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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 1

I Groping In A Strange Environment: 1788-1851

II Farmers Take The Initiative: 1851-1888

III Enter Education And Science: 1888-1927

IV Agricultural Science Pays Dividends: 1927-1987

V Examples Of Research And Development 1928-1988
i Land assessment
ii Improving the environment
iii Adapting to the environment
iv Improving farm management

VI International Aspects Of Agricultural Research

VII Future Prospects

VIII Acknowledgements



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Cattle for Northern Australia

Although the Shorthorn and Hereford breeds (Bos taurus) have dominated the Australian beef cattle industry for more than a hundred years, their shortcomings in the tropics and sub-tropics have long been recognised. They are generally not well-adapted to the moist or dry heat of the north, where they exhibit low fertility and poor growth rates, together with relatively low levels of resistance to ticks (Boophilus microplus). During the early days of settlement several introductions of Zebu (Bos indicus) cattle were made from India, sometimes via the Melbourne Zoo, but these had no major or lasting effect on the development of the northern cattle industry. However, Dr. J. A. Gilruth, the first Chief of the Division of Animal Health of CSIR, was responsible for the first systematic attempt to introduce Zebus into the northern cattle industry. According to Dr. R. B. Kelley[78]

He proposed that CSIR should include experimental breeding of Zebus and British cattle as an item of the programme of research work it was about to undertake in North Queensland. A meeting of graziers, held in Rockhampton in 1931 to discuss the programme, vetoed his proposal and the matter went into abeyance for some time.

Late in 1930, however, as a preliminary to implementing the proposal and with no thought of its rejection, the trustees of the Science and Industry Endowment Fund had taken action. They had made a sum of money available and arrangements had been made by CSIR for an inquiry into the Zebu cross-breeding experiments being carried out by officers of the United States Bureau of Animal Industry, and others in the Southern States of America. The Council published the report of this inquiry as Pamphlet 27 of 1932. The outcome was that four pastoralists and pastoral companies with extensive cattle interests in North Queensland intimated their willingness to cooperate with the Council in carrying out cross-breeding experiments.

Eighteen Zebu cattle were imported from the USA in 1933, together with one Santa Gertrudis bull, named Aussie, that was presented to CSIR by Mr. Robert Kleberg of the King Ranch; this was the first of the strain (it was not declared a breed until 1940) to leave the King Ranch for breeding purposes. For the first eight years, until 1941, these imported cattle and their progeny were restricted to the properties of the cooperating pastoralists, pastoral companies and CSIR.

Reports of their good performance, however, were spreading and other graziers demanded access to the stock. It was therefore agreed that cross-bred or Zebu cattle could be sold by the co-operating owners provided that a public record of the purchasers was maintained.

From November 1941, when sales to non co-operators began, the extent to which Zebu crossbreeding spread throughout the tropical cattle-country, particularly along the eastern coast, was such that virtually a new cattle population arose. Each succeeding drought gave it fresh impetus. Owners of British-bred cattle who saw losses of the order of 10 to 15 per cent in adjoining cross-bred herds and compared them with their own losses, which were very much higher and sometimes catastrophic, changed to Zebu cross-breeding.[79]

During the next twenty years the use of Zebu bulls for cross-breeding became increasingly popular and was encouraged by breed and show societies, the establishment of King Ranch (Australia) Pty. Ltd., the formation of breeding syndicates and considerable private investment. Because of the need to systematise cross-breeding programs and to substitute objective facts about breed performance for subjective opinion and popular prejudice, a National Cattle Breeding Centre was established at Belmont, near Rockhampton, in 1952 to determine which physiological characteristics are important for adaptation to the tropics and how heritable they are, and to breed cattle best adapted to the environment. The Centre was financed by the Australian Meat Board and operated by CSIRO.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Australian Meat Board; CSIRO; King Ranch (Australia) Pty Ltd; National Cattle Breeding Centre

People in Bright Sparcs - Gilruth, Dr J. A.

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© 1988 Print Edition page 45, Online Edition 2000
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