Beef 2020: review report

A report to develop recommendations that will facilitate sustainable and long-term growth in beef production levels within Scotland.

Use of the Database to improve genetic potential of the Scottish beef herd

The Scottish beef herd is extremely diverse in respect of the breeds of cattle used and the genetic diversity both within and between breeds. Some genetic lines are more suited to maternal traits and some to beef yield. Pedigree cattle farmers have collected genetic data for many years so as to establish Estimated Breeding Values ( EBVs). In turn EBV's are increasingly being used by commercial beef farmers in making decisions over beef bull selection. However, considerable potential exists to widen the pool of data if more information is provided from commercial herds. By supporting producers to contribute data and information to the database described in Recommendation 8, the industry would have a valuable resource to access in order to improve breeding selection criteria.

Examples of data that could be collected and integrated would crucially include sire and dam identity of calves as well as physical information collected at the time of birth including calving ease and dam temperament, often referred to as "docility", as well as a measure of "calf quality".

At slaughter, the carcase weight, carcase grade, any condemnations due to animal health issues and evidence of sub clinical disease presence can be added. Simple analysis would, for example, allow a lifetime daily live weight gain to be calculated.

At the national and regional level cattle farmers will gain from the reporting of trends in reasons for carcase downgrades and sub clinical disease presence by being able to take more informed management decisions.

Genetics are generally accepted to have value in improving carcase quality, quantity, yield and palatability, fertility and reproductive efficiency, maternal ability, growth rates and birth weights. By improving the quantity and quality of data held, the Scottish beef industry will be well placed to maximise its potential.

Going further, the use of Genomics to predict susceptibility of certain genetic strains to different diseases has shown great results in The Republic of Ireland. Through the automatic collection of an ear tissue biopsy at the time of tagging the calf, it is possible to use genotyping to further inform breeding decisions to the benefit of the whole industry.

Work by the Limousin Cattle Society and Anglo Beef Processors ( ABP) sponsored by the UK Government's Technology Strategy Board has demonstrated the potential revenue gain to be had from using genotypes most suited to maximise carcase yield [16] .

The USDA sponsors a national programme for genetic improvement in feed efficiency [17] as well as a similar programme seeking to use genomics and management approaches to reduce the incidence of pneumonia in beef and dairy cattle [18] .

In addition to the financial gains to the producer as demonstrated by the Limousin Cattle Society, improved feed efficiency and animal health will also contribute to reduced greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of beef produced.

Recommendation 8 highlighted the need to develop a database of basic animal information. This database would also form the framework for voluntary recording of additional information, for example genetic profile through tissue sampling at time of tagging. This dataset should be owned by the industry for the benefit of the industry.

Recommendation 9

Encourage producers through financial incentives, to collect data to populate and develop a national integrated and accessible livestock breeding database incorporating genetic and productivity information.


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