9 July 1999

No easy answer to the UKs overfat finished cattle kill

FINISHED cattle are still too fat, with 30% of the UKs annual 2.2m kill falling in fat class 4H, but there is no simple solution.

Breeding, finishing systems and selection for slaughter all contributed to this disappointing total, said the MLCs Duncan Pullar.

"Fatness is under the control of everyone in the chain. You can choose to kill earlier or later, but killing earlier may lead to cattle with the right fat level that are too light."

Attention to bull selection could help overcome this weight versus fat problem but producers needed to keep up to date with breeding values, advised Mr Pullar.

"Average breeding values are higher than they were nine years ago. Since BLUP was introduced in 1992 the rate of improvement in breeding value has increased from 0.3 to 0.6 a year. The top breeders are achieving a genetic gain of 1.5-1.6 EBV points a year."

But matching genetics with finishing systems is also important and there is as much variation within as between breeds says Mr Pullar. "There can be a big genetic variation within a group of cattle in a system; some being better suited to it than others.

"Cattle need to be selected to suit the system. Late maturing animals may be difficult to finish on longer-term systems with early maturing breeds being less suitable for intensive systems." &#42