Weekly genetics review: Putting some numbers around heifer fertility

As the Australian beef industry starts to rebuild numbers following years of significant drought, the role of heifer management on successful rebuilding is more crucial than ever.

Last month’s Beef Industry 2021 Projections issued by Meat & Livestock Australia suggested herd rebuilding will be noticeable this year, as female slaughter rates fall below the ‘tipping point’ level of 47 percent.

The rebuild will depend on the retention of more heifers in breeding herds, as well as maintaining a solid cow base and striving for high levels of both conception and weaning rates.  Retaining and joining more heifers in 2020 was a clearly-signaled intention in the approach many producers took in purchasing bulls.

Looking back on the 2020 sales, the competition for bulls with high accuracies around low birth weight and high calving ease, drove individual prices and sale averages to new levels. Although the high prices and clearances of 2020 were not solely due to the need to improve these traits, many seedstock breeders commented on the demand for bulls to join to heifers as their clients looked to rebuild.

Now that many of those heifers have been successfully joined in 2020, it is important to focus on the critical area of management of this female group. Of all the classes within a breeding herd, the first-calf heifer is the one that requires the most attention and is often the most problematic for producers striving to maintain fertility levels in their herds.

BEEF CENTRAL Genetics Editor Alastair Rayner, March 9, 2021