By Quentin de Bruyn
At the annual Vastrap Boran auction we offer all of our own bred pregnant 7-year old cows for sale. This is an exceptional opportunity to select a cow that most perfectly suits your farming environment and breeding objectives. In this article I will demonstrate all the tools that you can use to select the right animal for your needs.
- At 7-years old a Boran cow is in the prime of her breeding life. She has already calved abut 4 times and about 60-80% of her productive life lies ahead (if she lives to 12 she could have another 6 calves).
- She comes from a herd with the most accurate breeding values in the game so you can rely 100% on her EBV’s to make an informed decision about her production capabilities.
- She has had her parentage verified through DNA testing (all SP stud animals at Vastrap are DNA parentage verified) so you can rely on your knowledge of the genetics to make an informed decision.
- Lastly you can look at her historical performance figures available on Logix to judge her breeding quality.
- The fact that we offer every single 7-year old cow – NO EXCEPTIONS – makes the purchase of a Vastrap 7-year old cow the most transparent, informative and value purchase around.
How to use find and use a cow’s performance figures
At Vastrap Boran we take performance measurement extremely seriously. We have won both an Studbook Elite Award and a Boran Society “Best Managed Stud” Award for 10 years running. More Vastrap Boran bulls have participated in Studbook run Phase-D performance tests than all the other Boran studs put together. At one point 70% of all Phase-D tested Boran bulls were Vastrap bulls. Why is performance measurement so important to us? Well basically, to measure is to know and without measuring you cannot manage.
In my opinion there is no doubt that with accurate birth weights, wean weights, wean ratios and phase-D performance results, one can make much more informed decisions about which animals to retain in your herd or which animals you need to purchase to enhance your herd quality and breeding objectives. When a herd has been performance tested for several years, the Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) also become much more accurate and these EBVs can then also be used as an additional selection tool. (see How to use EBVs for Selection).
In addition to accurate EBVs, Vastrap’s 7-year old cows also have performance records on Logix, which are open for everyone to see if you know where to look.
Let’s take the example of one of the cows on offer at the 2021 Vastrap Auction on 20 August, Eve VST 14-59. I will demonstrate how to use all the information available on her to inform your selection decision.
First, let’s look at all the information provided on a typical auction catalogue page shown above.
- Information such as her birth date, registration number, whether she has had her parentage verified is shown on the top line. (note – B stands for both parents verified, S stands for sire verified and if there is nothing there then the animal has NOT been verified – the catalogue can be misleading as it currently stands).
- The pedigree of the animal (the father, mother, and grandparents), is shown in the 3 generation pedigree chart. Just remember if the DNA is not verified there is not 100% assurance that this information or the EBVs are accurate.
- There is some very useful information just below the first box under Eve VST 14-59. The AFC (34 months) and the ICP (389/4) – the ICP is an important figure. Lower down one can actually see the dates of her 4 calves. There are also production indicators which I think are very important. RI (104) stands for reproductive index and indicates that Eve is above breed average here with an index of (104) and then one of the most important indicators is the Wean Index (WI) where she has an index of 108/4. This is very impressive because it indicates that all 4 calves were weaned successfully, all weaned calves were measured and that she outperformed the breed average significantly.
- The box below Eve’s mother Eve VST 11-19 also gives all this information as well indicating that this excellent performance was also achieved by her mother.
- The Estimated Breeding Values (EBV’s) are contained in the table at the bottom of the page. The most important thing to remember when using EBV’s is that they must be accurate to be useful. Eve VST 14-59 boasts accuracy levels of above 73% on calving ease, growth and milk and only her ICP breeding value is below 50%.
Second, more detailed information on Eve VST 14-59’s production figures is available on Logix under the “Production” tab (shown below). Here you will see if the birth, wean, 12 month and 18 month weights of the animal were actually taken (for Eve the values are: birth 30kg, wean 203kg, 12-month 190kg and 18-month 260kg). If there are no figures shown here it means that the EBVs in the catalogue are only inferred from other data in the system. For bulls all the phase-D results will be shown on this page.
The overall picture for Eve is that she has slightly larger calves at birth (90 and 81 index), excellent weaning (108), fabulous milk (139) and cow efficiency (135), is larger than average in size with maintenance (89), is fertile (101) and has outstanding cow value (123) growth value (124) and production values (126) and a bull value of 130. WOW – she is a TOP cow!
The best selection TOOL is yet to come. When an animal has been included in the beef improvement scheme with performance values you get accurate EBVs and you get access to all the actual data that has been captured for that animal.
The Reproduction Card which is the 6th tab on the Logix system when an animal search is being done. The page looks like the one below. This card is the complete history of a cow’s own performance as well as that of all her natural self-reared progeny (excluding embryo calves).
Eve VST 14-59 herself was weaned at 202kg with a wean index of 107 and has a reproductive index of 104. She has raised all 4 her calves to weaning and they all weaned between 102 – 107. Three of her bull calves have completed their phase-D tests with above 100 feed conversion rates, while the 4th has just been weaned.
There is nothing more that a buyer could want or need to make an informed decision about the purchase of a Vastrap 7-year old stud cow. All my cows are on offer so no need to wonder why she is on offer; she has had her DNA verification done so her pedigree is correct; she has been inspected by two senior inspectors so she is structurally correct; she has accurate EBV’s so you can confidently use them as a tool; she has accurate performance data which is available for all to see and lastly she has 60-80% of her reproductive life left to provide quality offspring to her new owner.
What more could you possibly want?