Bull buyers pay increasing attention to calving values
By Jeremy Hunt
WHILE beef value remains important when selecting bulls, sacrificing it a little and increasing the emphasis on calving value could pay.
Calving value is becoming a priority selection trait among commercial beef producers buying bulls for suckler herds, says Perthshire breeder Murray Lyle, who runs the Loganbar Charolais herd at Dunblane.
One-third of his bull buyers now rate calving value as the most important trait. Five years ago it was hardly mentioned. "More buyers of crossing bulls are balancing figures for calving value with those for beef value," says Mr Lyle.
He runs a 60-cow pedigree herd, alongside 65 commercial suckler cows, and is not afraid to sacrifice some beef value if he can benefit from a bull with exceptional figures for ease of calving.
The latest crop of young bulls – all sold privately this spring – included several by Allanfauld Imperial, which has a beef value of 4 compared with a breed average of 14, but a calving value of +4.
"We have compromised on beef value without any detriment to the conformation of his progeny because of the type of cows we used him on. This crop of young bulls had good figures for ease of calving and that is what buyers of crossing bulls are demanding."
But Mr Lyle says many suckled calf producers still feel bamboozled by columns of figures. One concern is that some advantageous traits are prefixed by a plus, whereas a plus in front of other trait ratings signifies the opposite.
He admits there are still bull buyers who consider beef value to be the ultimate trait, pedigree breeders in particular.
"A balance between traits is essential, but everyone is working with fewer staff and we are all trying to get cattle to last longer. Easy calving is critical on all counts."
David Benson, chief executive of the British Charolais Cattle Society, says sire selection should be based on bulls in the top 10% of the breed for beef value and calving value, with a minimum score of zero (CH 0C).
The society is involved with an SAC trial at Penicuik which is comparing Charolais bulls with different EBVs for calving value.
"In the past, there tended to be a negative correlation between calving value and carcass traits. But the ongoing trial is showing that calves can have good growth rate and conformation, without producing calving problems," says Mr Benson. *
• Recognise importance of trait.
• Balance with beef value.
• Choose top 10% of breed.