Science underpinning philosophy at Willack
SCIENCE underpins the breeding philosophy of Bill and Annie Lack, Willack Poll Hereford Stud, located between Heyfield and Cowwarr in Gippsland.
Recent adoptees of genomic testing, the stud has a long history of benchmarking performance, scanning, and fertility and semen testing.
All the bulls on show and for sale this year have recently been DNA tested for their genomic typing, which the couple are excited about.
It is part of their interest in providing the best information available for clients and stems from Mr Lack’s own interest in sourcing the best genetics for his breeding herd.
“I’ve got an SD card of tadpoles but at least it’s a guarantee of what the bull should be able to do if he’s physically up to it,” Mr Lack said.
Now in its 42nd year of breeding, the Willack herd will be on show during Stock & Land Beef Week, with 18-month-old bulls on display and for sale.
The young bulls are by artificial insemination (AI) sires Kidman Formation D142, McCoy 55M Absolute and River Perry Fergus and natural joining by Mount Difficult Kenneth.
“These bulls are the results of the AI program that has been implemented over the last 10 years, using bulls that have been prize winners and achieved the top sales price at Dubbo and Wodonga national sales,” he said.
The young Willack bulls have been fertility tested, scanned for carcase traits, had hair follicles genomically tested for polledness and known genetic disorders.
“These results and their BreedPlan figures will be available by Beef Week,” he said.
Until recently, the Willack stud was a closed breeding herd – that longtime effort changed in November at the Chester Poll Hereford stud’s breeding cow dispersal in Tasmania.
Mr and Ms Lack bought a registered cow with bull calf sired by a Yavenvale bull.
“I wanted to bring that bloodline into the herd, it’s a herd that’s bred similar to what I do,” Mr Lack said.
He has been a breeder of Poll Herefords since, as a 10-year-old, he was given his first cow – a gift from his grandfather, Raymond Lack, for helping to check and salt his commercial herd over-summering on Mount Hotham grazing leases.
His parents, Geoff and Gwen, operated the Cromer Park stud at Wangaratta and on out-paddocks at Harrietville; and their son was alongside them every day.
It instilled his own interest in breeding Poll Herefords.
“I would go to country shows with Dad and help him select stud females and bulls,” Mr Lack said.
From the first cow given to him by Raymond, Mr Lack then went on to acquire Cromer Park, Clear Springs and Spring Valley cows, and by age 20 he had his foundation herd, on a lease block next to his parents’ farm.
In 1990, he and Ms Lack moved the stud to their farm in central Gippsland, where they added more Cromer Park (at the dispersal sale), River Perry and Tarwin cows.
“The original cows I bought were all horned but I’ve always used polled bulls,” he said.
“I’ve used homozygous bulls for a long time now.”
Not content to breed for studs, he also focuses on the performance characteristics of his progeny.
Many of the heifers are kept in the herd, but excess females and older cows are sold privately and steers sent in to the local store market where they are targeted by grass finishers.
The Millenium drought was a test for the herd, as is the current drought in parts of Gippsland.
“We now have a good base to work with, as only the best performing cows were retained during the run of dry years,” he said.
“We halved the stud’s cow numbers and only those females that could endure the conditions were retained.”
Among the progeny available for inspection and sale during Stock & Land Beef Week, will be July-August-2016-drop bulls bred from joinings with Mount Difficult Kenneth, bought at that stud’s dispersal sale.
“This bull had extremely good BreedPlan figures, with all indexes in the top one per cent for the breed and was used for the 2016 season,” Mr Lack said.
Also on show will be 2017-drop bulls and heifers with Allendale ANZAC bloodlines, as well as the Chester-bred bull calf, a future sire at Willack Poll Hereford Stud.