30 June 1995

Size isnt everything Scots breeders told at Royal Highland…

MYTHS surrounding prize-winning animals have been exploded at the Royal Highland Show.

Dairy farmers were told last week that there was no commercial merit in breeding for stature, while Highland cattle enthusiasts were advised that breed choice had nothing to do with beef quality.

Peter Dixon Smith, who has an average yield of 11,000kg in the Lyons herd in Leicestershire, told delegates to the European Holstein Friesian conference at Peebles that research had consistently shown a negative relationship between stature and production.

"Stature is a trait popular in the ring for which there is no commercial merit," he said. "Breed societies should not place much emphasis on stature, although I back attention to dairy character.

"If you compare the bulls in Canada, the country that created the fashion for stature, you see how absurd it is. Two of the three highest milk bulls are negative for size and the bulls breeding the tallest and largest daughters are not highly rated for production."

Mr Dixon Smith said he had used New Zealand bulls, which bred small animals. "The first cow my young herd manager had ever milked to give over 60kg a day was a low-statured, deep bodied VG daughter of Athol Famous Prefect. She peaked at over 80kg a day and I am ashamed that I did not have the courage of my convictions to continue with that line of breeding.

"I am afraid fashion influences the value of surplus breeding stock and small animals are often devalued without economic justification," he said.

Within the showground at Ingliston Highland cattle breeders were also told that breed was not a big factor in determining the eating quality of beef.

Owen Ryan, export development manager with Anglo Beef Processors, said: "It is what we do in the plant that determines eating quality and flavour, the breed isnt so important.

"That may be heresy to some but it is true. It is the meat handling and maturation – and what the housewife does in the kitchen – that decides quality."

Mr Ryan wished the Highland society well in its efforts to secure a niche market for its beef but said that more than half of all meat was now sold in supermarkets.