What I learnt from the best beef farmers who were going nowhere.

They had their animal health plan from their vet, environmental plan from their fert rep, budget from their accountant and maybe a succession plan from a consultant.

But their breeding plan? Non-existent.

Too often I see a whole bull team change in one year because the manager has changed. Sound familiar? It might be justified – but how do you know if you don’t have a plan? And a way to monitor that plan??

Breeding Plans should be made at board level but with input from everyone in the team – based on their diverse knowledge, experiences and future predictions. Goals should be set based on current genetics and future potential. Without a goal, and a plan to reach that goal – how do you know what direction you are headed? How do you know if you are progressing year on year?

Regardless if you’re a bull buyer or a bull breeder, don’t be caught without a breeding plan. Here is a helping hand to get you started.

  1. Start with the why.

What is it that you enjoy about breeding stock? What does success in this business look like to you?

  • Is it about improving every year?
  • Is it about maximising income and reducing costs?
  • Is it about producing an even line of cattle that you are proud to show off?
  • Is it sustainable production, focussed on the consumer?
  • Is it all or majority of the above?
  • Write down the issues and opportunities you face on your farm.
  • Your topography and the stock that suit it.
  • Soil types and pasture growth patterns
  • Animal health and wellbeing
  • What is the future of your farm and farming practices?
  • What issues and opportunities do you see coming, compared with what you are facing now?
  • Who is your competition?
  • What are other breeders or farmers doing that you like/don’t like?
  • What technologies are other breeders/farmers using that you would like to find out more about and possibly integrate into your program?
  • How are you and your breeding unique to the rest of the market?
  • How would you rate your current farming performance and what can you do better?
  • Are you happy with your pregnancy rates, calving percentages, weaning percentages?
  • How does your weaning weights compare with similar farms around your area?
  • If you are finishing stock, are you meeting any quality premiums? Do you want to be doing more in this space?
  • Do you have specific animal health issues on your farm that are impacting your performance?
  • What do you mostly cull your animals for?
  • Who are your key customers or the key buyers of your product??
  • What feedback do they give you?
  • What does your “ideal” customer look like?
  • How can you track your performance, year on year?
  • If you have changed breeders, how can you monitor the progress (or not!) for that change?
    • Could you use different sires across specific groups and record the differences in progeny weights?
    • Could you tag heifers according to their sires, and monitor their pregnancy rates?
  • What records do you take that you could compare every year? Pregnancy scanning, weaning ?

Don’t be another farmer going nowhere. Answering the above questions will help you set your breeding objective and create specific goals associated with that objective. You then need to get very clear about where you sit now and where you want to sit. Use the industry tools like breeding values to help you make a plan for getting from A to B.

Need help?

Don’t hesitate to reach out.

Jo Scott