Stock Journal

Breeding better bulls

GOAL: Lily, Carmen, Jeremy, Thomas and Annabelle Seaton-Cooper, Circle 8 Bulls, Marulan, NSW breed bulls with the end consumer and eating quality in mind.

This is advertiser content for Circle 8 Bulls.

"Everything should be made as simple as possible. But not simpler." - Albert Einstein.

The Cooper family, operating as LT Cooper Cattle Trust, has been engaged in breeding bulls for the commercial industry since 1956. The family approaches this breeding responsibility clearly focused that eating quality and fertility are the two most important profit drivers.

Circle 8 Bulls' selection stream starts at the consumer working backwards to the cow in the field, focussing on the key economic profit drivers along the production chain.

That's part of the philosophy behind, established in 1991 by Jeremy Cooper and his wife, Carmen, in order to produce industry best practice bulls with integrity.

The family, based at Marulan, NSW, are the fifth generation to be on the family property, breeding both Angus and Wagyu.

"We believe that the system in which the bulls are produced is more important than the bulls themselves."

The family has become disciplined in how it approaches its day to day operations striving to create the optimum system which can be used as a template for their customers.

Part of the Circle 8 culture is that it embraces failure because it produces intellectual property.

Customer(s) First

THE Circle 8 business has developed to the point of being able to offer custom breeding programs, based on an individual's particular breeding objectives.

But in Circle 8 thinking, the "customer" is not necessarily the bull buyer.

"We have always been customer focused. Unlike many other bull producers, we have a customer matrix.

"Every animal that we create, ultimately will be eaten at some point, whether it's in a burger or a fine dining experience.

"Therefore the consumer's needs above all must be met as this is what drives market share in the protein space.

"Our bull customers' needs and demands must be addressed. My grandfather sold the type of cattle that he wanted to produce; we produce the sort of cattle our customers want to produce.

"Mother nature's demands must be met. The climate that my children will work in will be vastly different to the one I work in, therefore we must continue to be diligent in the continued burden of refining our Standard Operating Procedures to work in synergy with mother nature.

"Also we must remember the modern consumer demands that we have some level of social awareness.

"We are in the business of producing quality eating outcomes. The bulls are the factory to spread eating quality genetics around."

"There's no point building a rocket and then trying to power it on lawnmower fuel," Mr Cooper said.

Wagyu workings

WAGYU cattle were added to the business's breeding plans in 2015. It is currently expecting 200 embryo transfer (ET) calves this year.

The move into Wagyu cattle was seen as an opportunity to fill a void of dedicated bull breeders supplying bulls for the F1 market.

Each Circle 8 Wagyu bull is custom bred for each individual client.

The family's ultimate aim with Wagyu will be a commercial herd that has the highest level of recording (DNA and raw performance) possible, focused on supplying marble score 9+ carcasses, with a Wagyu bull supply division.

"Moving forward we will only be supplying bulls whose mothers have had carcass data recorded," Mr Cooper said.

Earlier this year, the Coopers completed a 12-day trip to Japan as part of the Australian Wagyu Association's fellowship program.

There they saw the quality high-marbling product that can be achieved through early weaning and specialised feeding techniques, which convinced them that Australian breeders could increase the consistency of marbling in their carcases and reduce the days on feed by emulating Japanese production systems.

From their vantage point, the Cooper family believes Australian fullblood Wagyu production is heading in the right direction with plenty of technology uptake and performance recording helping this.

"This must continue in order to identify the economic outliers," Mr Cooper said.

"Fullblood Wagyu is a high risk business.

"The feed input is the critical component.

"Data collection will be the driving tool in hazard reduction.

"A holistic approach to measurement platforms is key; genomics is a game changer and we are excited about our potential options as this space develops."

A family's focus

THE entire Cooper family takes part in running the business.

"Mum, at 80, does my books; Dad reminds me of failures in our past; my children inspire me to keep looking over the horizon and my wife keeps me balanced. I am yet to see one corporate-based seedstock model work anywhere in the world. Family seedstock businesses dominate the landscape; Millah Murrah, Booroomooka; all family owned and run," he said.

A Full Future

WHILE there is always something on the boil at Circle 8, one particular plan which has been 10 years in the making is its 2021 Angus Only Auction bull sale.

In keeping with the company's values of maintaining industry traditions, the sale will be an on-property, open cry auction bull sale.

"We have totally changed our Angus herds calving pattern to autumn so we can position ourselves to market 17/18-month-old bulls in spring," Mr Cooper said.

"We believe this is the 'happy medium' for us in raising the bulls and our customers purchasing the bulls. Based on today's information the bulls will be breed average birth weights top 10 per cent growth with manageable mature cow weights with top 5pc as a minimum carcase traits, with most bulls being +3 or better for IMF percentage. All the bulls will be at least five generations fully parent verified, have 50KHD powered EBVs, will be independently structurally assessed and be raised in the same contemporary group from birth to sale, in a quest to deliver industry 'best practice' integrity."

This is advertiser content for Circle 8 Bulls.