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Poll Herefords gain
By CATHERINE MILLER
FOR Dean Wheaton, an
insemination program has
enabled large genetic gains in
his Poll Hereford herd.
It has given him access to
some of the breed's best sires
to build a well-bred female herd
he is justifiably proud of -- all at
an affordable cost.
Artificial insemination gives
producers the opportunity to
easily advance genetics in their
The AI-bred calves produced
by Dean, his brother Brett,
father Arthur and their families
are always the first to be
marketed from their Victorian
Their breeding herd of 300
Poll Hereford females are run at
Telopea Downs near the South
Australia-Victoria border, 20
kilometres from their main
At weaning time in March, all
calves are transported to the
feedlot at their cropping
property north-west of Nhill,
Telopea Downs has all the
facilities needed to breed calves
but lacks excess feed to finish
them off for marketing.
After being yard-weaned for a
week, the steers begin their
grain-finishing. This includes
heifers which will be selected
from the feedlot before mating,
and this sets them up for their
"We are getting six months'
growth in less than 100 days
and you can see the bone and
growth that grain feeding does.
All heifers weigh more than 420
kilograms at mating," Mr
For the past seven years,
Wheaton Farms has undertaken
an annual synchronised
artificial insemination program.
They inject projesterone
through a controlled internal
drug release device on about 55
replacement heifers. All heifers
not retained are sold out of the
A fortnight later, the CIDRs
are reused on a similar number
of mature cows. CIDR is a major
expense in AI.
AI practices have tightened-
up autumn calving.
"We aim for 50 per cent of our
heifers to calve using AI on the
first cycle. If you can get a
further 50pc of the remaining
heifers to calves on the second
cycle you will have 75pc of your
heifers calved in 21 days," Mr
Wheaton Farms aims to turn-
off 450kg to 480kg animals at 14
months of age for the
supermarket trade which is
becoming easier each year as
genetics successfully influence
"If we can get our calves
weighing 350 to 380kg at
weaning, we only need to put
100kg on them and they are
done, but for the little ones, we
need to both fill them up and
have them grow-out," Mr
"We have to keep them for
longer, which costs us money,
so the influence of a good bull is
worth at least $100."
They are sold in the middle of
the year, timing with the
seasonal price spike when there
is a shortage of quality cattle on
Wheaton Farms' first
introduction to AI was using
straws of semen from a young
Markowen No Excuse. His
progeny were so good that
when the chance to buy him
came up two years later, they
Unfortunately, the Wheatons
only had one natural mating
season from the senior sire but
collected 200 straws which have
been used in ensuing years.
Wheaton Farms has also used
Markowen Classic, Bridge
Powerplay, Yalgoo Interrogator,
and one of the breed's most
widely used bulls and 2005 Poll
Hereford Sire of the Year --
Bowen Vincent -- in their
All of the semen is stored at
Robertson's AI & Herd Testing
Service's Murray Bridge facility.
Mr Wheaton completes the
hormone and heat detection
preparation work and a
technician from Robertson's AI
testing service inseminates the
cows 70 hours after the K-mars
are pulled out.
Mr Wheaton is pleased with
the conception rates, which are
generally about 50pc.
All females are then put with
back-up bulls they breed
themselves by retaining the
best couple of AI-bred bull
calves each year.
In seven short years, Mr
Wheaton has noticed the
difference these superior
genetics have had on their herd
and says females are the engine
room of any herd.
The ardent Poll Hereford
breeder says whiteface cattle
shine in their challenging
Telopea Downs environment,
which has an annual rainfall of
just 350 millimetres.
"We are looking for our cows
to have a calf, rear a calf and get
back in-calf. That is why we run
reds and not blacks," he said.
"The Hereford mum is the
Mr Wheaton's only criticism is
the difficulty commercial
whiteface producers have
buying semen from proven
sires. This is holding the breed
back compared to the Angus
breed which ensure commercial
breeders have access to the
same bulls used in many studs.
"As commercial breeders we
want to only use proven sires in
our AI programs, especially in a
heifer program. It would be a
great step forward for the
Hereford Society to construct a
directory of the superior
performing cow bulls and heifer
bulls in Australia," he said.
AI programs tighten calving period
About 50pc pregnancy rates
Targets 450-480kg steers
GROWTH has moved steadily upwards
at Robertson's Artificial Insemination &
Herd Testing Ser vice since it was
established nearly 40 years ago at
In 2003, founder Jock Robertson sold
the business to Norther n Herd
Development Co-op, recognised as one
of the largest independently owned
herd improvement organisations in
Australia with more than 1000 clients
South Australian operations manager
Kent Llewellyn, who has been with the
company for 21 years, says that about
300 beef and dair y clients utilise their
ser vices on a monthly basis.
Semen from about 150 farms is stored
at Robertson's administration and
distribution centre at Mur ray Bridge
and dispatched upon request locally or
nationally using its big network of
contacts established over the years.
In addition to cattle semen, semen
from dogs, goats, sheep and horse is
also stored and distributed.
Mr Llewellyn says the company's
independence is its real advantage, as it
offers semen supplies and distribution
from all breeds and all semen
"By remaining independent and
analysing all available sires from all
suppliers, clients are getting access to
the best product available which suits
their individual needs rather than being
pressured into certain sires," he said.
Mr Llewellyn is extremely proud of
the close working relationship they
have with their stud and commercial
"All staff at Robertson's take a keen
interest in the results of their work
through their clients' achievements,
whether it is in increased litres for dair y
herds, show ribbons, top saleyard
prices, or good bull sale prices," he said.
"They are trying to help them achieve
more as if the herds were their own."
Robertson's growth has come from
word-of-mouth refer rals.
A long-time client, Damian Gommers,
is full of praise for the role Rober tson's
has played in the growth of his
Mandayen Limousin stud at Keith.
In the 18 years they have been
working with Robertson's, Mandayen
has grown from 20 cows to 400
registered Limousin and Limflex
females and is one of the leading
producers of the breed.
Between 60 per cent and 70pc of their
calves are AI-bred each year, enabling
them to introduce new overseas sires as
outcross genetics and also use proven
Mr Gommers says Robertson's
designs the best AI program for them
and efficiently ships semen around
Australia for their clients.
"They are great to work with and
nothing is too much of a drama," he
Robertson's has six AI technicians
based in SA covering all areas of the
State and wester n Victoria.
Mr Gommers says having experienced
AI staff in the major cattle areas of the
State is an advantage for Robertson's as
clients are able to get their programs
done at a time that suits their far m
The Norther n Herd Development Co-
Op head office at Cohuna covers most
areas of Vic and the Wangaratta office
caters to most areas of New South
major plus point
About 300 beef and dairy clients use
Robertson's artificial insemination
services each month
-- KENT LLEWELLYN
BIG GAINS: Dean Wheaton, Wheaton Farms, Nhill is happy with the rapid
improvements in his self-replacing Poll Hereford herd as a result of using AI to
access some of the breed's proven sires.
HEIFER CARE: Wheaton Farms heifers are lot-fed after weaning for three months to ensure they grow-out well for mating.
Robertson's AI / NHD
• Statewide Synchronised AI Programs
• Statewide Artificial Insemination Service
• Semen sales and national semen
• Cattle sourcing & sales
Words cannot explain the service -- experience it for yourself!
Phone: 08 85 321 392
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