Massive milestone for dairy industry: LIC tags its 10,000th bull!
06 Dec 2016
It’s a milestone that has been 55 years in the making but took only a split-second to finally happen. With one clamp of a handheld tag punch, LIC’s 10,000th Sire Proving Scheme (SPS) bull calf has been tagged. The historic event took place on the farm of long-time and esteemed dairy cattle breeders Stewart and Kathryn Anderson of Otewa (near Otorohanga).
“The young bull symbolises the huge contribution the Sire Proving Scheme makes to New Zealand dairy farming,” LIC Chief Executive Wayne McNee says. Today the vast majority of dairy cows grazing NZ pastures are from LIC bloodlines.
The herd improvement co-operative’s SPS scheme got underway in 1961 when New Zealand dairy farmers banded together to selectively breed the best bulls for the dairy industry. That work continues to this day, with LIC working closely with farmers to identify and develop the best prospects.
The tagging of the new young bull calf signals LIC purchasing him, after selecting him based on his genetic potential. He has been named Arkan MGH Believer. Over the next few years he’ll be treated like animal royalty at LIC’s Newstead bull farm. The little guy could grow to a 1000kg beast.
If as a young bull, his resulting daughters end up as high performing dairy cows in terms of efficiency and productivity, he will ‘graduate’ to LIC Premier Sires status. Premier Sires are LIC’s very top bulls.
He’ll then have his semen distributed and inseminated in to thousands of cows across the national herd. Potentially he’ll be worth millions of dollars to LIC (which is owned by New Zealand dairy farmers) and to the national economy - by contributing to driving up genetic gain in the national dairy herd.
“It’s lovely of LIC to have chosen this farm to tag its 10,000th SPS animal,” says Kathryn Anderson. “It was really exciting for the co-operative to mark the occasion, and we felt quite humbled at having the honour and recognition of LIC marking the milestone here.”
Simon Worth, LIC Bull Acquisition Manager, says tagging the calf marks a significant milestone in the co-operative’s history. “The calf stems from an amazing cow with a formidable reputation in terms of her powerful cow family, conformation and breeding worth. The calf’s sire, Mourne Grove Hothouse, is one of LIC’s very best bulls, siring many outstanding daughters.”
Kathryn’s husband, Stewart, pays tribute to the Sire Proving Scheme farmers who help ‘prove’ the worth of the bull genetics, and therefore make performance improvement of the national dairy herd possible. “Sire proving through the use of daughter-proofs is essential. Genomics (genetic research into an animal’s traits using its DNA) tells you the story of a bull’s potential future performance, but sire proving tells you what a bull’s actual performance is.”
In both his personal life and professional life as a breeder, Stewart is a “great believer” in history and heritage, and this is evident in his breeding philosophy: “I’m a big fan of line breeding – that is, finding the best cow families from which to breed.
The Andersons are among the dairy industry’s elite breeders of cow families, having produced scores of LIC Sire Proving Scheme bull calves, and two dozen Holstein-Friesian and KiwiCross™ bulls marketed as either Premier Sires or Alpha Nominated sires.
“I’d like to breed a bull that gets in to the LIC Hall of Fame… I’d like to be a Hall of Fame’er.”
Listen to LIC CE Wayne McNee on Jamie Mackay’s The Country radio show, discussing the landmark tagging of the 10,000th bull calf in LIC’s Sire Proving Scheme.