Selecting right breeding stock is vital, says EBLEX

Farmers looking to buy breeding sheep or bulls this autumn should talk to potential suppliers to ensure new stock will meet their future needs, says EBLEX Better Returns Programme manager Chris Lloyd.

“These are challenging times and the reopening of some markets will provide farmers with the range of purchasing options they are used to,” he says. “But whether they buy privately or through a market, we encourage them to talk directly with vendors about the type of animal they want to buy.”

Mr Lloyd says potential breeding stock should suit the production system and the intended market for the progeny. “Working more closely with the breeder will ensure replacements have been sired by a ram with good genetic potential for the key traits that will help meet future output targets, be it improved carcass characteristics, production traits or easier management.”

The next few weeks will see some frantic trading, adds Mr Lloyd. “It may be helpful to contact auctioneers or breed societies, who will have details of stock that match requirements. The BRP Recorded Flock Directory can also point producers towards suitable contacts.”

And when it comes to cattle, choosing a bull is a significant investment, says Clive Brown, EBLEX western region manager. Beef producers should base their search on the breeding objectives that will have the biggest impact on herd profitability. Estimated breeding values (EBVs), which compare genetic traits within the same breed, can help farmers find a bull that meets their needs. “For example, bulls with high 200 and 400-day growth rate EBVs ensure heavier calves at weaning and slaughter.”

More than 1000 UK pedigree herds are involved in performance recording and this information is used to draw up individual EBVs. This makes it much easier to compare bulls of the same breed and check they have the right breeding attributes for the business.

Two manuals from the EBLEX Better Returns Programme, Target Improved Ewe Breeding for Better Returns and Choosing Bulls to Breed for Better Returns, explain how EBVs can help farmers achieve long-term goals. They are available free to English levy payers who have signed up to the BRP. Call 0870 241 8829 or email  for a copy.

Dairy and beef cattle

Whether selecting a bull for your dairy of beef herd, it is vital to base selection on set performance criteria that will benefit your enterprise.

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