9 May 1997

Own replacements for quality

BEEF producers must consider producing their own suckler cow replacements to improve product quality and traceability and cut costs.

For most, the replacement cow should be a crossbred, the SACs Basil Lowman told Beef 97 visitors. Using one breed of bull on crossbreds raised total output by 15% compared with purebreds, due to better fertility.

"Crossbreeding also allows breeds with different characteristics to be combined," Dr Lowman told the Builth Wells audience. In his commercial upland suckler herd at Edinburgh, Dr Lowman said he was using a criss-cross system between two breeds – the Angus and Limousin – for simplicity.

By using a criss-cross system based on two beef breeds, the progeny of one bull were continually mated to the other breed. "We know exactly which bull to mate with which cow and avoid any inbreeding," he said.

But regardless of whether the approach is crossbreeding or pure, the important thing was choosing the bull within the breed, he said.

"We have forgotten how important milk is when breeding herd replacements." He advised selecting a bull with a positive EBV for 200-day milk. And to further improve efficiency of the suckler cow it was also necessary to get away from the 600-700kg animal.

"A guide as to how big the dam will be is the bulls EBV for 400-day weight. Selecting a sire with an average 400-day EBV of +20kg will help avoid breeding too big a cow," said Dr Lowman.