Weekly genetics review: Opportunities with yearling bulls

It’s close to 30 years since former Beef Cattle Officer with NSW Agriculture, Sandy Yeates published a short manual titled “Yearling Bulls, tapping their immense potential.”

Aimed at offering commercial breeders advice on capitalising on the genetic and financial opportunities yearling bulls offer, the use of yearling bulls was described at the time as a ‘growing trend.’

While the use of yearling bulls has been widely practiced across many parts of Australia, it is hard to argue that the number of yearling bulls sold to commercial producers is a dominant number in the sale results.

And while there are often yearling bulls on offer to producers as part of auction listings or for private paddock sales, producers may often overlook these bulls as sires for their programs.

As the 2021 bull selling season gathers pace, it is perhaps an opportune time for producers to re-evaluate the potential of yearling bulls for commercial and seedstock programs.

Tom & Olivia Lawson of Paringa Livestock near Yea, Victoria sees the role of yearling bulls as one that offers exciting possibilities for producers.

“It is exciting when you consider a few things,” Mr Lawson said.

“Firstly, there is obviously the additional longevity that yearling bulls have,” he said.

“Extending working life is so important with the level of breakdown as bulls get older.  However, for us, the value of faster genetic gain is so tremendous.”

“I think about the fact that while there are two-year-old bulls being sold this year, already there are calves on the ground from the yearling bulls we have sold to clients last year.”

For many breeders, faster genetic gain is often overlooked, or its potential to increase productivity within a program is less well understood.

In simplest terms, genetic gain is best described as the expected or actual change in average breeding value of a population over at least one cycle of selection for a particular trait or index of traits.

In practical terms, using younger animals within a program increases the cycle of selection and allows producers to make decisions on the suitability of animals for a program earlier.

Tom Lawson commented that “we have clients who have made amazing changes and improvements in a 10-year time period, by using yearling bulls. Their programs are smoking along now,” he said.

The value of genetic gain across the industry can, and is often measured. Data released by Angus Australia at the end of the 2020 bull selling season highlighted the general value of that increase in genetic merit between 2016 and 2020.

BEEF CENTRAL Genetics Editor Alastair Rayner, July 13 2021