November 25, 2019
An historic collection of bull semen is being auctioned for charity as it is no longer required by the CSIRO.
The sales will assist Drought Angels, the Queensland Country Women’s Association and Beyond Blue.
The genetic material is from a range of rare cattle breeds and offers breeding societies and producers the chance to bring back some of the older breeds whose genetic stock isn’t readily available.
The samples were gathered in the 1980s and 1990s.
CSIRO began cattle genetics and breeding research in the 1950s for the Australian beef industry, at a time when animals had to be bred to be studied.
These days studies can take place at the genetic level.
Since the completion of the cattle genome sequence in 2009, research into selective breeding and improving cattle herd genetics has moved into the digital age with observational studies, statistical imputation and machine learning replacing the much slower and more expensive traditional methods.
CSIRO livestock geneticist Dr Sigrid Lehnert said most of the samples were from hybrid species developed by crossing tropical Bos indicus breeds with traditional Bos taurus breeds.
“CSIRO was the first in Australia to blend multiple British and African-sourced cattle breeds to create ‘tropical composite’ cattle that were more heat tolerant and tick resistant and therefore better suited to our climates,” Dr Lehnert said.
“With the new genetics we were instrumental in helping the livestock industry improve and diversify the genetic quality of the national herd.
“CSIRO works closely with rural communities to build drought resilience, but in addition to our scientific innovation we also wanted to do something to help out charities supporting people on the land during this tough time.”
Australia’s first tropical composite breed, the Belmont Red, was bred at – and named after – CSIRO’s former cattle research station at Belmont in Central Queensland.
In addition to the Belmont Red, there is semen on offer at the auction from Tuli, Brahman, Adaptaur, Red Angus, Afrikaner, Simbrah, Charbray and other breeds.
“We can’t guarantee that the semen is still viable after all this time and unfortunately we have no genetic information on the bulls,” Dr Lehnert said.
Nearly 5000 straws of semen are on offer.
Breeding societies and cattle farmers can visit Auctions Plus to check lots and place bids.
The auction is open November 27-29.
Beef Breeding Services, Auctions Plus and livestock agent SBB/GDL are all donating their services.