Longevity: The Foundation Trait

I guess Sal’s and my focus in terms of breeding objectives for the Dulverton program has remained steadfast. That objective has been, is and will continue to be, about providing Angus bulls capable of producing steer and replacement females for our clients that satisfy what would appear to be a national beef industry goal of “producing beef that people can eat price competitively”.

When Sal and I returned from the USA (studying Meat Science at Illinois University) in 1983, Australian domestic beef consumption was a touch over 50kg per capita and pork consumption was just under 10kg per capita, 2017 domestic beef consumption had dropped to 27kg and pork had passed beef and was now 27.5kg.

What can we do about it?

No doubt the reasons for this dramatic turn around are complex, yet to keep sitting on our hands doing nothing may well have catastrophic consequences. Should consumption of beef halve again over the next 30 years to a level around 12-13kg/head of population per annum, the industry as we know it will have disappeared.

It seems to me that as Seedstock providers we have had decades to sort issues such as Fertility, Calving Ease, Growth, Temperament, Structural Soundness; they are Foundation Traits. We certainly can’t claim that a cowherd is any good without these fundamentals well established and constantly monitored so that they are maintained. These fundamental traits can be collectively bundled into the one, Collective Trait – Longevity. A collective trait that has a major impact on price competitiveness at the retail counter. How you may ask? It is quite simple really. Should a bull purchased by a commercial beef producer have a working ‘lifespan’ of 2.3 years (the number reported in an MLA funded study a couple of years ago) then the cost of the weaner calf is attributable to the sire value


  1. Working life 2.3 years,
  2. 40 weaners per bull per breeding season,
  3. Bull purchase price $7000,
  4. Bull’s salvage value is $1600.

That is, this Mr Average bull has produced 92 weaners throughout his working life, his nett value is $7000 – $1600 = $5400. Therefore, the cost per weaner attributable to sire is   $5400 ÷ 92 = $58.70.

Should we be able to increase the working life of that bull to 4 years then:

  1. His number of weaners produced is 160, an increase of 68,
  2. The cost per weaner attributable to bull purchase price is now $5400 ÷ 160 = $33.75 a reduction of $24.95/calf. That is one heck of a saving!!

It has always been our intention to get our sires to fulfil a long working life for our clients. Refer to the notes throughout the catalogue on the working lives of our dams.

It is imperative to start with female longevity in order to lock this truly ‘value determining trait’ into the herd, a sound genetic measure would be a valuable starting point.

Dulverton Mandy S124 Delivered & raised 16 calves

Dulverton Mandy Q43 Delivered & raised 17 calves

Note that we continually refer in the catalogue notes to the number of calves delivered and raised by females in the pedigree of the sale lots. Also to scrotal EBV and days to calving, reason being these are the stand-in traits we use in order to develop fundamental profiles on the important value determining trait – Longevity.


The foundation trait Longevity is an on-farm trait. One that can be measured, improved and value rewarded for improvement, with that reward ‘kept down on the farm’. We’ve seen that reward is in the order of $25.00/ weaner.

There is plenty of room left to continue the task of addressing that lack of price competitiveness of our product at Retail. The three specific traits included in our set of traits identified for improvement include:

  1. Retail Yield
  2. Eating Quality
  3. Feed Efficiency

For a more detailed discussion re these issues please find article on the website “Theme for the Day”.

As well as Longevity, selection in the Dulverton herd also focuses on the three above mentioned traits. 70% of the females being offered are Breed Average or better for RBY and NFI-F. We have focused on the NFI-F trait because we believe the data to be more robust than that for NFI-P. Not for one minute suggesting that NFI-P is not worth measuring, quite the opposite really as our cow herd spends all its time at pasture. What we really need though is more work on the Biology of NFI-P and a genomic measure for the trait. A genomic measure that has identified the presence of the sets of genes responsible for the expression of the trait in the individual.

Eating quality is a very difficult trait to describe given our current set of ‘genetic measures/calculations’. Fundamentally, consumers tell us that their Liking of Eating is a function of Tenderness, Juiciness and Flavour.


I guess we can make a quantum assumption that Tenderness is a function of age, the younger the more tender. Therefore provided growth is adequate, tenderness might well be satisfied. While such as assumption provides general direction, it doesn’t do enough to remove all the “Failures” for Liking of Eating attributable to the trait Tenderness as per consumer response. It was OK in the past and the mentioned assumption possibly helps explain why consumption dropped so dramatically over the past 30 years. Light carcase weight was used to describe tenderness, the assumption being light carcase weight equals young, young equals tender. The MSA consumer research into Liking of Eating does identify that age, weight of carcase is by no means robust enough to remove the ‘failures’ for Liking of Eating. More work is needed re Tenderness as it explains about 40% of the consumer identified variation for Liking of Eating and there is an obvious ‘genetic component’. Therefore, to remove failure re Liking of Eating and ensure beef satisfies consumer expectations for the trait and guarantees they will pay for their beef eating experience (price competitive), the seedstock sector must include this trait in their selection criteria.

Juiciness and Flavour

Beef grading systems in the USA, Japan and to a lesser extent Australia have used Marbling as their means of attempting to quantify the Liking of Eating contributors Juiciness and Flavour for a long time – 1922 in the USA.

Marbling is the amount, the distribution and the fleck size of the fat globules distributed through and occupying ‘spaces’ between the ‘muscle bundles’ within a muscle of a bovine carcase. The ‘normal’ measuring site is at the beef side quartering position which varies from 10th/11th rib to 12th/13th rib, note the further toward the cranial end of the muscle the greater the deposition of fat in the muscle therefore the higher the marble score.

