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Sernick Breeding Policy

Fertility is the most important economic aspect of Sernick’s beef farming enterprise.

 

When breeding female animals, the emphasis should be on improving the functional components of reproduction such as relative growth. Because the environment (nutrition) has a major influence on reproduction and milk production, care must be taken to supply sufficient nutrition throughout the total production chain.

 

The overall environment will be the main determining factor in optimal growth and body size of female animals, while market requirements and production systems will dictate the growth and size of animals destined for marketing.

 

In male animals the emphasis is on effective feed conversion, growth tempo and optimum muscle-to-bone ratio. Because production of beef (excluding fat) requires five times more energy than producing chicken and three times more than producing pork, it confirms the importance of selection for feed conversion efficiency.

 

Since approximately 75% of all slaughter animals go through a feedlot phase, efficiency of feed utilization will also have a huge economic impact. Efficiency is therefore the keystone of the Sernick breeding objective.

Heifers are mated early in a bid to shorten the genetic interval and thus accelerate genetic progress. Cows calve for the first time at 24 months of age, rather than at the breed average of 32 months. The availability of pastures makes it possible to achieve this goal.

 

We use tested sires that yield low birth weights and good heifer growth. These types of bulls are referred to as curve benders.

Because the cowherd is kept mainly on natural red grass grazing (4000ha red grass with 1 200 Smutsfinger divided into 228 camps) the cows cannot be too big. Cows that are too small are culled, because they usually show too little growth to produce a profitable weaner calf for the feedlot, which is what a commercial livestock farmer wants – a proper heavy weaner calf for the feedlot!

Consequently, we listen to the needs of our bull buyers, who are mostly commercial breeders who want to breed heavy weaner calves exhibiting good growth and feed conversion. In our area the ideal cow that produces and reproduces best, is one that weighs 520kg (see graph below).

We use tested sires that yield low birth weights and good heifer growth. These types of bulls are referred to as curve benders.

 

 

Emphasis is also placed on the relation between growth and milk breeding values – a ratio of 3,5:1 on wean direct to wean maternal. We find that these are the cows with enough milk, enough meat and good constitution that easily come in calf again and wean calves of 250kg (a 48 to 50% weaning ratio).

In herd bulls the emphasis is on feed conversion ratio (FCR) and growth, with calves that aren’t too heavy at birth.

 

Notwithstanding the cost of the weaner calf, feed expenses make up the biggest portion of a feedlot’s costs. FCR, therefore, is an extremely important trait when it comes to the profitability of a feedlot and is becoming more important due to the ever-increasing cost of feed. Besides reproduction, FCR has the highest correlation with profit.

 

From an economic viewpoint selection for FCR is three to six times more important than selecting for growth (ADG). Selection for FCR does not have a negative effect, such as higher birth weight and end weight that can impair reproduction due to higher maintenance, as with selection for ADG, for example. There is also a positive correlation between FCR and body length, which in turn correlates positively with dressing percentage.

 

Our Phase C bull testing station allowed us, over a period of 24 years, to select bulls with outstanding growth and feed conversion.

 

Consequently, we can meet the needs of our buyers. Since 1990 we have tested more than 9 000 bulls, which included more than 3 000 of our own bulls. In this period the FCR of our bulls improved by 1,2kg feed per kilogram weight gain, while the ADG improved by 200g per day. At the same time shoulder height dropped and length improved. At current feed and beef prices the difference is R1 300 per animal in the feedlot!

Apart from that, we breed medium-framed animals that are cosmetically beautiful with a focus on hooves, walking ability, head, width, muscling and balance.

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