No shortcuts to quality

Beef producers interested in increasing profitability by adding highly fertile, hardy cattle ideally suited to Northern Australia, are investing in Seifert Belmont Reds genetics.

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Husband and wife team Ian Stark and Jeanne Seifert own the largest, and purest, herd of Belmont Reds in Australia, running close to 2000 fully Breedplan recorded females on an aggregation of 12,500ha in Queensland.

Ian Stark said beef producers interested in increasing profitability by adding highly fertile, hardy cattle ideally suited to Northern Australia, are investing in their genetics, which also provide flat backed market flexibility and low cost of production.

More than 300 bulls are produced annually to supply beef producers, from small-scale family operations to large-scale corporate companies, across Qld, NT, WA, NSW and Victoria.

"To cater for the growing demand for Seifert Belmont Reds, we're in a business expansion phase in order to supply 400 to 600 bulls annually," Mrs Seifert said.

Mrs Seifert said there are no short-term decisions when buying a bull, and proven herd fertility should be the primary selection criteria, as a sires genetics will be in your herd until the early 2040s.

"That's why our breeding standards are so stringent. We target the economically profitable traits of exceptional fertility, impeccable temperament, real tropical adaptation and carcase quality," she said.

To maximise these traits, the stud is committed to Breedplan and uses Matesel for a portion of joinings each year. Specifically planned genetic combinations are applied through natural single sire mating groups, FTAI and IVF, to meet objectives. To date Seifert Belmont Red sires hold the top 10rankings on BreedObjects self-replacing $index. Two special top indexing cows are also being cloned.

The Belmont Red is the longest performance recorded breed in Australia and Seifert Belmont Reds' pedigrees go back to the original CSIRO genetics of 1956.

"We're very hands on. Every animal is Breedplan recorded. We don't just pick the 'good ones'. We also stake our reputation on high integrity, trustworthy data," Mrs Seifert said.

Genetic selection isn't carried out in isolation of phenotype with Mr Stark having an eye for structure, soundness, and type. This balanced approach to breeding the best genotype and phenotype, in combination with deep pedigrees and purity of breed, ensures that in crossbreeding systems clients can expect highly consistent and predictable calves.

The studs' bull calves are semen tested for morphology and motility from 12 to 14 months of age. These early puberty, high libido bulls are used as single sires in mating groups of 50 to 80 females.

"This very short intergenerational interval means they have produced their first calves by the time they are two. Significantly these young bulls breed highly profitable early puberty sons, and daughters with low lactation anoestrus, combining to maximise ongoing generational herd fertility."

While the stud produces seedstock bulls the herd is run under strictly commercial conditions.

"We're one of a rare few who never treat for ticks or buffalo fly. This guarantees the most naturally resistant, truly tropically adapted genes persist in our herd. Only females that breed a calf each year, despite the heat, ticks and flies, and with no special care, remain."

With their focus on objective data and driving genetic progress, Mrs Seifert and Mr Stark are adopters of agritech. They use genomic DNA technologies, with all males and many females DNA sire verified and tested for the poll/horn gene. Ninety-eight per cent of the herd is polled, with about half of bulls Homozygous Polls (PP).

"In conjunction with a joint venture partner, we are testing a third of our young females annually for net feed efficiency and meat quality at the UNE Tullimba Research GrowSafe feedlot NSW.

"We're also using CERES direct to satellite animal monitoring tags to track the location and health of our stud bulls. The CERES smart ear tags are useful to monitor if the right bull is in the right paddock during joining.

"To care for our country, we're using CIBOlabs satellite remote sensing technology to estimate paddock pasture biomass levels, stocking capacity, ground cover and land condition.

"To care for our cattle, at all times, we apply industry best practice pain management, animal welfare and low stress stock handling."

Seifert Belmont Reds have been active participants in research and their herd performance, especially with respect to fertility, is benchmarked in major Australian research. Data received has seen their genetics emerge with top results.

"The recently completed MLA Northern Beef Genomics project validates our fertility claims - with our females ranking in the top 5pc for early puberty. The MLA CashCow project was the largest project researching fertility in northern Australia. Our results showed that our return-to-calf rates on first calf wet heifers was 45pc above the average."

The stud has also been involved in, or contributed data to, CRC research, the MLA Phosphorus Challenge, UQ poll horned research, and buffalo fly research.

While performing well for producers across Australia, Seifert Belmont Reds genetics are also exported to the Philippines, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea and Paraguay.

"With partners in South America, we've established a satellite herd of Belmont Reds in Paraguay called Paraguay Belmont Reds, by exporting our pure-bred IVF frozen embryos. Our first bulls will be sold there later this year."

The growing stature of their genetics was underlined at the 2021 Seifert Belmont Reds sale, where all bulls sold to average $12,900, while a new breed sale record of $32,000 was set. This year 100 powerful polled bulls will be offered at the 2022 Seifert Belmont Reds sale, at Jandowae, on August 1.

The Helmsman Auction will be run by Elders from 12pm and online via AuctionsPlus. Inspections are welcome. Catalogues will be online on the Seifert Belmont Reds website from mid-June, and individual bull videos will be available late-July.

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