Wednesday, 12 June 2024 09:55

The bull myth

Written by  Staff Reporters
Professor Rebecca Hickson says that no one breed of bull is better than the other – it’s the traits and the genetics that counts. Professor Rebecca Hickson says that no one breed of bull is better than the other – it’s the traits and the genetics that counts.

Rebecca Hickson says no one breed of bull is better than the other – it’s the traits and the genetics that counts. She says there are good and poor performing bulls in every breed, so understanding the traits of any bull should be the focus.

“When you look at the question of should you use a bull or a straw, there’s a whole lot of things at play. I believe that if you use a straw, use a good one that will deliver for you and for the most part won’t cost more,” she says.

But she adds, if a farmer is going to use a bull, they should use a good one. Hickson says farmers have told her they don’t need genetics because they feed their calves well. But she notes that while better feeding will always give you a better animal, even on a lower nutrition plain, better genetics will always outperform lower genetics.

When rearers are selecting calves, Hickson says there is sometimes a tendency to select the bigger calf over the smaller one. But she says there is no guarantee that a bigger calf will grow into a bigger animal and there is data to suggest that the small calf may in many cases be the best bet.

“This is because the beef breeders have done a phenomenal job of creating ‘curve bender bulls’ – meaning that while a calf may be born small, it will grow fast, will calve easily, but is at least, if not more valuable than the larger calf,” she says.

Hickson says farmers, calf rearers and finishers who have long standing, close relationships do their best and this is the pathway to producing better beef animals. She says she’d encourage farmers when they are picking the straw for their dairy cows to not only look after their own needs, but to think about others down the value chain.

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