A Call for Quality Bulls
Current reports indicate that there is a healthy trade for White Park cows but, in contrast, the breed at present appears to have entered a difficult phase as far as bulls are concerned. On one hand there is a shortage of bulls to the extent that there is a regular flow of enquiries from breeders seeking a bull. On the other hand there is an increasing need to raise the quality of bulls. These two factors may send conflicting messages to members.
The shortage of bulls was evident from a report submitted to Council earlier this year which shows an ongoing decline in the number of bulls registered annually. The number of bulls birth notified has not declined, and therefore the cause for the current shortage must arise from financial pressures (e.g. the cost of rearing/registering a bull, or the relative price that can be obtained for slaughter), or from a lack of confidence among breeders regarding either the quality of their animals or the opportunity for sales for their bulls.
Therefore the message from Council is that:
1) The membership as a whole is encouraged to retain more bulls for breeding. Currently, about 66 bulls are used each year (62 for natural service and 4 by A.I.). Assuming a bull on average probably has an effective breeding life of three or four years, it can be estimated that maybe 16-20 bulls are needed annually to replenish the breeding pool. The current supply is well short of this figure.
2) Members individually are advised to keep entire only bulls of the best breeding. Although more bulls are needed, it would be counterproductive for the breed to be flooded with sub-standard animals. Therefore Council urges you to retain only bulls that are sired by a superior herd sire (look at bull evaluations on the website) and are out of a cow that consistently rears a good, well-grown calf. Please also take advantage of the opportunity to discuss breeding policy with the breed inspectors when they visit.
The registration procedure for a White Park bull includes several different aspects. The primary purpose is to validate his purity and parentage, and this is achieved by DNA testing and reconciliation of his result with those of his recorded parents and comparison with the breed profile. The second objective is to evaluate his breed characteristics and type, and this is achieved by visual inspection by inspectors appointed by the Breed Society. The third objective is to predict his mature quality through a procedure known as linear assessment as part of the programme to improve the value of White Park cattle in a range of systems within the livestock industry. The ‘bull evaluation’ table below shows the results for this aspect of the registration procedure.
White Parks are a late-maturing breed, but bulls are presented for registration at about two years of age. They may have been reared on production systems which vary from intensive feeding to extensive grazing. The purpose of linear assessment is to remove the effects of age and management in order to show the genetic potential of the bull, although the ultimate proof will be the quality of his progeny. Because the White Park is adapted superbly to extensive grazing systems, the Society does not wish to see young bulls forced by high feeding, and therefore does not impose minimum weight limits. The linear assessment procedure is the best way to allow bulls to be reared ‘naturally’ without prejudicing their eligibility for registration.
A series of measurements is applied to each bull and these are processed to give a value for various aspects of conformation, each expressed as % above or below breed average. The table shows values for weight, length, pelvic and scrotal size. On the basis of these factors bulls are classified as ‘Pass Plus’ or ‘Pass’ or ‘Fail’. Bulls which fail are not listed. A further column now has been added for colour marking. These results allow breeders to select a bull or bulls which suit their particular requirements. In some circumstances they may wish to choose a bull with the highest overall rating. In other cases they may wish to find a smaller bull with a large pelvic rating, or they may want a long bull if their cattle have become too small or stocky. Yet again, some breeders place a higher priority on strong colour marking, although we do not yet fully understand the inheritance of strength of colour marking.
Advice on interpretation and use of the tables is available through the Society. Please contact the Secretary in the first instance.
Linear Assessment of Bulls
Click here to download the latest Excel file