28 May 1999

It pays to breed replacements

RISING suckler cow values and the need for better quality replacements means producers should seriously consider breeding their own herd replacements.

SAC beef specialist Basil Low-man told visitors at Beef 99 that selling an 18-month-old finished heifer for £400 and then buying a more expensive heifer, or cow with calf at foot, just didnt make sense.

"Producing a purpose-bred replacement from your own herd is a much better option."

The need for breeding suckler replacements is rising as the dairy herd contracts and suckler numbers increase – but increasing Holstein influence also has an effect, said Dr Lowman.

"Holsteins are too big, produce too much milk, have no conformation and no image – you cant sell high-quality beef if its produced from a by-product.

"A pure beef cross cow has a better image, is easier to keep and is potentially easier calving."

Breeding your own herd replacements gives control over breeding, feeding and health, as well as which bulls heifers were mated to and when, said Dr Lowman.

"Its also cheaper as it removes the cost of selling your heifers and buying others."

But he warned that there were potential pitfalls. "Beef cattle have a longer gestation period than Holsteins, which can increase calving difficulties.

"It is also important to use EBVs to select bulls with good 200-day milk values because milk production is a concern with beef cows."

When considering EBVs, he cautioned against choosing bulls with very good calving ease scores. "This is related to hip width, and although a bulls daughters may be easily born, small hip width means that they may have problems when they come to calve, so dont go hell for leather for ease of calving." &#42