Fertility: A precious commodity
An Australian record price was recently paid for an Angus bull when Millah Murrah Paratrooper P15 was knocked down for $160,000 to Oldfield Angus in WA. Millah Murrah Angus have a highly regarded program, and Paratrooper is obviously a great individual.
One thing struck me when I looked at the catalogue. Paratrooper was a heifer’s first calf, as was his dam. Paratrooper’s dam calved at 24 months and his grand dam had calved at 22 months. Eight generations of this family have calved at two years of age, and this traces back 21 years to 1998. Yes, eight generations in 21 years.
I think that it is important to point this out for a number of reasons. Firstly, elite programs make progress quickly. But more importantly, they have a very strong focus on fertility. It is the key profit driver in beef production, and this is something that I believe Speckle Park breeders should focus on more strongly than we currently do. We need to pay more attention to the breeding records of females. This information is available through ABRI and the Canadian registry.
In recent times I’ve heard of a particular female that is referred to as “The Great One”. A pretty significant moniker, so I looked her up. She had her one and only registered natural calf when she was one month short of her fourth birthday, and is recorded as having died as a fifteen-year-old. None of her nine ET daughters had their first calf before they were 30 months old, and only one of these nine has been able to have three calves in three years at any point in her breeding history.
Another “wonderful” matron was discussed publicly recently as she has changed hands. She is highly regarded because of her show ring success. Her breeding record is, however, less than ideal. She is eleven years old and has only had three registered natural calves. Her first natural calf was born just before she turned three, with her next registered natural calf born 43 months later. She then didn’t calve again for 18 months and has not had a registered calf since 2016.
The cow in question has produced 12 registered daughters with nine of these produced through embryo transfer, and eleven born in 2012 or earlier. Of these 12 females, only one has produced a registered calf (she did not calve until she was three years of age), and she then only produced one other registered calf, two years later. The dam of this highly regarded cow, who I'll call Betsie (not her real name), was nearly three when she calved for the first time, then took eight months to get back in calf, missed the following season and never had another registered calf. Betsie only had three calves in her lifetime and was recorded as having died at thirteen years of age (or perhaps she is in witness protection).
Betsie was flushed at least five times with the embryos from at least four of these flushes exported to Australia. The ten females produced from these embryos won more show ribbons than they produced calves. Her Australian-based daughters produced an average of 1.4 calves each. One didn’t calve for the first time until she was four, and none were able to have three calves in three years. That is, however, nothing compared to her retained daughters in Canada. One of them produced her first registered calf as a ten-year-old .
This is not a produce record to build a program on. We need to be careful with what we do with this wonderful breed. Poor fertility needs to be selected against. Fertility is one of the intrinsic qualities of Speckle Park, but it is something that can be lost if not selected for. Some of the truly great ones had wonderful fertility:
Prairie Hill Reba 154F (dam of Upto Specs Ulysses, Codiak Mr Black, and Six Star Rare Commodity) had calves in eleven consecutive years.
Lightning Lady 19C had seven consecutive calves, all born in March and April. She then missed one season before calving in a tight pattern over the next four years.
Atim Lady 3D, the grand-dam of Codiak Unique 8R, produced eight calves in nine years. She calved late in 1996 before she turned two years of age, this late calving resulted in her missing the 1997 season. She then calved in January and February for the next seven years.
Fertility is a precious commodity and is the key to success for any breed. It should be a significant focus in every beef program, commercial or seed stock. As a new breed it is particularly important, as first impressions count, and poor fertility is tantamount to farting in a job interview. You will most certainly get the, “Don’t come Monday”.