ENGLISH PRIME prime beef carcase weights have increased by an average of more than 2 kg/year over the past 12 years through sustained improvements in terminal sire growth rates, significantly improving the country‘s underlying beef production efficiency.

This is the encouraging conclusion of the latest analyses of national slaughter and breed data undertaken by the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX).

The increased growth potential is already having a positive effect on English beef production by allowing more heifers to meet the target 280-360 kg carcase range more easily. 

Once the marketing distortions of BSP have been removed, the advantages of the improvement should increasingly be realised in faster steer finishing, improving both production efficiency and carcase quality.

The EBLEX analyses show prime beef carcase weights increasing by fully 25 kg/head from an average of 295 kg in 1990 to 320 kg in 2002. 

Increasing levels of Holstein genetics in the national herd clearly bear some responsibility for the 33 kg/head increase in average bull carcases to 324 kg recorded over the same period.

The fact that the average weight of heifer carcases – the overwhelming majority of which come from the beef herd and none of which qualify for Beef Special Premium (BSP) – increased by 28 kg/head to 288 kg, however, confirms substantial real beefing improvements.

While improved feeding could have played a part in these gains, parallel pedigree beef analyses pinpoint impressive increases in the growth potential of bulls from all but one of the seven major terminal sire breeds as the most important influence.

Recorded Aberdeen Angus bulls born in 2002, for instance, grew at 1.32 kg/day to reach an average 400-day weight of 564 kg; fully 0.20 kg/day faster than equivalent bulls born in 1990. Simmental bulls increased their daily gains to 400 days by 0.16 kg/day over the same period, Limousins by 0.11 kg/day, Charolais by 0.10 kg/day, and Herefords and Blonde d’Aquitaines by 0.07 kg/day.