BEEF BREEDERS from five breeds are collaborating in a bid to identify bulls which can improve meat tenderness and marbling in their progeny.

Following the formation of a partnership between the National Beef Association, the Roslin Institute and the Charolais, Limousin, Galloway, Belgian Blue and Stabiliser breed societies, hair samples from bulls will be put through the Australian GeneSTAR test.

The test identifies how many copies of the tenderness and marbling genes are present in an animal”s DNA.

Valuable

“This test should be a valuable tool for producers aiming to sell better-quality beef in higher-priced markets,” says NBA policy development adviser Kim Haywood.

Limousin Cattle Society development manager Richard Saunders says the breed society will submit hair samples from 50 bulls to gain an insight into the levels of tenderness and marbling genes in Limousin cattle.

“We are keen to assess eating quality genes. But want to avoid breeders using it as a marketing tool until we have a better picture of what”s out there.”

Breeders of Limousin bulls selected for testing at this Spring”s Carlisle and Perth bull sales will be given information about their own animals on condition they don’t pass it to anyone else. “They will be free to use the information to formulate their own breeding plans, but the society will retain ownership of the data,” he explains.

In future, Mr Saunders believes the test could be used alongside current selection methods, such as visual assessment and EBVs, to allow breeders to select bulls best suited to their production systems. “It could then be used to help beef marketing and to add or maintain a premium price for British beef.

“The test should serve as an extra tool in helping British herds produce a more consistent product,” he adds. Funding for the initial testing project has been provided by Genesis Faraday, through its SPARK grant scheme and estimates of the allele frequencies promoting beef quality will provide a framework for future research using the GeneSTAR test, says Ms Haywood.