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Maternal body composition in seedstock herds. 1. Grazing management strategy influences perspectives on optimal balance of production traits and maternal productivity

Lee, S. J., Nuberg, I. K., Pitchford, W. S.
Animal production science 2018 v.58 no.1 pp. 117-124
animal breeders, animal husbandry, attitudes and opinions, beef, beef cattle, body condition, breeding programs, cattle production, cooperative research, cows, feeding methods, genetic factors, grazing management, herds, interviews, markets, milk, production technology, subcutaneous fat, Australia
Seedstock breeders’ perspectives on topics associated with maternal productivity in beef cattle were investigated through the use of qualitative in-depth semi-structured interviews. Given the complexity of maternal productivity, it is possible that some issues may not be fully captured by recording performance and data analysis. This paper discusses theory emerging from content analysis of interview data on management and genetic factors affecting maternal productivity as detailed by seedstock breeders in southern Australia. Overall, 24 interviews were conducted as part of an intensive field-work component with seedstock breeders involved with the Cooperative Research Centre for Beef Genetic Technologies’ Maternal Productivity Project. Qualitative content analysis of interview data revealed a considerable divergence in attitudes to cow management with regards to grazing management, body condition fluctuation and the utilisation of body fat reserves. Specifically, production systems diverged on the basis of animal management characterised by either ‘controlled’ or ‘variable input’ feeding strategies. Variation in management approach was associated with different perspectives on the perceived importance of selecting for production traits including growth, beef yield and milk compared with selection for perceived resilience traits including increased subcutaneous fat. The results demonstrated that among seedstock breeders targeting similar end markets, substantial variation in animal selection and management exists and this requires further characterisation to ensure breeding programs and animal management are optimal.