The Stabiliser breed has released a new estimated breeding value.
The first estimated breeding value (EBV) for the trait of net feed efficiency (NFE) has been developed.
The new genetic indicator applies to the Stabiliser breed and will allow beef producers to adopt new breeding strategies to reduce feed costs, while also improving their environmental credentials through lower greenhouse gas emissions.
The NFE EBV has been developed through a five-year project funded by Innovate UK, as part of a drive to improve sustainable protein production. It has been managed by the Beef Improvement Group (BIG) with support from JSR Farms, Alltech/Keenan and SAC Consulting.
The project has involved accurately measuring and recording feed intakes and weight gains of more than 1,000 Stabiliser bulls and finishing steers at a specially designed unit in East Yorkshire.
BIG business development director Richard Fuller says: “We have recorded a 13 per cent difference in NFE between the top one-third and the bottom one-third of bulls over the period of the project.
“This means that the bulls in the top third are eating 1.8kg DM/day less feed than those in the bottom third, while achieving the same weight gain. For the bulls on test, this has typically resulted in a saving of £21/head over a 12-week trial period, indicating the equivalent of up to £100 saving per cow/calf unit per year is possible. The fact less feed is required for a given weight of output means the carbon footprint is lower.”
The new NFE trait has good heritability (37 per cent), so by selecting breeding cattle with a high NFE EBV, rapid genetic progress can be made, improving the prospects for any beef production system.
Mr Fuller says: “When you consider 60-70 per cent of the cost of a suckler system is in the maintenance feed requirements of the cow and calf, it is easy to see why breeding selection based on NFE can have a significant impact very quickly.”
Project design and statistical analysis has been carried out at Scotland’s Rural College under the direction of beef specialist Dr Jimmy Hyslop.