New Zealand’s livestock breeding companies are looking to make an even greater impact on UK farms. Emma Penny reports from a trip with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.
LIC, which is well established in the UK, is planning to offer farmers a much more in-depth service next year, focusing on how to make the best of the dairy genetics the firm offers.
The firm’s Peter Berney, says its current service in New Zealand, where it provides AI services, herd management and recording, as well as dairy systems through its sister company, DAL, is a ‘complete system for whole farm productivity’.
“We are in the very early days of looking at this in the UK, but if the tools are in place to reduce stress and help decision-making, farmers should have a useful tool for profitability. The UK is not exactly the same asNZ, so we will be customising what we offer to suit the environment.
“The UK has great soils and climate – it has a lot of potential for running seasonal systems very successfully. Seasonal farming is a very specific skillset, but it can withstand price shocks.”
Genetics from UK stock could soon be making its way to New Zealand now a new health standard has been agreed.
The agreement means New Zealand can import genetics from the UK and Europe for the first time in many years, says ABS’ John Hepburn.
“We are working closely with our guys in Edinburgh to bring embryos and semen to New Zealand as early as next year.”
The company is currently looking at exporting genetic material from Beltex sheep, milking sheep from France and dairy goats in Yorkshire.
“Our role [as ABS] is to facilitate what people [in New Zealand] want to do,” he says.
Better and more consistent lamb eating quality should be the outcome of rigorous new trials being undertaken on behalf of Focus Genetics, whose genetics are sold in the UK by Innovis.
Speaking at New Zealand’s Fieldays exhibition, company chief Gavin Foulsham said it was working to address the problem of eating quality becoming inconsistent once sheep are more than six months old.
“Consumers want consistency all-year-round, so we have a big push looking at eating quality on the terminal sire side.”
New Zealand’s Crown research body, AgResearch, and red meat intelligence service FarmIQ have worked together to test progeny and link it to eating quality.
“We found even within flocks, there is a lot of variation. However, there is a very strong correlation between specific DNA markers and shear force. Marbling is the key but it is very difficult to see in lamb.”
Selecting terminal sires for better eating quality means Focus Genetics is now beginning to sell eating quality-certified sires, and these will be available in the UK. Currently, available sires are also being tested as part of the programme.
On the maternal side, the company is pushing forward with its Lamb Supreme breed, which it says is the highest yielding breed available in New Zealand. Productivity and robustness are becoming bigger issues in the country as sheep farming is being forced into land unsuitable for dairying.
“It is also making farmers focus on why they are keeping sheep. It has to be for meat production, so that is increasing the focus on use of terminal sites,” says Mr Foulsham. It has also run a campaign to help farmers get lambs straight off their mothers at 18kg to the freezer works, giving ewes time to get back into good condition for tupping.
Focus Genetics is wholly owned by Landcorp, the state-owned farming company in New Zealand. It owns or manages 137 dairy, beef, sheep and deer farms across 376,942 hectares (931,443 acres).
To view the campaign, visit www.primeoffmum.co.nz