13 August 1999

INDEXED STOCK? SHOUT ABOUT IT

Valuable stock performance

figures are being lost in the

store market. Why? asks

Jeremy Hunt

HOW many of this autumns sales of store cattle and lambs will identify stock sired by performance recorded bulls or rams as an indicator of their potential superior profitability for the finisher? The answer is probably none.

While few store buyers will feel deprived of information about the stock they buy at auction this season – what youve never had you never miss – the lack of it highlights a major flaw in the marketing of our beef cattle and sheep.

BLUP figures relating to beef bulls and growth and leanness indices for rams from terminal sire breeds were developed specifically for the finisher. The finisher was intended to be the prime benefactor of the cash spent on research and development of sire performance records and trait heritability.

There is no shortage of farmers who now recognise the value of performance figures and can quantify its relevance in improved profitability of home-bred stock finished on the farm. But its a different story when these animals leave the farm of origin as stores.

The store market, which swallows up vast numbers, is nothing more than a huge hole down which valuable information on performance potential is being lost. While store cattle, and particularly store lamb finishers, enter the season with more than a little trepidation, surely it seems ridiculous that stock which may have the potential to perform more profitably fails to be identified as such.

What is the point of suckled calf producers and those who traditionally produce large numbers of store lambs by Suffolk, Charollais and Texel rams, being encouraged to use figures in the selection of their sires, when at the point of sale the progeny are classed as being no different from the rest?

If all those who have vigorously promoted the value of BLUP in beef cattle and growth and lean index data for rams want all this data to be passed on to the finisher, why has no one spotted this serious break in the chain?

And where should the initiative come from? While Signet, and possibly even breed societies, should have recognised this flaw, perhaps the parties involved in the sale of store stock, namely auctioneers and vendors, must now take a lead.

Store sales and auctioneers balk at the idea of having to announce additional information about stock when time is of the essence.

Identified

But if a vendor has bowed to progress and carefully selected his sire on performance figures, surely it is in his interest to have the progeny identified as such when he sells them; and equally that knowledge should benefit potential bidders who may well be inclined to pay a premium.

It is a sad indictment of our industry that large numbers of suckled calves sold in the coming months and sired by bulls with impressive figures relating to Beef Value will be lost in the system because of an inexcusable apathy.

And this autumn could well see owners of small suckler herds source potential heifer replacements from suckled calf sales.

Store sales must adopt a more professional approach to reflect the information relevant to the potential profitability of the stock. The blinkers of tradition must be removed if store stock selling can justifiably say its doing its very best for both buyer and seller.

If you have stores to sell this autumn by performance recorded sires make sure the auctioneer knows about it. You will be doing everyone a favour. &#42