDPLAN genetic evaluation system developed for Australian beef cattle breeders.
Future workshops and field days are planned in coming months to share information and experiences.
To participate in DPIRD's Genetics and Breeding project email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 08 9651 0540.
- This article will feature in ACM's special Carcase Merit print publication in July.