BREEDING or FEEDING? Data helps us find the way
"In God we trust, all others must bring data."
- W. Edwards Deming
The sale committee of the 3rd annual Speckle Park Sale at Scone deserve to be congratulated on assembling a great catalogue. I’m sure the vendors and purchasers will all walk away satisfied with either their prices or their purchases.
However a multi vendor sale of this size presents some problems, especially for bull buyers. There are 26 individual vendors located from Queensland to the South East corner of Victoria, each with their own distinct environment and management systems. How do bull buyers compare the growth and performance of animals from vastly different environments? Not to mention the up to 18 month age variation. Structural assessments can be made, but factors affected by feed intake and environment such as growth, weight gain, eye muscle area, intramuscular fat % and rib and back fat are virtually impossible to compare. This is why ALL Speckle Park breeders, regardless of size, need to join and contribute to Breedplan.
Smaller vendors are the ones that stand to gain the most from Breedplan as it will give buyers confidence in their product. With the continued growth and bright future of multi-vendor sales they are vital. How many bull buyers decide not to attend because they don’t have enough information? We are asking many of them to take a leap from another breed to Speckle Park, but we don’t give them the means to compare the performance of the 74 bulls on offer. The benefit of EBV’s flow into the stud herd as well as providing information on the sires we use in our programs. We all say we want to select for carcase, fertility, feed conversion and temperament, but how do we do that without data?
Australian beef is a $13 billion industry and most commercial cattlemen are sophisticated operators hidden behind hats, boots and utes. If we want them to use our product we need to supply what they need, and they need confidence. They are not going to risk their program on the unknown. Breedplan figures and carcase data go a long way to allaying fears, and who knows how many new buyer emerge when we provide the information that instills confidence.
As breeders I’m sure we all aspire for excellence, but that means different things to different people. Some breeders select certain stock for special treatment, such as show teams where the feeding and presentation are significant factors. The skill and art of producing animals in their best possible light for the show ring are undeniable and its impact on the promotion of the breed has been significant. The show ring is a combination of feeding and breeding; it pits the skill of one exhibitor against another. It’s not only all about the animal’s performance - it’s about preparation and presentation. However we need to have objective measures as well.
Objective measure have allowed Lawsons Angus to improve their feed conversion from 8:1 to 4:1 - that is what we compete against. Breedplan can assist buyers to find the bulls that suit their program, as well as enable Speckle Park seed stock producers to identify the best performers in the breed. It’s a win win. I’ll just leave you with a quote by James L Barksdale, a board member at Time Warner, FedEx and Sun Microsystems:
"If we have data, let’s look at data.
If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”