The British Limousin Cattle Society (BLCS) has launched a pioneering research initiative to develop the first genomic breeding value for calf survival to weaning.
It will be the first of its kind in the UK beef sector and will enable producers to distinguish the bloodlines that leave higher proportions of live calves at weaning.
Records from all Limousin-bred calves in Britain will be drawn from the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) database to establish a survival genomic estimated breeding value (GEBV) for calves aged between 20 days and 10 months.
This latest work is part of the society’s 10-year breed improvement plan and is being carried out in partnership with Scotland’s Rural College and funded jointly by Innovate UK and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).
The society annpounced its launch at the National Beef Association’s Beef Expo at Bakewell Mart, Derbyshire on Friday 20 May. It said the 12-month research initiative, which started last month, will also:
- use BCMS records to improve the volume and integrity of Limousin records for fertility genetic evaluation. Currently, the Limousin breed provides estimated breeding values (EBVs) for three key female fertility traits; age at first calving, calving interval and longevity. These are derived from pedigree records only, however the aim is to widen the net and draw information from all Limousin-bred dams in the country to provide more accurate and robust predictions.
- produce a new genomic breeding value for the female fertility to enable producers to source breeding stock with more accurate predictions at much younger ages.
It is hoped the pioneering development will be available as soon as March 2017, with the first commercial run likely to be in July.
Work started in April and the BCMS database is yielding some interesting early findings. In comparison to the next most popular breeds of suckler cow throughout Britain, Limousin-bred sucklers have:
- a 5% lower heifer replacement rate
- a 2% higher longevity at eight years of age
- and up to 1.5% lower calf mortality worldwide.
The new traits should help improve farm profitability. Research shows for each 1% of calves lost in a herd, gross margins are reduced by about 6-8%.
Commenting on the project, BLCS technical manager Alison Glasgow said the project was “very exciting”.
“Along with the ongoing feed efficiency project and establishment of genomic breeding values for VIA carcass traits, the work will complete three main breeding strands of the 10-year breed improvement plan that was rolled out in late 2014.”
She added the new traits, along with the ones most recently added, should allow the breed to excel over the next five to 10 years in ever-changing production and trading environments.
In the future she said the genomic work could pave the way for disease and meat quality solutions.
“It is so exciting. TB values will be a natural extension in beef. We haven’t started that stuff yet, but there are also breeding solutions that could solve Johne’s.”