Bea Page 2

When the going gets tough, the tough get going...

Jim Litchfield

As drought grips large parts of central and western New South Wales and Queensland it is timely to remind ourselves of one of the most important traits in beef cattle production. Although droughts by their very nature give rise to negativity there are some positives to pick out of adverse seasons and the issue of doing ability is one of them. It is worth re stating the value of this important characteristic probably best described as ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’.
Good years tend to disguise those animals that are ‘frail’ (as the Americans put it) and it is only in lean years do we see them appear in our herds and the importance of selecting animals that can cope with tough years becomes paramount.  When seasonal conditions start to deteriorate all good stockman keep an eye out for a ‘tail’ appearing in each mob. If the season gets worse the ‘tail’ becomes more and more pronounced with the original ‘tail’ becoming even poorer and more and more animals starting to show, in varying degrees, poor body condition.  Obviously at the other end of the spectrum are the ones that hold their condition despite the reduction in feed quality and quantity. How do they do that? What genetics do they possess that enables them to hold body condition while those around them start shedding kilograms dramatically?
We have been told many times that Hazeldean cattle seem to have more of these ‘good doing’ genes when compared to other bloodlines. This was brought home to me recently by a Queensland breeder who was in the fortunate position of having a good body of grass while much of the state didn’t. He was making the most of this opportunity by buying in drought affected PTIC cows with a view for a quick calf and then holding the better mothers as long term breeders for his herd. He told me that on his extensive travels around the Queensland and NSW looking at cows it was quite uncanny how often the cows carrying a bit more condition were Hazeldean blood.  He said that after a while it got to the stage that he began to expect the answer to be Hazeldean when he asked the question. This was a very nice compliment to receive but wasn’t out of line with what we have heard from other cattlemen over the years.
I put this ‘doing ability’ down to the Monaro environment that has long held a reputation for sorting the wheat from the chaff as far as genetics is concerned. This is probably a reflection of the tough conditions we endure regularly in this southern rain shadow region but I think it has been enhanced by our unflinching resolve that all females reproduce each year regardless. This is simply a reflection of our environment and doing the things we know will contribute to profit while avoiding the things that won’t. Doing ability is one of the things that most certainly contributes to profit.