DURHAM Research and Development, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Shorthorn Society, will start operation of its Shorthorn Research and Demonstration Herd on July 1. Ultimately, the initiative, claimed to be a breed society first, will provide information about superior sires in this country, with necessary links to bring the Northern Hemisphere data in line with that provided by Australia and New Zealand. Initially the project, running on Nandillyan Ponds, 17 kilometres from Orange, NSW, involves the 320 breeders in the Adair Registered Shorthorn Group Breedplan Performance Recorded Herd. They will be joined by AI to selected sires. The number of breeders expands to 450 in the first five years and, during that period, the collection of carcase data from progeny will start accurate identification of superior Shorthorn sires. "It's the most comprehensive project of its kind," Shorthorn Society president John Armstrong said. "EBVs for carcase and meat quality will be based on chiller floor data that have greater accuracy than those based just on scanning. "Each sire will produce at least 30 progeny, grown out and targeted for the domestic and high quality export markets. "The herd will also serve as a living example of how Breedplan and Breedobject can be used to maximise productivity." Shorthorn Society chief executive officer Graeme Mitchell said it was arguably the most exciting project undertaken by any breed association in the world and stud breeders were being invited to nominate semen from junior elite sires. Project design and technical support will be provided by the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU) at the University of New England and Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) technical staff. Funding assistance comes via the MLA Research and Development Partnership Program. "Because of the way cattle are selected for slaughter, collecting carcase data from the industry at present has its limitations and this project aims to address the majority of these," Mr Mitchell said. "Bias will be removed by assessing all steer progeny. Sires will be randomly allocated across all age groups of females. Most importantly, the methodology allows for strong linkages to provide herd comparisons." The opportunity the Shorthorn Society has at Nandillyan Ponds is unique to the breed and made possible by former society treasurer and owner, Owen Schwilk. The herd is among the original of those in Shorthorn Group Breedplan going back 15 years and is one of the co-operating herds for the Beef CRC for Meat Quality and is Cattlecare and EU accredited.