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Stackyard News Jul 06

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    Maternal EBVs to Aid Better Replacement Breeding

English suckler herds will be able to take advantage of four new Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) together with a special Maternal Value index in their bull and cow selection from this autumn. This will help producers to breed the most cost efficient herd replacements as well as stock for finishing, reveals the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX).

suckler cow

These new breeding tools have been developed from extensive research conducted by MLC, SAC, Defra and SEERAD that identifies cow size, age at first calving, reproductive success and replacement rate as the major maternal factors contributing to UK beef profitability.

The new maternal Estimated Breeding Values becoming available for all beef breeds recorded by MLC’s Signet Breeding Services are Longevity, Age at First Calving, Calving Interval and Maternal Calving Ease.

Longevity (in years) predicts the length of a cow’s breeding life or the breeding life of a bull’s female offspring. In the same way, Age at First Calving (days) predicts the ability of female offspring to first calve at a young age, given the opportunity. Calving Interval (days) predicts reproductive success, highlighting female offspring that will get back in calf more quickly. Finally, Maternal Calving Ease (%) predicts the ease with which female offspring will calve, indicating animals with a greater potential for more unassisted calvings. This EBV should not be confused with the existing Calving Ease EBV which predicts the ease with which a bull’s progeny will be born.

The four new EBVs can be employed individually to better inform bull or cow selection. They can also be used, together with the existing 200-Day Milk (kg) EBV, to select stock on the basis of their overall Maternal Value – a new index, calculated from the relative economic weightings of the component EBVs, which ranks animals for the overall value of their maternal characteristics.

The Maternal Value index has been designed to complement the existing Beef Value and Calving Value indexes, allowing producers  to focus their breeding on the most important characteristics for their own specific herd needs.

As Cow Weight EBVs (kg) become available on a breed-by breed basis as an indicator of the mature size of cows, they will be used in a Maintenance Value index to assist in the selection of stock with a lower feed cost in relation to their size.  This index will then be combined with the Maternal, Beef and Calving Values in an over-arching Production Value index, ranking animals for their overall predicted economic improvement ability. 

As a measure of the financial benefit of these additional EBVs, the difference between selecting a bull to breed replacement heifers on the basis of Production Value rather than existing Beef Value alone is calculated to be worth up to an additional £42/cow mated (source: MLC Signet).

Producers wanting further information on EBVs should contact MLC Signet on 01908 844207

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