The breeding philosophy at Barwidgee is very simple.
For the cattle breeder the key to profitability lies in the performance of the cow herd and its ability to turn off the maximum kilograms of beef per hectare at the lowest cost of production.
A low cost of production program does not mean low inputs, on the contrary the best way we find to achieve a low cost of production is to increase output. This means optimizing the performance of every animal on every hectare of land we have.
The focus of breeding low cost of production beef is mainly the responsibility of the cow herd. The selection of sires used to produce the cowherd is of great importance. Many EBV’s are generated to predict the $ value of sires progeny. The main fault however is that these EBV’s are skewed towards production for the feedlot industry – yes the feedlot industry is important to us as it is one of our major customers. However as producers of high quality Angus beef meat quality is not the number one factor affecting our profitability – our profitability is the margin we can achieve between the cost of production and our sale price.
Barwidgee is now a herd of over 600 performance recorded cows. Our focus has remained unchanged with all the breeding fads that come and go. Our number one goal is producing cattle that will increase the profitability of cattle breeders.
Our cow herd has the ability to perform at high stocking rates and with less than optimal nutrition. Selection for fertility over many generations has ensured that the cow herd achieves high pregnancy rates over short joining periods in all years.
EBV’s, they are a great tool that we cannot live without, however they do not take into account some really important underlying contributors to cost of production. For example longevity of females is a key to profitable commercial production. The longer a breeding female can be retained in the herd the longer her amortized costs can be spread over.
Barwidgee sells around 120 bulls per annum. All of our sale bulls are selected for growth, carcass and fertility. Their EBV’s place many of them in the top percentiles of the Angus breed.
Most importantly they are selected from a cow herd that does not compromise selection for profitable traits.Our bulls are rigorously selected from over 250 male calves born each year. They are independently assessed.
Semen testing is also done before each sale and all bulls are guaranteed for fertility and structure.
On property sales are held in February and September. Private paddock sales are occasionally available. Seedstock females are often available for sale.
Barwidgee is run as a “best practice” property. We work hard to achieve industry benchmarks for all aspects of production and sustainability.
One of our key management goals is to keep everything simple. Cows are run in large mobs of up to 250 head. We calve once a year in spring and cows are given no second chances. All cows must calve unassisted as a 2yo and rear a calf every year to enable them to stay in the herd. Joining period is 6 weeks. A large AI program is carried out with over 250 cows being inseminated.
We wean our calves when the cows condition score slips the 2.75. We find this usually occurs around February. The calves are yard weaned and are educated to be handled by working dogs.
We use heading (as opposed to heeling) dogs as we find significant management benefits of running large mobs of animals that can easily be handled by one person and their dogs. The cattle become accustomed to having pressure put on them and staying in a mob situation. They are educated to quietly move through the handling areas of our yards.
For over 60 years Barwidgee has been collecting extensive data on the performance of the herd. Calves are weighed at birth, and then at regular intervals to correspond with the 200, 400 and 600 day weights. All animals are scanned for carcass traits. Docility and structual scoring are also carried out as well as extensive use of genomics testing.
Barwidgee has been at the forefront of performance recording since it’s inception in Australia. During that time we have seen many fads come and go. Ebv’s are a tool that assist us in our selection process. For many they have become an exclusive marketing tool.
Over many years we have come to understand that it is not EBV’s that make our cow herd profitable. Profitability is a function of stocking rate and cost of production. If we are not running at close to the maximum stocking rate the impact of increasing growth in our herd may appear to be increased profitability, when in fact the increased profitability is only because we have increased our animals size and thus increased our stocking rate.
EBV’s give us a guide to the type of animal we are producing, but
unfortunately they do not tell us how efficiently we produce that animal. We believe that EBV’s are best used to gauge where our herd sits in relation to the average, and to ensure our animals have adequate growth and carcass to meet the specifications of the markets we target.
The indexes have tried to combine all the traits into a $ value to a breeding herd, however we believe they are seriously flawed in their calculations, and in some of the traits they consider desirable. Of course as seed stock producers we need to ensure the EBV’s of our animals are comparable to other seedstock herds
What it does mean, however is that we will not forsake the traits in our herd that enable us to achieve outstanding production figures for extreme EBV’s. Selection of animals on EBV’s alone will not give the productivity necessary to achieve high profitability.