Innovative Te Mania Angus research on beef cattle puberty and its impact on lifelong fertility has become the cornerstone of a valuable new EBV and a critical rethink of industry productivity.

Starting with a series of industry firsts in 2015 with collar trials, the Te Mania Angus heifers have been wearing Allflex Heatime Pro collars since 2020.

Te Mania Angus director Tom Gubbins says as the industry breeds faster growing animals – it is inadvertently putting genetic pressure on the age of puberty, pushing it further out.

He says to combat this, Te Mania Angus has been collecting age of puberty data, with the aim of producing the definitive Age of Puberty Estimated Breeding Value (EBV), allowing them to monitor and therefore enhance age of puberty genotypically.

“There is a high correlation between growth rate and age of puberty. The faster an animal grows, the later it can reach puberty,” Tom explains.

“And age of puberty is highly correlated to all-of-life fertility,” he says.

“Get it right and we get more beef growing per hectare – and get it faster.”


Heat Colars Hefers

Te Mania Angus was involvement in the Trans-Tasman Beef Cow Productivity Project at its inception. The Project was collecting age of puberty by scanning ovaries for corpus luteum. 

“With the help of Allflex we put 100 collars on the research heifers and found that the collar was accurate at collecting the first heat in heifers”, Tom highlights.

Tom says Meat and Livestock Australia and Beef + Lamb New Zealand have been investing millions of dollars into the joint beef research project, a first for trans-Tasman red meat industry relations.

It is a project, he says, focused on finding the right science, rather than relying on unsubstantiated individual opinions.

“We push the boundaries of other traits of production – such as growth, carcase, yield, birthweight and calving ease – but to keep everything balanced objectively, we need to compare all the traits affected by any genetic gain in others,” Tom added.

“The Trans-Tasman project has been collecting age of puberty data on heifers, and on fat and fertility results, and all this information means the data can now be analysed to ascertain whether some of those traits are influencing cow fertility,” he says.

“The implications of early puberty are ongoing. If age of puberty gets too late, the heifers become difficult to join, and difficult to join throughout their lives. Using the Allflex collar, we can determine a heifer’s age of puberty by recording their first estrus cycle. This data is then used to significantly improve the accuracy of the fertility EBV while also establishing the puberty EBV.

“By recording both growth and age of puberty, we can breed from the animals with increased growth and younger age of puberty, significantly improving productivity of the herd.”

Tom says Heatime also records animal stress, rumination and activity. Being able to electronically measure illness and subsequent recovery rate, which will also give us the ability to select animals with better immune response and decreased genotypic illness rates.

“We are hoping in the future that the rumination data from the collars will correlate with NFI and Methane, in order to improve the accuracy of animal efficiency and emissions”. Tom says

He says the Te Mania Angus project has been pivotal in providing data identifying vital early puberty information, as well as maturity, health and animal welfare – even though it meant developing and utilising new technology for the data to be captured.

Heat Colars Hefers3
Te Mania Angus heifers at The Bay of Islands, Victoria, under contract management with Andrew Irvine.

As the collar is originally a dairy technology, one of the biggest challenges was working out a way to capture the data in the paddocks, instead of the dairy shed, as animals came in each day. So, with the help of Allflex and Sapien Technology, using modified Sapien built trailers, Te Mania Angus cast a WiFi net over the heifers to capture all the data.

“The collars are also providing pregnancy test information on each animal based on behavioural data, further saving time and cost by potentially avoiding traditional pregnancy testing,” Tom added.

“One of the goals of the Trans-Tasman project has been to maintain conception rates and get an animal in calf earlier, because the earlier you do it in the joining process the heavier the calf is as a weaner.

“The earlier breeders can achieve conception at a higher rate the more kilograms of beef you grow per hectare.

“And that,” Tom adds, “is something all farmers understand and value because that’s the business they are in.

“Even better, you get more beef for the same cost,” he says.


Stay connected and subscribe to our Newsletter.Subscribe