Stockman School day two: More profit drivers unpacked

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

The second day of the annual LRF Stockman School at Aldam near Ventersburg in the Free State hosted a number of industry leaders in animal production. The theme this year is profit drivers in bull selection.

Read more about yesterday’s Stockman School proceedings.

Meat quality and genetic progress

In the first session of the day Jody Young, an MSc student at the University of Pretoria, unpacked meat quality traits. She said it is important to distinguish between the animal, the carcass and meat when addressing meat quality. These are important issues to consider in respect of the consumer’s eating experience as well as sustained quality.

Paul Williams, technical extension services officer at the Agricultural Business Research Institute (ABRI) in Australia, delivered a presentation on bull selection for genetic progress. His presentation complimented that of Dr Steve Miller, director of the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU) in Australia. In an online presentation he focused on Breedplan’s world leading single- step genomic evaluation. Mr Williams’s main message was that if farmers don’t measure they can’t make a selection. Phenotype is therefore paramount: “you have to measure to make genetic progress. What you put in is what you get out.” 

Feed efficiency drives profit

Lisa Rumsfeld, vice-president of strategy and business development at Vytelle, spoke about the economic importance of selecting for feed efficiency. She said measuring and selecting for feed efficiency is proven to impact profitability while it is also actionable. Feed efficiency is a proven heritable trait that is compounding and lasting.

Using modern reproduction tools such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF) will allow cattle producers to move in the right direction quicker. It is also imperative to know what profit drivers are. She explained that 70% of production cost consists of feed, with cows being the biggest consumers on the farm. Feed efficiency is a key profit driver in a cow/calf operation.

Feeding with precision

Megan Hilton, an MSc student at the University of Pretoria, focussed on precision livestock farming (PLF) in feedlots. She said the demand for red meat will increase threefold by 2040 in Eastern and Southern Africa and farmers will need assistance to produce to meet this demand. PLF affords producers the opportunity to grow their production lines. It offers useful tools that allow producers to control the production process.

PLF also serves as an early warning system that can aid in earlier disease detection and consequently reduce antibiotic resistance and usage. A study in dairy cattle showed that PLF can improve animal welfare and ease consumer concerns while improving farm economics. It can reduce the spread of disease, and improve heard management and profitability. She concluded that PLF is cost-effective in the long run, an benefit that is reflected in improved animal health, welfare and profitability.

Bull testing is crucial

During the afternoon sessions Dr Fanie Steyn, a veterinarian at Absolute Genetics and Ramsem, discussed the semen evaluation of bulls and how to manage bull fertility. He said it is important for breeders to test all their breeding bulls six weeks before the breeding season, and to perform semen morphology and motility in-depth analyses to ensure that the bulls that are used are not just fertile, but highly fertile.

Referring to available reproductive technologies to increase genetic gains, Dr Steyn explained that in vitro fertilisation technology enables the stud breeder to produce a lot more offspring from the most valuable female animals. In terms of embryo production one can produce two calves every 14 days from a top donor cow. Sexed semen can also be used to determine the gender of those animals. For example, instead of having just one calf a year from a top cow, you can have 20 heifers in a year utilising this technology.

Red meat industry session

The future of the red meat industry in terms of profitability was discussed in depth at a special industry workshop held during the Stockman School. The complexity of the industry was highlighted, and a realistic action plan with a set of specific goals was formulated. Keep an eye on Plaas TV for more feedback on this session. – Christal-Lize Muller and Izak Hofmeyr, Plaas Media

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