Calving ease and muscle depth have come top in a survey looking at how beef and sheep farmers use estimated breeding values (EBVs) in breeding programmes.

Also of importance were scan weight, eight-week weight and maternal ability for flocks and mature calving ease, growth weights and scrotal circumference in cattle, with docility also taken into account.

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This is according to a survey of Signet traits in an AHDB Beef and Lamb-funded survey, which showed a trend for sheep farms to select for lamb growth rates and ewe milking ability. Meanwhile, beef producers focus on calving ease and later calf growth rates.

ram pedigree-bull
Sheep EBVs Cattle EBVs
  1. Muscle depth
  2. Scan weight
  3. Eight-week weight
  4. Maternal ability
  5. Carcase shapes
  6. Lambing ease
  7. Fat depth
  8. Carcass lean
  9. Litter rear
  10. ATAN (fat penalty)
  11. Litter born
  12. Carcass fat
  13. Faecal egg count
  14. Birthweight
  1. Calving ease
  2. Docility
  3. Maternal calving ease
  4. Maternal weight
  5. 400-day weight
  6. Scrotal circumference
  7. Birth weight
  8. Weight-200 day
  9. Muscle depth/area
  10. Retain yield
  11. Calving interval
  12. Carcass weight
  13. Gestation length
  14. Lifespan
  15. Cow mature size
  16. Fat depth
  17. Age at first calving
  18. Intramuscular fat (marbling)
  19. 600-day weight

Signet breeding manager, Sam Boon said: “New beef traits such as docility and scrotal circumference appear to be in demand, although a degree of caution is required here as neither trait is produced for every beef breed.

“Breeders are placing noticeably less emphasis on fatness within their selection decisions, indicating the progress made in avoiding overfat lambs through improvements in growth rate and the consequential need to optimise selection for leanness/fatness within sheep and beef breeding programmes; a feature already embraced in most modern breeding programmes.”