Artimore Cross the Evaluation Frontier ­ Commercial Profitability ­ Futurity Shorthorns

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Artimore Cross the Evaluation Frontier

Artimore Cross the Evaluation Frontier

Measuring genetic inputs has long been the domain of the seedstock industry in Australia, however new technologies are rapidly changing that paradigm for the Shorthorn breed.

The Australian beef industry has relied on a trickle down system for genetic improvement. Progressive seedstock producers lock genetic gain into their programs through selection pressure and that locked in gain is captured by the rest of the supply chain as those genetics move forward.

In theory, providing seedstock herds are generating genetic gain within their programs and commercial breeders are discerning in their bull selections, the system works well. The missing link though, has always been around commercial heifer selections, where most producers use a simple gate cut or draft on the phenotype of a young animal. 

ArtimoreThe number one profit driver for any commercial breeder is always maternal efficiency. How much a breeding operation produces and how much it costs to produce is the underlying factor for sustainable beef production. That means a lot of importance is placed on the heifer selection process for self replacing herds. Given a lot of these decisions occur before a commercial female has had her first calf, there is often very limited genetic information to base a very important decision on.

For Tintinara, South Australia producers, “Artimore”; embracing new technologies to assist with heifer selection, is the next step forward in bringing genetic selection tools to their commercial breeding program. Artimore is a 5,260 hectare property, run by Michael Kempe with involvement from his parents Graeme and Pauline. Michael is the third generation to farm the mixed enterprise property, which consists of 1,200 cows, 2,000 Merino ewes and approximately 1,200 hectares of cropping annually.

The property ranges from sandy loam, with some limestone and some clay. Pastures are predominantly Lucerne based, with around a 10 year lifespan and cereal cropping in between as part of the pasture renovation program. Alternate row seeding allows for a harvestable cereal crop to be under sown with Lucerne with around 400 – 600 hectares annually renovated this way. Of the 1,200 breeding cows run on Artimore, 100 are pure Angus, with the remaining cattle 50% pure Shorthorn and 50% Shorthorn and traditional Simmental cross.

“Hybrid vigour was the main reason for the way our herd is structured. There are not many free kicks like that. “ Michael said, “We capture the weight gain but we also run a high stocking rate for this area and we are able to maximise turnoff.” 

The herd calves in both autumn and spring, which allows them to invest more in quality bulls, getting two joinings a year from each bull. It also allows them to maximise their turnoff from the farm. “It suits our country, spring is the best finishing time, between October to November and it helps us
manage our pastures. Being Lucerne based, summer rainfall can also extend the season.” The pure Shorthorn cows are joined to Shorthorn bulls and Simmental bulls, whilst the Shorthorn Simmental cross cows are joined to a terminal Angus sire. 

The Kempe family have targeted the vealer beef trade, selling direct to Hardwick Meats at Kyneton,Victoira. Artimore vealer calves sent to Hardwicks have been averaging 380 kgs liveweight at 8 months of age. In better spring conditions, the cattle will also supply the domestic supermarket trade. Minimum liveweight for the trade is 410 kilograms and calves are marketed above this weight at 9-10 months of age.

“We market pure Shorthorn calves at 8 months of age into the vealer market. A lot of people don’t believe us, but it has a lot to do with our country as well. It is very warm and healthy and cattle really perform here.”

Selecting the breeds is about combining the best attributes of each breed. Shorthorns form the base of the herd, with Simmental cross females adding extra muscling and milk. The cross is a very maternal cow. Angus genetics add the black hide for marketing as well as adding a little more condition and helping ensure that young calves have the finish for the market. The vealer market in Australia has seen some downturn in demand recently as processors work to maximise value by lifting carcase weights. Artimore cattle have begun selling into the EU feeder market as well.

90% of their feeder cattle are sold to Princess Royal Feedlot at Burra, SA and Michael says the returns from both EU accreditation as well as the increased performance of the cattle, has more than offset the returns from any other premiums. For Artimore, maximising net returns also means placing a lot of importance on genetic improvement across their livestock program.

ArtimoreAround 140 pure Shorthorn heifers are artificially inseminated each year in two groups of 70 heifers each season. Heifers are given two rounds of AI each, with around 80% calving to elite AI sires across a ten day period. Heifers are inseminated 2 weeks prior to the main joining to allow them extra time post partum to rejoin as 1st calvers.

“The ten day calving window is excellent. Plus, it sets the heifers up to be reproductive for the rest of their lives.”

The heifers, 1st and 2nd calving Shorthorn cows are all joined back to pure Shorthorn bulls. “We want to make sure we are capturing us much genetic gain from our program as we can. This way, our best genetics are always contributing replacements back into the herd.”

Shorthorn cows are also classed each year, to ensure that the best females are being joined to Shorthorn bulls, with the remainder joined to the Simmental bulls. This way, genetic gain is maximised in the purebred replacements coming through.


MEASURE IT TO MANAGE IT


However, to increase their understanding of each heifer drops performance, Artimore are moving to record their replacement females under the new Shorthorn Beef IGS system. Heifers and joining sires will also be genotyped, in part to provide pedigree information and to boost the accuracy of EPD
predictions on replacements. 

Phenotypes will also be captured such as calving ease, weaning and tearling weights and joining information. Most of which is routinely captured in commercial herds now. The difference is that the IGS evaluation will separate out the genetic components and report these back in EPD’s.

“It will help us put selection pressure on our replacements and it will be great to be able to have the data behind them. We haven’t been able to do this before, so it could really revolutionise our program.”

While the concept of recording commercial females and using genomics to increase the accuracy of selection is not new to the Australian beef industry, the ability to utilise the worlds largest multibreed genetic evaluation makes it far more accessible for many commercial breeders. Commercial breeders will be able to access IGS EPD’s and support this with genotyping. As the recorded and genotyped replacements enter into production, genotyping future replacements will also connect progeny information back to breeding cows through DNA based pedigrees, further strengthening the system.

Incorporating correctly collected carcase data on steer progeny, can also help inform further details regarding the herds level of performance.
“We’re hoping that it can help us to lift genetic gain rates in our herd. Beef is a measurable product but connecting the information in the supply chain hasn’t been easy. Being able to relay that information back into our selection could help us get a step ahead.”

Having purchased sires from various sales, Artimore made the move to source all their Shorthorn bulls from Futurity Shorthorns, Baradine, NSW and Michael says the relationship with the Catts family has really helped them moving forward. 

“It has brought consistency to the line of calves. They are very true to type for us. Structure is critical, otherwise we are looking to breed a moderate framed, moderate maturity, easy doing cow that is efficient.” Michael also feels that recording the Artimore replacement females will be a good way to drive their bull selection, tailored to their operations needs.


“I go to a fair few bull sales. For our program, bulls need to be sound and phenotypically attractive, but they also need to have performance. We need to be looking deeper than just the phenotype.”

Source: Shorthorn Beef Summer magazine 2020