People often conclude the answer for pastoralists in times of Drought is to simply ‘sell off stock’.
Consider however that in addition to, in some cases, getting $10 per head at the saleyards, farmers spend years creating blood lines for breeding stock as referenced below.
- Half their prized cattle – boasting genetics built up over several decades – had to be sold. Many were slaughtered because nobody wanted them.
- The rising demand has pushed the price of Lucerne hay up to more than $500 a tonne – that price has jumped $100 a tonne in the past two months.
- Freight costs are thousands of dollars more than the price of the fodder.
The loss of genetics can be exceptionally problematic and cost counter productive from a time perspective:
Whilst introducing a sire on a herd can be considered as ‘new’, close to 90% of genetic composition of the next calf crop from that point is determined by sires used in the preceding 3 generations, noting the dams that make up the herd are the result of past breeding.
The highly heritable traits of the new sire will often be observed in the first generation of calves nonetheless to change a whole herd is a gradual, time consuming process.
What this means in simple terms is that to change a herd’s direction takes considerable ‘time’
The value of correct, methodic, genetic selection is that it offers permanent, cumulative improvement.
You only need to ask the people on the land if they know of Drought effected pastoralists who have been
forced to sell breeding stock in addition to non-breeding stock and they will tell you point blank, ‘yes’.