No bull: stud relies only on AI

No bull: Hereford stud relies only on AI

Beef Week 2021

Bill and Minnie Kee run the Hereford stud in Victoria's east.

IN WITH THE NEW: Bill Kee, Warringa Herefords, Sarsfield, uses artificial insemination solely in his Hereford stud in Victoria's east.

IN WITH THE NEW: Bill Kee, Warringa Herefords, Sarsfield, uses artificial insemination solely in his Hereford stud in Victoria's east.

Relying purely on artificial insemination allows Bill Kee to focus his attention more closely on breeding objectives in his Hereford stud herd in Victoria's east.

The former lawyer turned stud principal and dairy farmer's son knows a thing or two about cattle but says his out-of-the-box thinking was perhaps due to his experience in law and his belief that change is not necessarily all that bad.

Mr Kee along with his wife, Minnie, run Warringa Herefords at Sarsfield.

The stud operation comprises of about 30 breeding females and uses predominantly Wirunna and YavenVale genetics.

It's the third year since the Kees have shifted away from the traditional conception method, which has allowed them to focus on better fertility and lighter calves.

"AI can be fairly brutal because we give our heifers two chances to be in calf, either through the first AI or second cycle which is about a three-week period," Mr Kee said.

"If they're not in-calf within that period, then we cull the females which has worked out to be about 10 per cent of our herd over the last three years."

This year Warringa Herefords will have calves due from the semen of an American sire, Endure 173D - an internationally-renowned sire with strong results both domestically and abroad, Mr Kee said.

"For us it's convenient and it lets us be very proactive with our breeding and the choice of our genetics," Mr Kee, the immediate past chairman of Herefords Australia, said.

"I came up with the idea when I was discussing it with an agricultural scientist and he said to me: 'Why would you bother spending money on good bulls when you've only got a small herd when you can have the best genetics available through AI.

"From that moment we made a conscious decision to stop spending money on bulls that we would have in our herd for only two or three years."

In 2020, the stud sold five 2019-drop bulls, four of them as yearlings to commercial breeders, and another as a stud sire during Stock & Land's Beef Week showcase.

It was bought by Newcomen Herefords stud, Ensay, for $12,000. The stud also sold two rising two-year-old bulls, including one to a commercial breeder for $11,000.

"We try to cater for everybody and have genetics available for everyone to be interested in - not just for studs but also in commercial herds as we think our bulls will add value where ever they go," Mr Kee said.

This year the stud will offer seven bulls including one rising-two-year-old, and the balance as yearling sires.

"I think there is more of an inclination to offer bulls that are younger than a rising-two-year-old these days," Mr Kee, who started the stud at Yarram in 1991, said.

"Inevitably that's where we see value by selling younger bulls instead of keeping them until they're rising two.

"I think that's the future and people are starting to see the value in joining younger bulls because they get to see that generic merit coming through earlier."

The "progressive stud", as Mr Kee calls it, concentrates its efforts on low birth weight, gestation length and calving ease to offer a bull that is "fit for purpose".

"Growth is important and carcase quality is extremely important because that's what the consumer is looking for," Mr Kee said.

"We carefully use the sciences that are available through genetic selection and Breedplan to make informed decisions about the bloodlines we use."

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