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World First In Internet Bull Selection

New Zealand farmers will soon be able to select "almost perfect sires" for Charolais cattle via the Internet.

Thanks to a partnership between the NZ Charolais Cattle Society, Massey University and Colorado State University, work is now almost complete on development of a unique database that will help farmers identify economically relevant traits (ERT) when selecting sires for Charolais cattle.

A genetic consultant for the Charolais Cattle Society, Barrie Ridler, says the Internet-based sire selection system is a world first in adapted technology. It is already providing farmers with significant savings in expenditure and time.

"Previously, farmers have sent away for brochures and A4 information sheets," Mr Ridler says. "They could often receive 90 pamphlets in the mail a week or two later, then spend another week or so making a selection. Now, all the information is just a few mouse-clicks away on an Internet connected computer."

The project to research the traits was supported by Technology New Zealand - part of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology - which invests in research into new products, processes or services.

Mr Ridler says the project was spurred by farmers who wanted less complexity when choosing where to spend their breeding investment dollars.

"Farmers wanted more economically relevant information on potential sires," Mr Ridler says. "They needed to know the probability of the calves surviving and their likely weight in about 18 months when they were slaughtered."

He says farmers now have access online to a list of nearly 1500 bulls and their breeders nationwide from which they can select the criteria they want.

"The new online system has also resulted in a significant increase in sales of top quality bulls over the Internet. Last season we had more than 1000 sales of registered Charolais, which is up by about 25 per cent," he says.

Estimated breeding values focus on indicator traits such as gestation period and pelvic size, which tell farmers what they will probably get for breeding. However, the research work on economically relevant traits helps simplify farmers' breeding selection decisions.

"The valuable research has comprised putting 23-24 indicator rates into five key traits. Colorado State University is now able to assign weightings to those ERTs and get a simple dollar value for a sire. This should be available for registered Charolais at the next bull sales."

The central database system is housed at Massey University. Colorado State University provides research and database management resources. -ends-

Caption: Barrie Ridler, a genetic consultant for the Charolais Cattle Society, who says the Internet-based sire selection system is a world first in adapted technology.

Contact: * Barrie Ridler, New Zealand Charolais Cattle Society (Inc), Te Kuiti, Ph: (07) 877-8538. Email: bjr@clear.net.nz * Tony Hadfield, Technology New Zealand at the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (Auckland Office), 04 917 7800 or 025 454-095. Website: www.technz.co.nz

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