Breeding bulls for South Island hill and high country conditions
The development of the Meadowslea hill - country type has been the result of 25 years of selecting animals that perform the best in our hash hill country environment. Cows that can winter easily on the hill without supplements, stay in good order, calve easily and get back in calf early every year for 10 years has been the focus of our breeding programme. By putting pressure on cows to winter on native hill blocks it quickly became apparent that some animals could manage well in this environment and would easily get back in calf the next year, while those that struggled would be too light going to the bull, and either calve later each year, or come through dry.
Those that were dry or were not holding their condition well enough were removed from the stud herd, while the "easy-doing" types thrived and passed their genetics on to the next generation. It was clear that it was the cows with good fat covers going in to the winter that were consistently performing the best in our environment.
Ultrasound scanning is performed on all yearling bulls in early spring, and on the heifers in the autumn. For us, the most important data is the rib and rump fat cover measurement - we have found these strongly correlate with those easy doing characteristics, and we now put a lot of emphasis on this when selecting bulls to use and heifers to retain. This is reflected in Meadowslea having some of the highest fat EBVs on the Australasian Angus BreedPlan system.
These great positive fat EBVs in the Meadowslea herd have come about simply by selecting animals that suit the hill country environment.
Below is a graph showing improvement in fat EBVs at Meadowslea while running the herd on hill country, compared with Australasian average, taken from the Angus Breedplan report February 2019.
Note the divergence between the two lines over the 1999 to 2009 period. In more recent years the deterioration in the breed average has reversed slightly, but still has a long way to go!
Our objectives are to breed bulls for the South Island hill and high country conditions.
We run our stud cows as close to a commercial operation as possible with cows working hard on the tussock. Any that show the slightest weakness in constitution or structural soundness are culled.
All yearling heifers have the opportunity of going to the bull and anything not in calf after 2 1/2 cycles is culled. Only after proving they can raise a good calf and stay in good order on the tussock are the 2 ½ year old heifers selected for the herd.