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Annual Breeding Gains Valued at Nearly £7 Million
09/07/07

Selective breeding through performance recording may be worth nearly £7 million to the English beef and lamb industries every year, calculates the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX) from a new study by international breeding consultant, Peter Amer with the Meat & Livestock Commission and SAC.

beef cattle

Based on the current number of recorded flocks and herds, the study evaluates the benefits of selective beef and sheep breeding over a 20 year time frame.

It uses the latest genetic trends, industry statistics and published estimates of the value of trait changes to highlight the progress currently being achieved by beef and sheep breeders across the country.

In sheep, for instance, the direct benefits resulting from commercial English flocks using improved sires selected from performance-recorded flocks are estimated to be fractionally under £10 million over 20 years. This rises to £64 million (or £3.2 million/year) if the indirect benefits arising from the many top performance-recorded rams used by pedigree breeders who do not themselves record are included in the calculations.

In the same way, direct benefits of nearly £12 million and overall benefits of £72 million are estimated from commercial English beef herds using bulls from performance-recorded herds over 20 years. This is delivering a £3.6 million/year net benefit to the industry.

These figures are in line with EBLEX work showing high index terminal sire rams are worth an extra £2.70/lamb on average to commercial producers and high Beef Value bulls £30/calf.

The latest calculations exclude recent additions to breeding programmes like worm resistance in sheep and maternal traits in beef. This suggests that the actual value of English selective breeding and performance recording is even greater.

Even though the annual gains achieved through breeding tend to be small, the cumulative value of the permanent improvements they provide to both individual businesses and the industry as a whole is clearly very considerable.

To fully realise these benefits, of course, it is vital that English beef and sheep producers make the greatest possible use of the Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) available for a wide range of important traits in their ram and bull selection.

More information on Estimated Breeding Values and what to look for when buying a ram or bull can be found through the EBLEX Sheep and Beef Better Returns Programmes.

Specific manuals on ‘Target Ram Selection for Better Returns’ and ‘Choosing Bulls to Breed for Better Returns’ are available free of charge to English levy payers. They can be obtained from EBLEX on 0870 2418829 or by e-mailing brp@eblex.org.uk.

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