4 April 1997

York breeders target perfect specimen

A BEEF cow with improved longevity, hybrid vigour, good maternal traits and enhanced cull value is the target for a cross breeding programme organised by five Yorkshire-based beef producers.

Pocklington-based beef producer Richard Fuller, who is one of the five, says that with beef inseminations in dairy herds 66% down on last year, and only 10% of Holsteins AId to beef bulls, only a small proportion of progeny will be suitable as suckler replacements.

"Longevity is a priority in suckler herds but the productive life of Holsteins is only three to four lactations and this is contributing to increased replacement rates in suckler herds of up to 25%.

"This is unacceptable in beef herds due to the difference in costs of a bulling heifer at £700 and the cost of a cull at £350," he says.

Also the Holstein influence in dairy bred suckler cows means they require higher feed levels to maintain condition and achieve successful re-breeding – so adding to costs. And their influence has caused carcass grades of finished suckled calves at his JSR Farms Givendale herd to decline from 95% E and U to 73% despite the use of better muscled bulls.

The aim, therefore, is to establish a cross breeding programme using stock on five farms which have a total of 2000 cows.

"Currently the project is at an early stage but we believe the information this programme will provide is much needed and relevant to the UK beef industry. And it will produce replacement heifers with improved beefing qualities which are not sourced from dairy herd," he says.

The breeding programme will be based on Angus, Hereford, Limousin or Simmental Holstein cross cows and organised into a rotational breeding programme using South Devon Angus and Limousin sires.

"Bulls will be selected on EBVs with high 200-day milk scores, low birth weight, minus fat and average growth and muscle scores," says Mr Fuller. "This will mean we will be in control of the genetic make up of the suckler cows.

"Full costings will be run to establish the economic value of the programme and we will examine fertility, mortality, health, cow condition, weights and calf performance."n

Richard Fuller: Co-operating with other producers to organise a cross-bred beef breeding programme.