9 March 2001

Co-operation can ease replacements fear

UNLESS breeders co-operate in a national breeding programme, a major shortage of beef-type suckler herd replacements is inevitable, said Yorks producer Richard Fuller addressing a National Beef Association conference at Garstang, Lancs.

"About 200,000 replacements are needed each year. Its vital that breeders co-operate to produce a sustainable of supply of genetically improved heifers," said Mr Fuller, technical director of the Beef Improvement Group (BIG).

He said beef producers must be fully aware of the adverse financial impact of the Holstein as a component of their breeding females.

"It produces progeny with a high energy requirement leading to higher feed costs, reduced fertility and prolonged calving periods as well as reduced longevity which results in higher replacement costs.

"Holsteins have poor conformation and their high milk yields can lead to a greater risk of udder problems in suckler cows."

Mr Fuller added that the BIG composite suckler cow breeding programme now underway in the UK was based on 30 years of work by US geneticists working with 7000 cows.

"Composite breeding offers a procedure which is more effective than continuous cross-breeding for using genetic differences among breeds.

"It will create cattle with high levels of uniformity and reproductive efficiency, which are able to maintain optimum performance levels for economic traits. A level of 75% of the hybrid vigour of the first cross will be retained."

Composite suckler breeding will be more effective than continuous crossbreeding in producing uniform replacements, says Richard Fuller.