10 November 1995

Genetic recording investment pays for Aberdeen-Angus herd

THE Aberdeen-Angus breed promotion stand at FarmTech will differ from the other three in that it is supported by only one breeder.

This indigenous breed has no official improvement group as yet. But Willie McLaren of Netherton Farm, Blackford, Perthshire, is no stranger to recording genetic performance within his 80-strong Netherton herd.

He has been evaluating genetic progress through weight recording since 1959, and has been scanning for backfat and eye muscle assessment for 15 years. The investment has paid off. Seventeen of his breeding cows are in the top 1% for beef value and half the females are in the top 5%. Of the 20 heifers kept this year, 12 are again in the top 1% for beef value.

"We are now seeing the benefits of recording genetic progress," says Mr McLaren.

"The big benefit is the accuracy we are achieving. Because the figures are accurate we find the readings are true and working for us. "Breeders need to participate as fully as possible, this is the only way to improve accuracies of traits." Accuracies for the Nether-ton herd average 70% to 80%, compared with a breed average of 40% to 50%.

Scanning has helped cut the level of fat cover. The herd average is now 3mm compared with 7mm when the McLarens started to use this tool. And, after selecting stock on genetic performance, Mr McLaren has also figures can prove themselves in the show ring.

"There is an uncanny relationship between what the beef value is and how the animal would be judged by eye," he says. One example is his cow Netherton Frances 02, which has won six championships this year and has a beef value of AA58 compared with a breed average of AA26. &#42