How a beef farmer used EBVs to increase profit a cow by £360

Cambridgeshire beef farmer Dan Burling says estimated breeding values (EBVs) have directly contributed to lifting his herd profitability by more than £360 a cow a year.

Mr Burling switched from 70 Saler-cross cows to Stabilisers in 2007 in favour of their easy management capabilities.

“It was the completely wrong cow type for the system and maintenance costs were too high,” explains Mr Burling.

“It became obvious to me the biggest impacts on profit were going to be the number of live calves and maternal traits.”

See also: How using AI is benefitting a Cambridgeshire beef farm

He has since expanded the herd and is farming 250 performance-recorded cows at Chain Farm in Over.

He said to start with he selected heavily for calving value index, followed by the maternal production value index.

“Selecting heifers was always a lot harder before we used EBVs, but now we are moving away phenotypic selection, because the danger is you always select on weight all the time and you end up with big cows.”

Mr Burling said since 2007-08 barren rates have fallen from 7% to 3-5% and weaning weights have increased from 42% to 46% in the past three years.

He urged more producers to capitalise on EBVs.

He said: “Stocktake shows the average beef farmer is losing £150 a cow a year, yet only 16% of farmers are using EBVs to select bulls.

“This I find surprising. I wouldn’t choose a bull without EBVs.”


Mr Burling believes the Stabiliser’s new multi-trait index will be a game-changer.

The £Profit index, launched earlier this month, weighs economic traits, such as calving ease and carcass weight, and provides farmers with a profit figure in pounds to represent how profitable the animal will be over its production lifetime.

He said, in the past selecting individual traits was a “balancing act”.

“It has made it a lot easier because I can just select for one trait. We will chose the highest profit bull we can find.”

Farm facts

Chain Farm, Over, Cambridgeshire

  • 550ha arable
  • 250 performance-recorded Stabilisers
  • Spring calving, calving outdoors
  • All cattle wintered outside aside from young bulls
  • High health and no dehorning
  • Heifers heavily retained and calve at two
  • Finish bulls for Morrisons
  • 30 embryos imported from USA annually, using cows with low EBVs as recipients to breed bulls