Survival of the Fittest

Using natural selection for genetic gain

The Turihaua herd has been moulded and refined for over one hundred years by allowing natural selection to occur from pressure through the environment.

The programme is based on using specific selection pressures to phase out the weak and allow the fittest to survive and become sires or replacements within the herd.

We believe fertility and calf survival are key drivers of profit in a beef herd, and both are highly heritable. To achieve this yearling heifers are naturally mated for two cycles, and they must rear a decent calf in order to be put to the bull again. Anything dry is culled. Generations of this system have ingrained fertility through the cow herd.

The most important aspect of the programme is measuring performance through environmental pressure. This is achieved by yard weaning all 400 calves under the same conditions, then turning them out in two mobs of 200 (heifers and bulls). They are grazed in these large mobs on hill country, through the autumn and into winter when grass covers are at their lowest (no supplementary feed is given).

This system allows us to cull under-performers and only select animals that can compete and thrive under stressful conditions. We are also believers that allowing weaners to graze out steep paddocks encourages them to become more efficient forages.

Natural selection is also a useful tool to encourage parasite resilience within the cow herd. Weaner cattle are not drenched until a month after weaning, allowing them time to pick up a parasitic challenge and build up their own natural immunity.

From then faecal egg samples are taken regularly to measure the degree of infection. Blanket drenching will only occur on the advice of a veterinarian when the health of the whole group is compromised. Animals showing ill thrift and poor performance will not be bred.

Buyers can be confident that any bulls sold have been through this selection process and they will naturally perform above expectation in any commercial environment.