Saturday, April 13, 2024

Beef programme steaming ahead

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Informing New Zealand Beef reaches halfway mark in seven-year programme.
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THE Informing New Zealand Beef programme is on a mission to give breeders and farmers genetic tools to help produce great tasting beef and drive production efficiency and increased profitability.

The seven-year programme has a goal to boost the NZ beef sector’s profits by $460 million over the next 25 years. 

Supported by Beef + Lamb NZ, the NZ Meat Board (NZMB) and the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund, the programme has reached the halfway mark. 

General manager farming excellence at BLNZ Dan Brier said in addition to developing a beef genetic evaluation system to support a sustainable beef farming industry in NZ, the Informing New Zealand Beef (INZB) programme is creating easy-to-use tools to enable data to be efficiently collected, managed, analysed and used by farmers to make profitable decisions.

“The start of the programme was impacted by the covid-19 pandemic so it’s been really good to see INZB hitting its stride and we’re making good progress developing tools to put into farmers’ hands,” he said.

“The key achievements so far include the development of new traits, extension materials so farmers have the opportunity to use this information on their own farms, as well as advances in technology and genetics software.

“We have developed new genetic indexes for the industry to use and now have a prototype version of nProve for beef,” Brier said.

One of the most exciting and satisfying aspects of working in the programme has been the level of engagement with farmers.

“We have a real laser focus on our goal of boosting the NZ beef sector’s profits by $460 million over the next 25 years. 

“Key to that is engaging with breed societies and stud breeders. We have put a lot of time and energy into making that as successful as it can be and the response has been excellent.”

“Progeny testing is well established at two farms and this is delivering important information to underpin evaluations. 

“In particular, these progeny tests will allow farmers to compare bulls across various breeds using the same scale.”

The programme is also bringing more commercial farmers into the programme.

“This year we have more than 20 Better Beef Buying workshops planned across the country, getting new information and content to commercial farmers.

“We have commercial farmers involved in a project providing data back to stud farmers. This increases the amount of data that stud breeders can use for their on-farm selection and increases the quality of bulls available for sale.”

The programme is on the way to creating new traits, in particular body condition score for cows and is prototyping new greenhouse gas-measurement Portable Accumulation Chambers technology.

A project using new technologies to monitor animal movements so INZB can develop new fertility traits is also underway.

“These traits are very important to farmers but are currently very hard to measure and assess,”

Brier said.

He said it takes a project like INZB to get that out of the “too hard” basket and actually happening.

Over the next year or so, farmers will begin to see a range of tools and information including the publication of the indexes and prototypes and cross-breed analysis.

“We will have data coming from the new trait development work and expect to see the body condition work in use by the end of the programme. 

“We are also looking forward to farmers being able to access bull information from the same nProve tool they are currently using for sheep.

“There will be more commercial farmers submitting data for stud breeder decision-making and we also hope to expand the fertility work to more farmers, collecting data through using tags.”

Meanwhile BLNZ chair Kate Acland is urging farmers to have their say on NZMB funding for the programme and the board’s proposals ahead of the upcoming annual meeting on March 15. 

The NZMB is recommending contributing up to $700,000 towards the INZB programme and also providing up to $1m for a new facial eczema research programme.

“Funding for the projects is derived from investment income from the $76.9m of financial reserves that we manage on behalf of NZ farmers,” Acland said.

“These funds have two purposes. Firstly, as a contingency fund for the industry to restore international market confidence following a catastrophic event such as a foot and mouth outbreak, and secondly, as a fund for industry good projects.

“As part of this funding process, we’re required to seek farmer views, so we’d really value feedback.”

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