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.
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
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 email@example.com.
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