Fats explain very large proportions of beef consumers response to the eating sensation Flavour. These same fats also contribute in a major way to the beef consumers sensory response to Juiciness. How? Well the fats stimulate the salivary gland to produce saliva during the ‘chewing’ process, thereby ensuring the palate is kept ‘moist’ throughout the beef eating experience. These two ‘explanations’ help explain why it is so essential that these fat globules in the spaces between the muscle bundles are evenly distributed and that the fleck size is small enough to prevent large blobs settling on the tongue providing that ‘furry’ unpalatable taste sensation. The smaller flecks evenly distributed guarantee the consumer gets some fat with each mouthful to drive the Flavour and Juiciness sensations. It is the carcase trait Marbling we must measure and not IMF%. The problem with IMF% is that it only describes the total amount for fat and so doesn’t consider the complexities described re Flavour and Juiciness, two of the important consumer components for Liking of Eating.

Remember our only reason to be producing beef is to provide the beef consumer with the non-failing beef experience, price competitively at each and every time they partake. It is important we prevent the halving of domestic beef consumption again over the next 30 years.

Our Quest for Measured Carcase Data

It hasn’t been easy, but over the years we have continually tried to find sires, embryo packages, females that carry carcase data for ‘additive marbling’ in their pedigrees. Hence our ‘devotion’ to the Summitcrest embryos we imported – Dulverton Pixie Q12, Dulverton Pixie Q29, Dulverton Quantum Leap Q16 and the embryo that Hugh and Sinclair Munro imported that produced Booroomooka Tracy T4, note our bull battery containing Tracy T4 in their pedigree include B Frankel F510, B Hyperno H605, Carabar Gunsmoke J134. Check out the notes re Frankel on the website.

Frankel’s Cohort 3 Carcase data

Note re Marbling: 551 is right on the change from 3 to 4 score. Frankel does Marble.

Prairie Edge Marbul Design 931 – American Angus Carcase Progeny Test 2001/2

We used Prairie Edge Marbul Deign at Dean Bryant’s recommendation to Dick Whale that he hadn’t found a bull that marbled as well as fulfilling his foundation trait expectations on-farm. Note how impressive his marbling performance is given the carcases were only 16 months old. Dean Bryant runs a branded beef program – Roseda Farms, he is in continual contact with retail and restaurant outlets, he understands the necessity to arrest declining beef consumption by fulfilling consumer expectations for Eating Quality price competitively.

Note: The steer progeny were slaughtered at 16 months. The 1x 931 Marble Score 1 had been sick during the feedlot phase. 

Dulverton Corker C199

Corker’s sire D Alfred A79 is by Prairie Edge Marbul Design 931. We put Corker in the First Angus Sire Benchmark Cohort. He fulfilled our expectations of him re the Foundation Trait list really well, Gestation Length 5th, Day to Calving 3rd, 6th for 200 and 400 day growth, 600 day growth 12th.

Note on marbling: 540 translates to about 3.7 and so considered adequate. Corker’s daughters are an asset – Gestation length; Days to Calving (combined with his scrotal +3.0).

Dulverton Quantum Leap Q16

D Quantum Leap Q16 is the sire of the embryo (VDAR New Trend 315 x Summitcrest B144) we imported in the early 1990s. In the latter half of the 1990s we discussed the concept of progeny testing Q16 with Dick Whale. Dick organised for 036 semen through Bill Rishell, 036 to be the Benchmark, then managed to acquire semen from a Victoree son of Scotchcap and Kenny’s Creek son of Papa Equator. Ian Read agreed to AI his commercial cows to these sires. Bruce Picone of Tallawanta Feedlot Moree bought the feeders at 450-470kg. Bruce fed the steers for 288 days on a ration designed to grow them along at 1kg/day for 280 days – the bodies destined for Japan.

Observations from the Data Set

  • Feedlot entry weights for these long-feds similar today.
  • Feedlot exit weights on a parr to perhaps a touch lighter than today.
  • Gains per day once again similar fed out to that 300 day limit.
  • Carcase weight the same with 440kg still pretty much the target.
  • Ossification of 170 pretty much the target then and is still today.
  • 036 no doubt he was, and is still, the yardstick. Note he was half an Aus-Meat Score better than Q16 and a full score better than the Scotchcap and Equator sons. Further his 13 sons averaged Prime. It is worth noting the Papa Equator son of Kennys Creek had amazingly good ‘fleck size and distribution’, he only scored 3.6 on the Aus Meat Score yet under US Marble Score Sytem where fleck size and distribution are taken into account he scored 616 only 9 points behind Quantum Leap Q16 who was a 4.2 for Aus Meat (total amount of fat in muscle).

All four bulls marked High Choice and Better.

  • Fatness/Muscling

036 the leanest, with largest EMA suggesting he is not only the best at Marbling but also that other highly significant value determining trait RBY.

Q16 with 17 mls of Rib Fat – bang on specification and 86 EMA quite respectable. Note Frankel did measure 93.3 for EMA but was significantly less for Marbling.

K46 and Q15 performed at Industry standards for today.

This data was gathered some 20 years ago – we might ask where is the progress? Have Wagyus gained such momentum because Angus haven’t been able to consistently meet the demands of the High Choice/ Prime Markets around the world.

Hopefully this outline of our breeding objectives Why and How (including data on sires we’ve used), may help with your selection of our females being offered for your inspection / competition.

Whatever happens we will continue pushing on attempting to find data that will make our sire/dam selection much more accurate in fulfilling the objectives of maintaining / improving the foundation traits and improving:

  1. Feed Efficiency
  2. Retail Beef Yield
  3. Eating Quality

It is imperative we arrest the decline in beef consumption and to do that we must address the above mentioned three traits all of which have moderate to high heritability, there is big slabs of ‘genetic gain’ to be made. In short, the people who eat it and pay for it determine our ultimate future.

Posted in : Chap's Chatter, News