21 February 1997

Changing genetics lifts performance

By Jonathan Riley

PROGENY from double beef-bred cows put to South Devon or Aberdeen-Angus bulls have outperformed the remaining Angus x Friesians put to Charolais bulls at 1900ha (4700-acre) Barrington Park Estates, near Burford.

Management specialist Charles Phillips says that the gradual changeover of genetics in the 220-cow spring calving suckler herd is being made to boost meat quality and conformation and has allowed performance comparisons to be made.

This year he will be using four Angus bulls and probably two South Devons to maintain outcrossing, which he feels contributes to hybrid vigour, improved growth rates and conformation.

"The double beef cross cows used summer grazing efficiently and we have been able cut our winter feed costs by 0.23p a head a day by feeding maize gluten and straw instead of bought in concentrates," says Mr Phillips.

"And at weaning the first progeny from the double beef bred cows from South Devon sires out performed the progeny from the Angus Friesian crosses.

"Heifers weighed 8.5% more and steers 5.2% more at weaning, and after 93 days their growth rates were 11% and 17% faster than their contemporaries."

However, still, autumn weather saw an outbreak of pneumonia reduce overall growth rates to 0.8kg a day for steers 0.65kg for heifers.

Because stock are weighed every 30 days the fall in growth rates was monitored and the straw/maize gluten ration adjusted slightly from 2kg maize gluten to 2.5kg with 7.5kg grass silage and ad lib straw.

"This should boost growth sufficiently for the Charolais x Angus Friesian heifers which are sold as stores in March. And steer growth rates will now be adequate for them to reach 400kg to 420kg at turnout and make full use of compensatory growth at grass," explains Mr Phillips.

The South Devon sired steers will be finished off grass in the late summer while Charolais sired steers will finish next winter at 550-600kg. South Devon x Angus heifers will be used as replacements for the herd.

"These spring-born heifers will calve at 30 rather than 24 months to improve longevity and will form an autumn calving herd which in turn will be used to supply replacements for the spring calving herd.

"The two herds will help us to stretch our marketing period improving cash flow while our closed herd policy should generate further revenue from the sale of surplus heifers for replacements.

"Financial and physical performance will be monitored by Signet this year and we will use cost/kg meat produced as our performance measure as opposed to the gross margin system. This will then help us to pinpoint costs, both fixed and variable, more accurately and reduce them to a minimum." &#42

Charles Phillips (inset) weighs stock every 30 days to check that growth rates are on target, altering rations accordingly.