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Bull selection and use in northern Australia: 5. Social behaviour and management

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Fordyce, G., Fitzpatrick, L.A., Cooper, N.J., Doogan, V.J., De Faveri, J. and Holroyd, R.G. (2002) Bull selection and use in northern Australia: 5. Social behaviour and management. Animal Reproduction Science, 71 (1-2). pp. 81-99.

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Article Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0378-4320(02)00027-1

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Calf output of bulls was derived using DNA typing for paternity following multiple-sire mating at two sites in northern Australia. At Swan's Lagoon Beef Cattle Research Station, 12, mixed-age, Brahman cross bulls were continuously mated with an average of 325 females in a 22 km2 open-savannah paddock. Water was available in two troughs. Behaviour of the bulls and location of cows were monitored. At Kamilaroi Station, 2- to 2.5-year-old Brahman bulls were introduced to the study. Twenty-four bulls (HIGH%) were mated in an 84 km2 paddock for 3.5 months to 411 heifers in 1995/1995 and for 4.5 months to 350 heifers and 320 first-lactation cows in 1995/1996. A second group of 10 bulls (LOW%) selected on reproductive soundness was mated concurrently in a neighbouring 60 km2 paddock to 411 heifers in 1995/1995 and to 350 heifers and 298 first-lactation cows in 1995/1996. In each paddock in both years, 300–350 females were expected to cycle during mating. Both paddocks were flat and semi-forested and water was available only at troughs. At both sites, detailed physical and reproductive examinations of all bulls were conducted prior to and post-mating.

Calf output of individual bulls was highly variable but repeatable (r=0.6–0.7) between years. Up to 90% of the 270–380 calves resulting from each mating were sired by between 6 and 8 bulls. Reducing from 3.7 to 2.8% bulls:females at Swan's Lagoon did not delay conceptions. At Kamilaroi, reproductively sound bulls achieved an estimated 5–6 conceptions per week over the peak mating period when sufficient cycling females were available. Differences in pregnancy rates between paddocks appeared due to differences in nutrition and it appeared that conceptions were not delayed with LOW% vs. HIGH% bulls. Variance between bulls in calf output was substantially lower when fewer bulls were used. Bull attrition occurred each year in the HIGH% paddock but not in the LOW% paddock. Calf output was unrelated to body condition of bulls.

Seven of the 12 bulls in one 2-year period at Swan's Lagoon appeared to restrict their movement range to 250–750 ha for 90–100% of the time. These ranges expanded when the bull:female ratio was reduced. Only one of the nine bulls remained within a 500 ha home range for at least 85% of the time during peak mating in 1998 at 2.8% bulls:females. In previous years with 3.7% bulls:females, up to eight of the 12 bulls had remained within a 500 ha home range for 85% of the time. Bull behaviour related to high calf output included restricted movement range, grazing with females at a majority of observations, stable social behaviour, and social dominance.

These observations demonstrate that multiple-sire mating of reproductively sound Brahman and Brahman-derived bulls at 2.5% of cycling females will not jeopardise herd fertility under extensive management in northern Australia.

Item Type:Article
Corporate Creators:Horticulture and Forestry Science
Additional Information:© Elsevier
Keywords:Cattle-selection; Brahman; Behaviour; Fertility; Mating ratio; Dominance
Subjects:Animal culture > Breeding and breeds
Animal culture > Cattle
Live Archive:07 May 2004
Last Modified:03 Sep 2021 16:47

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