27 October 1995

Limousin quality target

WHITE Rose Limousins is a group of four Yorkshire breeders who aim to improve the breed through genetic selection using Signets Beefbreeder service, best linear unbiased prediction (BLUP) analysis, and visual assessment.

It is the breeds only co-operative improvement group and adopts the slogan, "Quality through co-operation."

Its success in terms of beef value is measured in the bar chart. For example, in 1994, the breeds average beef value was LM20, compared with LM35 for White Rose members.

Members, based near Driffield, are: Derek Woodhouse with his Rachels herd, Jim and Richard Bloom with the Scorboro herd, Roger Thornhills Woldedge herd, and Peter and Anne Langs Ryedale herd near Hemsley.

All cattle within the herds are involved in the improvement programme, creating a genetic pool of 200 cows, with common sires used across these herds.

Embryo transfer is not group policy, although Mr Lang will flush two cows, one with a beef value of LM56 and another of LM64, this year.

Progeny used to be reared at Bishop Burton Agricultural College to remove the influence of management on performance. But the cost became prohibitive and stock are now reared within herds. The advent of BLUP analysis allowed sires to be compared fairly across herds, with the year at Bishop Burton used as a base reference.

As well as the usual Beefbreeder service commitments, calves are weighed and measured at 13-months-old. These records include length, height, testicle size and pelvic width. At the same time they are scanned for eye muscle and back fat. Conformation scores are made by Signet technicians.

"Potential purchasers are starting to buy on beef values, but estimated breeding values are only a significantly useful management tool if the high accuracy is achievable. Only after 10 years of recoding has the tool become really meaningful," says Peter Lang. "Look at the pig industry. I used to have pigs and never saw a boar before I bought it. It was just a matter of phoning up and asking for one with a certain performance level. This is the way the beef industry is slowly heading.

"We are helping people look at animals in a different way," he says. "By the turn of the century I believe supermarkets will specify what sires are used to produce meat because they want consistency of product. To be able to achieve that we need to record performance and the more people who do that the more accurate those figures will be. Only then will the supermarkets goals be within sight."