Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Beef farmers keen for better genetic tools

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Survey uncovers hunger for information about breeding better beef cattle.
Gemma Jenkins says farmers and industry stakeholders recognise that beef genetics have lagged behind sheep and dairy genetics.
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Commercial beef farmers are increasingly seeking new tools as they turn their focus to genetic traits.

Research from the Informing New Zealand Beef (INZB) programme, which aims to boost the sector’s profits by $460 million over the next 25 years, shows farmers want more information to enable them to better compare functional genetic traits.

The research, part of the Beef + Lamb NZ-funded INZB programme, also revealed a lack of understanding about Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs). 

An annual industry survey of farmers, beef breeders and rural professionals, including agricultural consultants and facilitators, stock agents and vets, found farmers are becoming more aware of genetic tools. 

INZB programme manager Gemma Jenkins said the research highlights the importance of the work already being undertaken, such as the across-breed beef Progeny Test and development of a NZ-specific genetic evaluation. 

“Farmers have told us the new areas they want to focus are traits such as fertility and Body Condition Score.

“These should be included in NZ-specific genetic evaluations and indexes to ensure we’re making genetic progress on them,” Jenkins said.

Research also found that a lack of understanding about EBVs limits farmer uptake.

Jenkins said INZB has a strong focus on education and extension and is delivering resources to support greater understanding and use of EBVs.

“That includes our field days, an online beef breeder workshop to discuss maternal productivity and reproduction, better beef breeding workshops for commercial farmers and an online learning module.”

Research respondents recognised that beef genetics have lagged behind sheep and dairy genetics and welcomed the work being undertaken by INZB, with growing awareness among farmers of the tools the programme is developing.

INZB is a seven-year Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures partnership supported by B+LNZ, the NZ Meat Board and the Ministry for Primary Industries. 

It is developing a beef genetic evaluation system that includes traits that are important to NZ beef farmers, supporting a sustainable beef farming industry.

The programme is also creating easy-to-use tools that enable data to be efficiently collected, managed, analysed and used by farmers to make profitable decisions for their operation.

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