‘Flight time’: A simple measurement that benefits stud breeders and commercial producers

‘Flight time’: A simple measurement that benefits stud breeders and commercial producers

Buying Brahmans with good temperament has advantages for stud breeders and commercial producers alike. Breeding animals will pass on this important trait to their progeny and deliver a better return on investment for stud breeders, while commercial producers can expect to benefit from the superior tenderness of the meat from a beast with good temperament.

Temperament is a heritable trait that can be improved by selection. It is measured in terms of ‘flight time’. At Rockley, we are now submitting flight time data to BREEDPLAN where it is recorded as Trial Flight Time EBVs. Here I explain how this helps us improve our breeding stock and therefore provide better animals for our customers.

I’ve written before about temperament as it is one of Rockley’s 7 elite breeding attributes. Temperament describes the way cattle behave when being handled by people or put in stressful situations (like being separated from the herd). Animals with poor temperament exhibit ‘flightiness’ which makes handling and management more difficult and therefore risky. Significantly, research shows that this meat is less tender than that of beast with good temperament1.

Trial Flight Time EBVs

Flight time is a cost-effective, easy-to-record and objective measurement of temperament. BREEDPLAN uses raw flight times to generate Trial Flight Time EBVs. Accuracy is expected to increase as more data is submitted and analysis techniques are refined.

Trial Flight Time EBVs are estimates of genetic differences in temperament between animals. Trial Flight Time EBVs are expressed as differences in the number of seconds taken for an animal to travel approximately 2.0 metres after leaving the crush.

We are grateful to Gyranda Santa Gertrudis Stud for the video showing the relatively simple technology involved. Each animal is held individually in the crush for a short period before being released. Two light beams are used to measure the time taken for each animal to travel approximately 2 metres.

Higher Trial Flight Time EBVs indicate a longer time taken to exit the crush and hence better temperament. Animals with good temperament travel more slowly than those with poor temperament. In terms of heritability, it is expected that a bull with an EBV of +0.80 will, on average, produce progeny that take 0.7 of a second longer to exit the crush than a bull with an EBV of -0.60.

Benefits for stud breeders and commercial producers

While Rockley has been reliably selecting for temperament using visual appraisal, the use of Trial Flight Time EBVs enables greater accuracy. This will help us to:

  • identify and focus on bloodlines that are producing progeny with very good temperament;
  • monitor the temperament of progeny of our current sires at a young age and determine how we can best use them to benefit our customers;
  • identify any sires and dams that may appear to have good temperament but actually produce flighty calves; and
  • use Trial Flight Time EBVs to improve other related traits that may be difficult to measure independently, such as superior meat tenderness.

Finally, as we continue to evaluate and monitor our weaners’ temperaments, we anticipate finding informative correlations between our Weaner Grading System and flight times.

Rockley’s submissions of flight times to BREEDPLAN gives our clients extra confidence that the temperament of our cattle is first class and it also aids us in evaluating future sires to keep for ourselves.

Rockley Brahmans now submit flight times to BREEDPLAN for all our weaners

Anecdotal evidence

2020 is the first year we have measured flight times. One of the animals we tested was a steer we had castrated prior to the flight time testing due to our visual assessment of his poor temperament. When we analysed all our flight time results, it was very satisfying to note that it was him who had the highest flight time. The steer took 0.850 seconds to travel the 2-metre distance while the longest time recorded was 2.540 seconds.

This demonstrates that measuring flight times confirms accurate visual appraisal of temperament. Further, the fact that flight times quantify temperament means breeding for this important trait can be objective and undertaken with confidence.

To find out more about flight times and BREEDPLAN EBVs, please call me (Ashley) on 0408 780 810.

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1 http://breedplan.une.edu.au/tips/Understanding%20Trial%20Flight%20Time%20EBVs.pdf

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