Polled genetics is an increasingly common topic of discussion at the sales and producer events I attend. Customers and others also often ask whether we have polled paddock bulls for sale and it’s difficult to ignore the fact that sale toppers in the Brahman breed are frequently polled. For us, the top prices at our last three auction sales were for polled animals. There’s clearly a growing demand for polled. Read on to find out about the benefits and Rockley’s breeding goals and practices for this significant trait.
According to Paul Williams from Tropical Beef Technology Services and technical officer for the ABBA , ‘Breeding polled cattle provides a permanent solution to many of the problems associated with horned cattle, including easier handling of stock, reduced bruising, reduced risk of injury to stock handlers, reduced labour costs and reduced concerns regarding the animal welfare issues associated with dehorning.’
These benefits speak for themselves and together represent significant reductions in production losses and mortalities, all of which add up to cost savings for us and, most importantly, for our customers.
Breeding for polled cattle is not as straightforward as it may seem – there’s more to it than simply breeding from animals with visible polled heads. The most accurate tool to date is the DNA-based Australian Poll Gene Marker test, which enables producers to transition to a polled herd over a period of time. This Beef CRC FAQ document describes the Australian Poll Gene Marker test in more detail.
Rockley’s polled plans
At Rockley we are all about balance in breeding for our 7 elite breeding attributes and polledness is no exception. We use both polled males and females in our breeding program and have always viewed polled cattle as a ‘bonus’. We are blessed to have a strong influence of polled genetics in our herd that traces back to our polled Shorthorn base. As the gene pool widens at a rapid pace within the red Brahman breed our aim over the long term is for all our joinings to breed homozygous polled animals (PP) or ‘true polled’. I must stress, this is big picture thinking and will take time.
The success of our breeding platform at Rockley comes from our commitment to finding and continually fine-tuning a balance among the genetic traits we want to see in our cattle. It’s well known that selecting for a single trait can be problematic. We are very aware that certain undesirable traits that can creep in when you fully focus on polled cattle. Traits that we keep particularly in mind when selecting polled animals are navels, bone and width behind the hump.
We have used Doonside Mr C Eagle in our IVF programs; at PP (98%) he’s a ‘true polled’.
Our experience and policy
Until our herd is 100% polled, our policy and practices for dehorning reflect our years of experience and our commitment to animal welfare. Calves that we believe are horned are dehorned as soon as possible to minimise stress. We also use pain relief when dehorning, branding and castrating, which are all done at the same time.
For further information, please contact me (Ashley) on 0408 780 810.