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Breeder says MAEBULL is the `ideal modern-day bull’

genetics Australia - Craig Lister
Genetics Australia - Craig Lister

Northern Victorian dairy farmer and Holstein breeder Craig Lister reckons it might be time to drive south and personally say thanks to top-ranking Holstein, Calister MAEBULL.

The breeder from Calivil, about 65km west of Echuca, has good reason to celebrate after Genetics Australia Holstein MAEBULL, based at Genetics Australia’s Bacchus Marsh farm, was confirmed in the latest ABV release as Australia’s best Holstein bull.

“I haven’t seen MAEBULL in years,” Mr Lister admitted. “I’d better get down there and do that.”

Mr Lister describes MAEBULL as the “ideal modern-day bull” and his statistics support that claim.

He is the Number 1 BPI and SCC bull in Australia, and Top 1 per cent for HWI [Health], TWI [Type] and Top 5 per cent for Calving Ease and Daughter Fertility. He is also A22 and 102 for Heat Tolerance and positive for Feed Saved.

He has 96 per cent reliability for production, 129 milking daughters, and a BPI of 323 making him Australia’s number one daughter-proven Holstein bull.

This is the first time one of Mr Lister’s bulls has achieved the top ranking and he says it’s a relief as much as a reason for celebration.

“I was relieved,” the fourth-generation farmer said. “He’d been number two or three for a few years. Each of those competitors are still around but have fallen away; MAEBULL has held very steady and very reliable.

“He’s the ideal modern-day bull with moderate stature, good health traits, and his daughters get back in-calf quickly while still producing well.

“I’m glad he’s providing the kind of cows that dairy farmers are happy with and I hope that he can continue to do so for a long time.”

Mr Lister, who milks 350-400 mostly highly-ranked registered Holsteins, purchased MAEBULL as an embryo from the USA to introduce a new cow family.

“In 2012 when the dollar was near parity, I saw an opportunity to import US genetics from a well-regarded cow family,” he said. “I looked for cow families that I admired for their consistency in breeding profitable, productive Holsteins and in looking for embryos with bloodlines that had worked well in Australia.”

The embryos that led to MAEBULL were from a cow sired by Shottle, one of the most famous Holstein bulls in the past 20 years who had worked well in Australia.

Her dam was sired by Oman, who turned the Holstein breed around with health traits to address fertility and longevity problems.

“Both those bulls had worked well in Australia,” Mr Lister said. “The embryos were sired by Palermo and he was among a group of Goldwyn sons we were using ourselves. There are some differences between what works in the US and in the grazing-based Australian system, but these were as close as we could get to genetics that we knew would work here.

“I bid and won the genetic package of five embryos. That resulted in a heifer and a bull and the bull was MAEBULL.” He was born at the Calivil farm and moved nine months later to Genetics Australia to join the 2013 young bull team.

Mr Lister said Genetics Australia “took a bit of a punt” on MAEBULL. “He was on the lower end of the genomic bulls under the Australian system. A bit of a punt was taken that once more information was known he would turn out pretty well. He was selected on that basis and because he had different pedigree from a well-known cow family that had had a lot of positive influence over a long period around the world.”

MAEBULL was proven in Australia and according to Mr Lister he epitomises the strengths of modern bulls.

“We used his semen as a young sire once he became available. We had four heifers born from that and they are still milking and performing well in our herd, and we’ve continued to use him,” Mr Lister said.

“In many ways, he epitomises our breeding goals in that he produces functional cows that are moderate in stature, have good chest width, they’re healthy and get in-calf, they are good for mastitis resistance and they are productive.

“While he’s not a huge type improver, he improved a couple of traits that were a bit lacking in the Holstein breed, particularly in adding to chest width and lowering rump angle.

“He’s the total package. He’s so complete for his health traits but he still has a good level of productivity and makes functional, profitable cows…the kind that farmers want.”

Mr Lister, a Board member of DataGene and former director of Murray Dairy, is a strong advocate of using elite genetics to improve profitability.

“As a result of genomic selection, we’ve got a wide variety of genetics available to suit every breeding goal around the world,” he said.

While enjoying the top ranking, he admits to some hesitation about taking all the credit.

“It’s kind of a funny feeling because I didn’t actually breed the bull. He was bred by the Schmitt family from Iowa, but he has proven to be a great success in Australia,” he said.

Mr Lister is confident MAEBULL has many more successful years ahead. “I believe he is probably under-utilised at this stage given his no-holes proof. Hopefully this ranking will help.”

Source: Genetics Australia

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