For stud breeders the scale of the breeding programme can be considered at two levels; the industry level and the individual stud herd level. At the industry level, the economically optimal number of recorded hinds is between 2% and 4% of the total hind population, which currently is 13,000 to 26,000 hinds. Note the reference to “recorded” rather than “stud” hinds, based on the assumption that all selection is essentially based on BVs and indices, hence the need for stud breeding stock to be 'recorded' on DEERSelect.
At an individual stud herd level, the hind herd size needs to be large enough to-
- meet the stag requirements of customers (i.e. market size) in a competitive environment (i.e. where other stud breeders are operating)
- allow sufficient selection of both replacement breeding stags for the stud and sale stags (see How many sires?)
- spread fixed costs of operating a stud herd over as many sale stags as possible
What are Breeding Objectives?
A breeding objective is the overall production goal that is intended to be achieved by genetic management. Usually this relates to one of the major products, such as venison or velvet. So the breeding objective will be structured around permanent genetic gains in the per-animal performance for producing that product. Be aware that it is very difficult to structure breeding goals around both products together due to the very different nature of each product in the production system.
The stud breeder’s breeding objectives need to take account of target customers and their farming operations/production systems, as well as the stud breeder’s own objectives for the stud herd.Primarily there is the need to target the most overall economically beneficial outcomes for the customers’ farming systems. Breeding objectives (or goals) will in many ways define the customer base. There will of course be other considerations for buyers, for example, reputation, stockmanship, trust and genetic trends. It is important to keep breeding objectives clear, simple and well defined to make maximum progress towards goals. Not only that, but a simple breeding objective is easy to communicate to customers and easy for them to understand.
Once breeding goals are defined then the focus on the traits to measure and record becomes important. BVs and indexes which support selection decisions to achieve the breeding goal are based on accurate measurement of these traits.
What to record?
Different production systems have differing minimum trait recording requirements within DEERSelect. For venison traits, the primary focus is on animal growth (live-weight for age) and carcass traits (muscularity). For velvet production the primary focus is on velvet antler yields by age (particularly 2-year-old production). For replacement females the emphasis is on body mass (live-weight for age and mature live-weight) and reproductive performance (conception date). In future it will be possible to incorporate measurements for traits related to resilience to disease and parasitism, as well as behavior (temperament). Each trait will require it's own set of standardized measurements, as defined within DEERSelect. For details on measurements required by DEERSelect for various traits go here.