14 September 2001

Superior sires improve herd performance

IMPROVED birth weights, milk yield and liveweight gain have been achieved by using bulls with high maternal trait figures in the Perraudin familys Charolais herd at Issy lEveque.

The four brothers who run the 340-cow Star 2000 herd on their 450ha (1080 acre) upland farm also attribute a reduction in assisted calvings to the use of these sires.

"Our main output is veal calves sold to Italy. But we also sell 20% of our bulls for breeding, as well as any surplus heifers," said Jean-Luc Parraudin.

Cattle sold to Italy range between 350kg and 450kg at 10 months old and make about £1.20/kg, although the price is expected to fall to £1/kg by mid-October. Heifers for breeding – with some exported to Spain and Portugal – are selling for 90p-£1/kg at 15-18 months old. Additional income comes from the French equivalent to the UKs suckler cow premium at £150/cow.

"Over the last 10 years the price of our veal calves has fallen from £1.90/kg. Its hard to cope with falling returns for our beef, but our increasing use of AI sires offered by UCEF has helped us improve herd performance."

AI is used on about 80% of the herd which calves between March and December with cows loose-housed for 130 days each winter.

"Improved genetics have given us an extra 200g of daily liveweight gain on calves, muscular development has improved as well as fertility and the milking ability of our females," added Mr Parraudin.

Ease of calving has improved markedly. The herd numbered 200 cows in 1980 and there were 30 caesareans, but during the last calving season only 5% of cows required assistance.

The Star 2000 herd is achieving some of the highest performance figures recorded through UCEF. Its muscular development score is 68.5 points – compared with a national average 62.1 – and frame score is 67.7 points – compared with a national average of 63.2.

Calves weigh up to 56kg at birth, but the herd average is 48.6kg, against a national average of 46.3kg.

December-born calves weighed in June showed a daily liveweight gain of more than 1.16kg. The herds maternal traits index has improved from 96.3 to 97.2 points in one year, compared with a national breed average of 104.3 points. Most cows in the herd last at least 10 years. &#42

USINGTOPSIRES

&#8226 80% of herd AId.

&#8226 Assisted calvings reduced.

&#8226 Improved growth rates.

Jean-Luc Perraudin (right) says sires selected for maternal traits have improved performance in the Star 2000 herd.