Saturday, December 9, 2023

Homing in on top cattle traits in NZ

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Fertility, functionality and feed efficiency come tops with more than 700 surveyed.
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Fertility, functionality and feed efficiency are the most important cattle traits for New Zealand beef farmers, according to a new survey.

More than 700 farmers and rural professionals took part in the Informing New Zealand Beef (INZB) cattle trait prioritisation survey, aimed at helping form the programme’s direction in developing a genetic evaluation system for the industry.

Other priority traits identified by beef producers were calving ease, growth and weight traits (including carcase) and Body Condition Score (BCS). Of these, mature cow BCS, fertility and cow functionality traits aligned with the traits identified as a priority for further development by the programme’s research team.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand, with the support of the Ministry for Primary Industries and the New Zealand Meat Board, is leading the Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures partnership INZB programme.

It aims to improve profitability and enhance sustainability across NZ’s beef industry through developing improved genetics.

As well as developing a beef genetic evaluation system that includes traits of importance to NZ’s beef farmers, the programme will also create easy-to-use tools to enable data to be efficiently collected, managed, analysed and used by farmers to make profitable decisions for their operation.

INZB genetics programme manager Gemma Jenkins said the survey results indicated strong support for the use of breeding values and indexes, with 89% of respondents believing estimated breeding values (EBVs) are a faster way of improving the herd compared to other methods. A total of 72% agreed that NZ farm systems require specialist indexes.

“Our indexes should be fit for our industry. There are some traits that are more relevant to the New Zealand environment and should therefore be included in New Zealand-specific genetic evaluations and indexes to ensure we’re making genetic progress on them – while also continuing to progress on current productivity traits.

“As part of the INZB programme, we will build these New Zealand-specific indexes and decide what traits to develop EBVs for, using input from advisory groups, international experts and New Zealand farmers.

“These results will help direct what traits will be carried forward in the INZB programme and will influence the future of New Zealand’s beef industry.”

As well as surveying NZ’s beef industry, the team sought input from INZB’s Industry Advisory Group. AbacusBio also carried out a review of international beef genetic evaluations.

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