Why the Programme?
The beginning of the programme was defined in 1988 with
the arrival of a calf crop free of interference or assistance;
low birthweight, polled Simmental.
The stud went expansionary in 1989 with the purchase
of eight elite polled females from the Silvermoyle herd
dispersal, purchased on eye appeal only, what we thought
were soft, moderate framed and easy care cattle. This
was still before the days of Breedplan.
In 1990 we embarked upon our first embryo transfer programme,
flushing what we considered the best two females of
those purchases, breeding them to new American genetics,
polled low birthweight sires. We were impressed with
the first calves from that programme.
Were we on track? We continued to use whatever polled
bull was offered on the market by the industry. Not
all of them were successful, some decidedly unsuccessful.
We saw feet problems, we saw jaw problems, we generally
were not happy with where we were going. The polled
genetic pool seemed so limited to us. The choice of
available bulls was simply an (a) or a (b), and nothing
We read of growth curve bending bulls in North America.
We often wondered just how we could get our hands on
some of those genetics.
So in 1993 we embarked on another journey into the cattle
unknown. We went to the United States in search of Simmental
genetics. We found some fabulous cows, and flushed them
to some of those trait-leading bulls, bulls that were
trait leaders for birthweight and for growth at the
same time, bulls that also had superior carcass traits.
We bought fifty embryos down to New Zealand, and those
embryos have contributed significantly to a Simmental
herd that now has carcass merits way beyond the herds
of many of our fellow breeders.
But we also made mistakes along the way. We tried using
a higher birthweight bull one year, only to lose a cow
calving him down the next. That was time for a reality
check. Was it the bull, or was it the cow, or was it
both? We were still breeding knowing just one half of
this mathematical equation, the American epd's of the
bull power. We still didn't have any "numbers"
for our cowherd.
With the introduction of Breedplan by the New Zealand
Simmental Cattle Breeders Society, and the performance
reporting from our growing herd, that riddle was finally
Our first Breedplan report suggested that our herd was
certainly on track in respect of birthweight, but it
was deficient in milk. So how could we fix that? A few
doses of Eldorado, Bavarian Fleckvieh, now the number
one bull in the New Zealand summary for passing on milk.
But he was horned, and that would result in diluting
the polled gene base that we were building upon. But
we used him anyway and were lucky that most of the resulting
progeny came out polled. And what fabulous females they
have turned out to be.
And with further understanding of traits we determined
that maybe our concentration on low birthweight was
possibly not really what we should be looking at, but
perhaps we should be looking more at "Calving Ease".
Low birthweight did not necessarily translate to calving
ease. Calving ease was still possible with a higher
birthweight. We refocused.
The herd had now grown to some 150 females, by self
bred females and by selective and strategic purchases
from female sales and herd dispersals.