Data collection of the highest degree
Sustainability traits are a focus for Queensland Wagyu seed growers, the Hamblin family, alongside fertility and eating quality.
Darren and Melanie Hamblin and their family manage approximately 6,000 Wagyu at three properties in central Queensland and the Darling Downs.
Their breeding goals are well balanced: to raise an animal with good fertility and reproductive ability, good taste quality for consumers, and sustainability traits such as polled and with good feed efficiency.
With good data and genetics, they achieve consistent improvements in commercial and herd performance.
“First you need to understand: what are the profit drivers in my business? Once you understand that, you need to collect the data related to those traits,” Darren said.
The Hamblins’ approach to sustainability is one of constant improvement – for them this means looking to the future needs of producers, consumers and the well-being of their livestock.
This is demonstrated by the way their approach to genetic selection has evolved.
The switch from the Hamblins to the Wagyu breed was initially driven by the advantages of fertility, but the taste quality of Wagyu beef became very valuable. The value of a Wagyu carcass is determined by weight and marble score, both of which can be maximized through selective breeding.
“We can have a carcass value variation of $3,000 to $6,000 for the same animal that costs you the same price to raise and feed, so you can understand why we want to aim for those better traits,” said said Darren.
Their breeding focus has expanded to traits that produce cattle that are resistant to harsh climates, as well as strong sustainability credentials.
These traits include the polled gene, marbling fineness and distribution, and net feed intake.
Darren believes the future market will financially reward these traits, and as a breeder supplying commercial producers, he wants his industry to be ready to capitalize when this market opportunity arises.
“Even if we don’t get paid for these traits now, I know we will be and I don’t want to be 15 years behind in catching up on this trait,” he said.
Darren and Melanie are the northern managers of Australia’s Poll Wagyu program, which aims to selectively breed polled genes in Wagyu cattle without compromising carcass performance or fertility.
This eliminates the dehorning process, which improves animal welfare, workplace safety, reduces labor costs and minimizes production delays.
Darren is a long-time user of technology to analyze genealogical data.
He turned to genomic testing and singular nucleotide polymorphism (SNP). SNPs provide it with DNA markers which, when linked to sufficient historical performance data, increase the accuracy of its selection decisions.
The production and carcass data he has collected over many years have been invaluable in tracking historical trends and progress, and when combined with SNPs, become extremely powerful predictors of future breeding outcomes. selection.
Darren’s focus on capturing data to support his breeding decisions also includes:
- data collection using individual software, eID tags and scales
- collect data on calves, their mothers, date of birth and sex
- keep information on lot numbers, chemical injections and vaccination information for traceability
- perform ultrasounds and pregnancy tests 35 days after artificial insemination to find the most fertile cows
- average the carcass size and marble score of all offspring of a certain sire and dam to find positive and negative traits
- analysis of genomic tests and SNPs linked to historical performance data.
The information assists in accurate selection for sustainable traits, product quality and economically viable production – tied in with Hamblin’s strong commitment to data, carcass feedback and lifelong traceability.
“It’s not just about collecting data, it’s about fully interpreting it and using it,” Darren said.
“People think that collecting data is just a few key things, but for us, all we do is collect data. The beauty of having all this information is that it allows me to come back to back and rethink the traits we need to move forward.