Research shows genetic traits worth more than £360 an animal

Research into genetic traits has revealed potential financial benefits worth more than £360 an animal, according to the British Limousin Cattle Society.

The society’s technical manager, Alison Glasgow, said Limousin cattle had been the focus of three major studies on breeding traits.

The first study used video image analysis to identify carcass quality across six prime cuts in 20,000 cattle, Ms Glasgow told The Beef Expo 2017 event in Stoneleigh, Warwickshire.

See also: Carcass trait breeding values 

Research findings in brief

  • Improving carcass quality worth £150 an animal
  • Reduce days to slaughter £79 an animal
  • Feed efficiency improvement £96 an animal
  • Better fertility (fewer days empty) £42 an animal/year

These were then knitted together with pedigree information and British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) datasets on cross-bred animals to produce genomic estimated breeding values (GEBVs), Ms Glasgow explained.

For striploin cuts alone, differences of up to 2kg were found even on animals of the same carcass weight and grade. When the extra value of all six prime cuts was combined, the total difference was worth up to £150 a head.

Further work has been carried out on crucial economic performance traits such as age at slaughter, feed efficiency and fertility.

Results showed that the bottom 1% of cattle studied took 44 days longer to finish on average than the top 1%.

“A rough estimate using finishing costs of £1.80/day means the difference is £79 per animal,” Ms Glasgow said.

For maternal traits the society has also gone beyond pedigree animals to compare performance in cross-bred cattle using BCMS data.

The data showed Limousins had 5% lower heifer replacement rates than the next best breed, 2% higher longevity and a 1% lower calf mortality, Ms Glasgow said

“Getting replacement rates down can save £42 a cow a year,” she added.

The final study to produce a GEBV on intakes and food conversion rates is at the halfway stage, with 800 animals assessed.

So far results have shown animals that make more efficient use of feed save about £96 per head.