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Genetics and best breeding being let down by poor yards

Despite the drought-plagued year for the 2019 bull sales, a report from Beef central annual analysis of bull sale auction results across Australia, indicates the seedstock industry has performed better than expected.

On average the outcomes have exceeded expectations, given the vast areas of eastern Australia that are experiencing sustained drought. The results are thought to be underpinned by resilient buyer confidence fuelled by continued high slaughter and live export cattle prices.

With continued investment in genetics, it raises the question why you would continue to run stock with considerable genetic improvement through ineffective and dangerous yards.

For many cattle producers the aim of the game is to sell steers that meet the specifications to maximise return from a grid sale. The success of this animal is a result of both genetic and environmental factors.

Cattle producers, breed societies and researchers have put considerable time and money into heritable traits maximising genetic improvement for the next generation.

Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs), Genomics, DNA verification and sire benchmarking are all tools developed to assist in making breeding decisions when selecting terminal sires.

However, all this genetic improvement and careful breeding selection can easily be undone with poor cattle yard design.

Murk Schoen, Corowa NSW, runs a mixed family operation with couple of hundred cows that are all used for recipients, plus a small Angus stud with his wife Kate.

Mr Schoen knows how important cattle yards are for promoting a stress-free environment.

“Good yard design is very important. Doing ET [embryo transfer] work obviously we have cattle in all the time, so the same animals come through the yards in a short period of time,” he said.

“We do find that they can get sour if you’ve got a poor yards, so we want that to be stress-free because we know it will affects results.”

Two carcass factors that cannot be controlled directly through careful breeding and genetic selection are meat colour and bruising.

Dark meat colour, commonly referred to as “dark cutting” is associated with low glycogen levels prior to animal slaughter.

Meat quality defects can be caused by poor transport and preslaughter handling resulting in meat and carcass downgrades.

Distressed cattle produce darker cutting due to a lack of glycogen in the muscle before the animal slaughtering.

Producers can reduce dark cutting by keeping the animal calm and ensuring they can produce enough lactic acid.

While selection can be used to improve temperament by using docility EBVs. Ultimately poor handling and poor facilities override initial development.

Yards that encourage natural cattle behaviour using animal psychology principals ensures less stress during the handling process.

By curving the race, the yards are working with the cattle’s instinct to go back in the direction they came from, the curved corners also reduce the knocking of hips. Sheeted panels within the race removes outside distractions and limits baulking.

“It’s important that we can go about doing our business in a low stress way with cattle because we know they perform better then. We can get them in, and we can get them back out in the paddock where they want to be.” Mr Schoen explains.

Bruising impacts the quality of meat from the animal. If cattle are forced down the race they’re more inclined to injury. The curvature of the race eliminates this concern.

Atlex Designs effectively manage animal flight zone. The cattle are calmer as the producer can work the points of balance and don’t penetrate their flight zone increasing safety for animal and human alike..

Customised Sheepyard Design

For more information - stockyards@atlex.com.au | 1800 805 292