17 November 1995


Members of the Meat and Livestock Commissions new Beefbreeder Excel Club all use performance records to pinpoint high genetic merit stock that will deliver improved effeciency and conformation. Rebecca Austin reports

THE Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC) is using FarmTech as the launch pad for its Beefbreeder Excel Club.

The club is a natural extension of the current Beefbreeder service (see page 35 for details). Its objective is to identify and promote herds already using Beefbreeder to the full. The same producers will also be making breeding decisions to genetically improve the breed.

This means they will be using best linear unbiased prediction (BLUP) analysis when selecting future genetics by breeding from bulls and cows which have high estimated breeding values (EBVs) for traits calculated from performance results recorded by Signets Beefbreeder service.

Breeds which have agreed to co-operate already are: Limousin; Charolais; Simmental; Aberdeen-Angus; South Devon and Hereford. But performance standards (see table opposite) have been set that allow all Beefbreeder members to be eligible.

The Roughley Limousin herd, owned by Walter Smith (Farms), will qualify automatically for membership. There is a 40-cow herd on 40ha (100-acres) at Chase Farm, Roughley, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, which is part-owned by John Temple.

The Roughley herd has used Beefbreeder since the herd was founded in 1980, BLUP as a management tool since its conception three years ago, and has scanned for muscle depth and backfat since the option was introduced 18 months ago. Altogether Mr Temple pays Signet £364 a year for the service.

"If you are a pedigree breeder you want to take the shortest route to improve your herd," says Mr Temple. "You need to use everything available to put into the selection equation and at the moment there is nothing more important than BLUP.

"We also need to provide as much information as possible when selling stock. For example, a suckler man cant afford not to look at a bulls figures any longer. If they buy a bull with high EBVs for traits such as 400-day growth and muscle score, they will spend less on feed because the calves will grow quicker and they will receive more from the abattoir due to improved conformation."

Only bulls with a Beef Value exceeding LM20 are sold on at Chase Farm; the rest are culled. This cut off point will increase each year as the herds average beef value creeps up. "If we dont like the bull, we wont sell it because the herds reputation is too important," says Dorinda Dixon, herd manager.

Cow sales are equally important. "Cows sold out of this herd have gone on to do well in other herds. Three cows from here are in the top 100 for beef value," says Mr Temple.

One of these is Roughley Ellabell. She has a beef value of LM65 and is ranked second within the breed. And Excels worth will really come to the fore when BSE export restrictions are lifted. Foreign buyers, who rely on beef values much more than UK breeders, will be drawn to Excel members because their history of recording will exceed other breeders and the accuracy of the beef values will be greater.

Last month Mr Temple bought the second highest priced bull (10,200gns) at the breeds sale held at Carlisle. And his decision was founded on the bulls EBVs for individual traits. "Before the sale we had marked 15 potential bulls in the catalogue on their beef value alone," explains Mr Temple. "When we got to the sale and looked at them, we whittled it down to three bulls and eventually chose for Cheadlewood Jazz because he not only had good EBVs for 400-day growth and muscle score, but was also good looking."

However, Mr Temple emphasises that although BLUP may be a very good selection tool, a stockman must never forget his "eye". "BLUP doesnt tell you what the animal looks like, it gives a reliable indication of the nuts and bolts of the animal," he says.

He also cautious breeders against judging an animal on its overall beef value, rather than values for individual traits. For example, a bull may have an exceptional beef value, but within it there may be a high breeding value for birth weight. This would be a potential problem if the bull is used on dairy heifers or suckler cows calving on the hill.

&#8226 Membership restricted to breeders who have used the Beefbreeder scheme for at least a year.

&#8226 No limit on herd size.

&#8226 Herds with less than 21 cows must have received two Signet service visits, at least one of which must be scanning, within the previous 12 months.

&#8226 Herds with more than 20 cows must have received three Signet service visits, at least one of which must be scanning, within the previous 12 months.

&#8226 The weighted beef value of the sires of the progeny calved in the previous year must be two or more units of beef value above the breed average.

&#8226 The average beef value of the cows and heifers calving in the herd for the first time in the previous year must be equal to or above the breed average.

&#8226 Enhanced national breed database due to higher level of recording.

&#8226 Members highlighted in Beefbreeder directory for free. This is a supplement to Signets Sheep and Beef Notes which is a monthly publication offered to 20,000 beef and sheep producers for £50 a year.

&#8226 Free certificate of membership.

&#8226 Beefbreeder Excel show and sale display cards.

&#8226 Display poster blanks.

&#8226 Preferential selection for Signet open days.

&#8226 Signet support at open days.

&#8226 Pamphlet, leaflet and invitation service from Signet.

&#8226 Breed Society/Signet Beefbreeder Excel breeders round table option.

John Temple, part-owner of the Roughley Limousin herd, with his high beef value (LM55) bull Cheadlewood Jazz – selected for his EBV for 400-day growth of 58.4kg, muscle score of 0.16 points and overall conformation.