25 February 2000

Perth proves BLUPis rated by buyers

By Jeremy Hunt

MORE bull buyers are taking BLUP figures into account as analysis of trade at this months Perth beef breeding sales prove; the highest prices went to sires with superior performance data.

Signet staff were inundated by buyers seeking a better understanding of the BLUP system (Best Linear Unbiased Predictor). And simple calculations confirming the potential improved profitability of sires with high Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) was the turning point for many farmers at the sale, says Signet consultant Ian Pritchard.

"It has taken a while for commercial producers to get used to the BLUP system but suddenly there is a determination to get to grips with the relevance of data in terms of improving profitability.

"When cash is tight BLUP figures are another tool that can give buyers added assurance over a bulls breeding ability," says Mr Pritchard.

His calculations based on paying an extra 500-1000gns for a bull with a high Beef Value are convincing. He reckons that a bull capable of adding just 20kg to the finishing weight of 40 progeny a year (worth around £800 a year based on £1/kg) will re-coup £4000 extra income over five years.

"Visual assessment will always be important, but Perth proved the increasing relevance of BLUP data," says Mr Pritchard.

The nine Limousin bulls with a Beef Value of 30+ at Perth, putting them in the breeds top 1%, averaged 3610gns. That compares with seven bulls with a Beef Value of 13-16 which averaged 1860gns and 21 bulls with values of 17-21 which averaged 2770gns.

Gary Swindlehurst of the Proctors herd at Slaidburn, Lancs paid 6500gns at Perth based on its Beef Value 32, but particularly on its milk figures.

"We are keen to maintain the milking ability in our commercial replacement heifers and our pedigree cows so you have to use all the information thats available," said Mr Swindlehurst.

The bull came from the Homebyres herd of John Logan, Kelso whose six bulls averaged 3930gns.

"Bull buyers are becoming more familiar with figures but I would urge beef producers not to look solely at the Beef Value. It is a mathematical figure produced from the bulls performance over a number of traits.

"Look at every figure including fat and muscle depth, weight gain and milk value. They are the true indication of how the bull has actually performed," says Mr Logan.

Edinburgh-based Signet consultant Alison Nicol was monitoring Aberdeen Angus bulls at the sale. Her analysis shows that sires with a Beef Value 32+ sold for the highest average, even though the 28,000gns top priced bull was not included.

The 12 Angus bulls with a Beef Value +32 averaged 4393gns compared with five bulls with a Beef Value 15-18 at 1440gns.

"There has previously been a feeling that bulls with good figures did not always meet requirements on visual assessment.

"But thats changing. The diverse relationship between muscling and milking ability can make it more difficult to find a bull that gives a good combination when hes also required as a female producer. But the more familiar producers become with BLUP the more proficient they will become in selection."

Use of performance data such as BLUP is filtering through to buyers.