Simmental – the Gentle Giant of Today’s Beef Industry
Once upon a time Simmental cattle were brandished with a reputation that saw them commonly rated as having less than desirable temperament. However, fast-forward to more recent times and the narrative is certainly very different according to Simmental New Zealand President, Colleen Knauf.
“The Simmental of today’s world is increasingly recognised for having a positive impact on a herd in terms of docility and temperament, which is something we have been actively working on for some time.”
Docility is a trait which is of course vitally important with regards to handling, but more than this – it has the ability to make a notable difference to the efficiency and profitability of a farming operation – for more reason than one.
Our New Zealand farmers are busy people – with never enough time in the day. The last thing they need is to be handling stock that are aggressive, flighty and a genuine risk to their safety or that of those around them. With docile cattle, handling of stock is much faster and more pleasurable, and a farmer can confidently move stock without requiring support from other workers. On top of this, there is less risk of damage to property and other animals in the herd.
When it comes to cows, those that are more docile in temperament naturally handle calving better – they are quieter and calmer, which enables the new-born calf to latch on and suckle faster, ensuring a higher and faster intake of colostrum and a great kick-start to life.
It’s not hard to comprehend the fact that quieter and calmer cattle achieve higher daily weight gains and feed conversion efficiencies because of the fact they are expending less wasted energy on being aggressive or nervous. The higher the daily the weight gain, the faster an animal can reach slaughter, and with less cost to the farmer.
The calmer the cattle, the lower the pH level at slaughter, which makes for much more tender meat. More docile cattle also pose less risk to farmers in terms of them being penalised for bruising on the carcase.
Setting the Benchmark with an EBV for Docility
“In recognising its importance to the overall operation, temperament has certainly been brought into the spotlight more over the years, but this is certainly not an issue exclusive to just the Simmental breed.”
She says the Association has taken strong initiative to rectify any pattern of poor temperament, by introducing Docility EBVs, which are determined through temperament scoring at weaning.
“We are the only breed in New Zealand who have gone as far as introducing EBVs for temperament.”
Like most characteristics, the behaviour and temperament of animals is a combination of their genetics/breeding and how they are reared/handled.
“We acknowledge the fact docility is a highly heritable trait so it makes sense to start with the genetics in a bid to resolve it.”
Done at an early age, temperament scoring gives breeders the ability to cull anything that doesn’t meet the mark.
She says temperament scoring has been invaluable in enabling breeders to identify patterns and outliers in their breeding programmes, as once armed with this information they are able to actively work to eliminate them from the herd.”
“With the diligent use of temperament testing and proper handling, the Simmental breed in New Zealand has managed to cement itself as one of the stronger players in terms of this trait,” says Colleen.
“We have commercial clients of the breed who made conscious decisions to switch to Simmental, purely to reap the benefits of easier and more pleasant handling, so the proof is in the pudding.”
Docile cattle provide the building blocks for an efficient and profitable farming operation – for this reason alone you should look no further than Simmental.