7 November 1997

New traits give greater accuracy to beef values

revised estimated breeding values for genetic evaluation will provide UK beef producers with the most comprehensive and accurate breeding information in the world, according to the MLC.

Three new traits – calving ease, gestation length and muscle depth – have been developed. And existing trait measurements have been enhanced with revised calculations that reflect their market value more closely.

Calculations for the beef value – which indicates the combined economic value of the traits – have been adjusted to give carcass conformation and fat class a higher weighting, explains MLCs Chris Brown.

This means some breeds which have placed a higher emphasis on improving growth rates could have their beef values adjusted downwards. Other breeds may see an improvement in their beef values.

However, John Southgate, general manager for Signet which runs the Beefbreeder recording service, stresses that the overall ranking within each breed will probably not be altered by the new calculations.

A new trait, muscling depth, assessed using ultrasound to provide accurate measurements of muscle depth, has also been added to the beef value.

"This will not replace the current muscling score figure – assessed by eye on a five-point scale – but will provide additional objective information about the level of saleable meat," says Mr Southgate.

As well as the beef value, an overall economic value for calving traits has been devised.

This combines the existing birthweight trait with the other two new traits – calving ease and gestation length.

"For calving ease the level of assistance required at calving has been assessed and recorded by producers," explains Mr Southgate.

This will be represented as a positive or negative value, with a positive figure indicating easier calving.

Gestation length has been included in the calving value because it is related to birth weight, and hence calving ease.

The calving value can then be added to the beef value to provide the economic value of a bull.

"The new traits, therefore, help to predict an animals performance more accurately at market level," says Mr Southgate.

"All calculations making up the British EBVs are now compared on a multi-trait basis so allowing more accurate predictions of performance and enhancing their usefulness to prospective purchasers."