Fertility is the leading key performance indicator in any herd, with cows that miss calves representing lost income and a waste of resources. Ensuring fertility within our herd is paramount. We therefore have a fixed joining period between November and March with pregnancy testing carried out in late April. Empty cows are culled.
Fixed mating periods are imperative to find and identify low fertility cows. Any cow can have a calf every year, but only a fertile one will calve and then get back in calf in a three month period.
Calving ease for us has always been extremely important and is a trait that Droughtmasters were originally produced for. For breeders to stay in the herd, they must calve unassisted and wean a good, healthy calf every year.
Any cow that requires assistance at calving is culled and any bull calf that is born assisted is castrated so as not to go on and cause calving problems himself. We do not have calving problems as a rule, at the time of writing this, we had assisted 12 calvings from 1040 calves born with the majority being breach or leg/head back. High birthweight is the major cause of calving issues, so we select heavily for small, easily born calves that grow rapidly.
Milk production, udder conformation and teat size are imperative to ensure those small born calves grow quickly. Longevity of our breeders and ensuring they have a full productive life is very important.
Within the industry, udder structure, feet structure, temperament and fertility are the main reasons that cows are culled early. We strive to select for all of these traits to ensure that heifers purchased from us, go on to lead long, functional lives.
Mothering ability is also a trait we select for. Wild dogs, despite our best efforts arrive more than we would like. We have only lost one calf in seven years.
We have witnessed how our cows behave when these dogs do harass them and they show excellent wild dog aggression and do a brilliant job of guarding their calves.